Shortcomings Identified in Study of Acne Videos on TikTok

Heidi Splete

December 23, 2020

The majority of video content related to acne on the mobile app TikTok was presented by nonphysicians and had serious shortcomings, according to an analysis of the top 100 videos using a consumer health validation tool.

The popularity of TikTok among adolescents in particular has implications for the dissemination of acne information, as some teens become "skinfluencers" and receive sponsorship from skin care brands in exchange for social media promotion, wrote David X. Zheng, BA, of the department of dermatology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and colleagues.

"However, the quality of dermatologic information found on TikTok is largely unknown," they said.

In a brief report published in Pediatric Dermatology, the researchers identified the top 100 videos on TikTok on May 1, 2020, that were tagged with "#acne." The information on each video included date of upload, type and gender of the individual uploading the video, physician specialty if applicable, and video category. These top 100 videos had 13,470,501 likes and 64,775 comments over a 7.6-month time period.

The researchers used the DISCERN criteria, a validated 1-5 scale designed to assess consumer health information, to evaluate the video content, with 1 (having "serious" or "extensive shortcomings") and 5 (having "minimal shortcomings.")

Overall, the average quality rating of the TikTok acne videos was 2.03. A total of 9 videos were produced by board-certified physicians in the United States, with an average DISCERN score of 2.41.

"Analysis of the DISCERN criteria dimensions suggested that major shortcomings common to both physician and nonphysician uploaders included failure to cite information sources, discuss treatment risks, and provide support for shared decision-making," the researchers said.

Approximately one-third (34%) of the videos fell into the treatment-product advertisement category, while 26% were personal anecdotes, 20% presented information related to acne, 13% featured home remedy treatments, and 7% were classified as "other." The researchers also identified the top 200 "#acne" videos on TikTok once a week from May 8, 2020 to June 5, 2020, to determine the evolution of acne content on the app and found a turnover rate of 10.9% per week.

Based on the high turnover and low quality based on DISCERN ratings, the authors suggested that patients seeking acne information should "view acne-related TikTok videos with caution and consult evidence-based resources whenever possible."

The study findings were limited by several factors including the small sample size of physicians uploading videos, lack of information about the number of nonphysician medical professionals who uploaded videos, and lack of information about the number of video views and country of origin, the researchers noted. However, the results highlight the need for dermatologists to be aware that patients, especially teens, may be using TikTok for acne information that may be of poor quality, they said.

"Conversely, we understand that social media can be a powerful tool for advancing health literacy," the researchers noted. "Therefore, we also recommend that health care professionals engaging on TikTok create thorough and perhaps standardized educational videos regarding acne, as well as correct any acne-related misinformation that may be present," they concluded.

The other authors of the study were from the departments of dermatology at Case Western Reserve, University Hospitals Cleveland, and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

The study received no outside funding. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Zheng DX et al. Pediatr Dermatol. 2020 Nov 28. doi: 10.1111/pde.14471.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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