Acne-related social media content lacks input from dermatologists
A recent survey of acne news on social media platform Instagram found that the vast amount of relevant content was heterogeneous in message and quality. Additionally, dermatologists were only responsible for a small fraction of the acne-related content.
Acne vulgaris is responsible for a significant number of dermatology visits, and while a myriad of effective, evidence-based treatments are available, there are various acne products marketed on platforms such as Instagram that are not tested or have any benefit in treating the skin condition. .
A previous study of YouTube content featuring videos on the acne medication isotretinoin found content to be heterogeneous in informational quality, with most videos ranging from mediocre to fair.
This prompted investigators led by Suzanne C. Ward, MD, University of California, Irvine, to assess the current landscape of skin-related content available on Instagram.
The team researched the top posts on the platforms using the hashtag #acne before analyzing them based on their source and content.
Posts were excluded if they were not about acne, not in English, or duplicates. As of April 2020, a total of 900 positions have been assessed and 439 have been included.
From there, the numbers of “likes” and “followers” were compared to the one-way ANOVA applied with the Microsoft Excel Data Analysis ToolPak.
Investigators noted that many of the top acne posts were generated by “influencers,” while dermatologists were responsible for only 17 posts. This was less than 4% of the included content.
Although dermatologists had a comparable number of followers (P = 0.58) to influencers, they had fewer average “likes” per photo, with 250 versus 764 with a trend toward significance (P = 0.011).
Additionally, retailers had significantly more followers than other groups (P = 0.02).
Other “providers” observed in the study included Instagram users who used professional referrals to back up their recommendations, while the most common other providers offering advice under a professional guise were beauticians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and dentists.
Of the messages featured in the study, 232 promoted a commercial product, 82 focused on acne awareness and acceptance, 48 advertised the services of a medical provider or industry of beauty, 35 promoted home remedies for acne, 31 recommended behavioral interventions and 11 addressed the underlying etiology of acne vulgaris.
Nearly half of all articles recommended at least 1 specific intervention and 124 distinct ingredients were offered as potential acne treatments.
Of the posts that made a specific recommendation, only 11% referenced a treatment with grade A evidence based on American Academy of Dermatology guidelines. Additionally, most of the recommendations were for over-the-counter treatments.
Ward and his colleagues added that more research is needed to determine whether patients judge content differently based on its source and whether or how exposure to that content leads to changes in behavior or attitudes.
“This study showed that content is heterogeneous in message and quality, and dermatologists are responsible for only a tiny fraction of it,” the team wrote. “Thus, there is a need for dermatologists to generate content and support each other in promoting high-quality, evidence-based treatments for acne on Instagram.”
The study, “Acne Information on Instagram: Quality of Content and the Role of Dermatologists on Social Media,” was published online in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.