More acne education content is needed on TikTok

TikTok’s popularity continues to rise, with new data showing Australians are now spending more time on TikTok than YouTube.

The Music Network reports that in 2021, the average monthly TikTok usage was 16.8 hours, up from 7.9 hours in 2019. In comparison, the average time spent on YouTube was 16.3 hours, up from 14.9, according to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 report.

App Annie said TikTok was on track to reach 1.2 billion users worldwide in 2021. In Australia last year, TikTok was the third most downloaded free app, after COVIDSafe and Zoom.

Younger people make up most of TikTok’s users. A Roy Morgan survey in 2020 found that 2.5 million Australians used TikTok in a four-week period. Over 70% (1.78M) were either Generation Z (born 1991-2005) or Generation Alpha (born since 2006).

With TikTok becoming one of the most popular platforms among young adults, who are also the most likely to have acne, it’s clear that informative acne content is needed on this platform.

An analysis of acne videos on TikTok by Australian researchers has found that videos with poor quality medical information received more likes than those with reliable, accurate information.

Michelle Chen and colleagues analysed the most popular TikTok videos with hashtags of common prescription acne treatments.

Patients are increasingly looking for help with health problems on social media, said the authors from Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, and the University of New South Wales. With 63% of TikTok users worldwide under the age of 24, acne is a common health concern.

“However, misinformation can dissuade patients from pursuing treatment,” the authors wrote in a letter to Clinical and Experimental Dermatology.

They found that videos with poor quality medical information had a higher number of “likes” than videos with no medical information, fair or good-quality information.

Video content was categorised according to previous treatments, history of acne, benefits of acne medications, adverse events, laboratory monitoring and dosing schedule.

There was a link between a video’s popularity and the quality of its information.

“Compared with videos with no medical information, good-quality videos received about 90% fewer likes, fair-quality videos received 11% fewer likes, and poor-quality videos received 2.25 times more likes.

“Overall, TikTok was found to be an unreliable source of medical information… However, as the fastest-growing social media app, its potential as an education tool for health-related content cannot be overlooked,” the researchers said.

Ideally, content creators should direct patients to evidence-based resources from reputable organisations. Clinicians could also play a greater role on social media by promoting accurate health information and educating patients, they wrote.

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