How Education Has Rewritten the Narrative Around Acne Treatment
Nowadays, anything we could possibly want to know is literally at our fingertips. Social media and the internet open doors to a broader education on all things in life, regardless of what they learn in school. Typing a few words into the TikTok search bar leads you to hours of mini videos on topics you’re interested in. The health industry and specifically dermatologists have been utilizing social media as a platform to communicate accessible information regarding skin care and acne. One of the many things this has led to is an increase in education rewriting the narrative surrounding acne and the way it should be treated.
- Healthcare providers build platforms on various social media in order to educate a larger audience on all things health and nutrition.
- Social media has significantly helped dermatology patients obtain the level of health literacy they need to help their providers and themselves figure out an effective method of treatment.
- The shared decision method (SDM) was created as a result of an increase in education from social media and other resources that positively rewrite the narratives around acne treatment.
The relationship between health literacy and social media
Social media is an extremely powerful tool for communication. It allows people to engage in depth with many different stakeholders on an array of diverse topics. In other words, it allows people to talk to each other and share knowledge based on experience or years of study.
People are able to quickly gain the answers to specific questions about health without the hassle of meeting with a healthcare provider for every small question. It also has the power to rewrite various stigmas by increasing audience education.
Many healthcare providers have joined social media in order to spread their knowledge to an infinite audience. This has opened the gates to populations that may have a barrier to health literacy, allowing them to gain further knowledge about health.
According to an IOS press educational journal, lower-income communities rely on having a smartphone with access to social media “to look for information about life decisions, such as individual and population health conditions.” This greater access to health education has provided many with crucial information and narrows the gap in care.
Education rewriting acne treatment narrative
Acne has historically had a negative stigma. A lot of this had to do with the lack of education surrounding acne. There are misconceptions about acne being dirty or indicating a lack of care when it is really just a normal phase for skin that can have multiple causes. Acne actually affects eighty percent of Americans in their lifetime, making it quite common.
So while social media can have negative psychological impacts on people, it can also have a positive influence in teaching people that acne is common and about different ways to care for it.
A large portion of educational health content on social media is beginning to come from dermatologists who want to help people wherever they can. This is groundbreaking considering most of us don’t have time to do thorough research into why we are breaking out or what we can do to help it. Like anything in our fast-paced culture, we want information quickly and conveniently. So of course, dermatologists are running to platforms like Instagram and TikTok to create quick content explaining acne in a way that the general population can understand.
You may be thinking that there is no way social media is a legitimate source for skincare and acne care. However, a study conducted on a group of West Virginia University students who identified themselves as having acne revealed that 45% of the people surveyed consulted social media for advice on acne care.
Social media acne treatment advice is extremely prevalent, which is why it is crucial that dermatologists utilize these platforms to spread legit, AAD-proven, educational information to their followers.
A journal from the National Library of Medicine, also reported that board-certified dermatologists have begun to utilize social media as an educational platform in order to halt misinformation coming from influencers who may not be educated in the field of dermatology. Some aren't even in it for the fame or the money, they simply want to make sure that impressionable users of social media aren’t being falsely educated on proper acne treatments.
There are many contributors to different skin moods, especially acne. This is why dermatology patients require greater health literacy when it comes to treatment. Patients should examine the foods they eat, the products they use, genetics, sugar intake, hormone levels, and so much more just to determine why they may be experiencing acne in the first place. They then have to figure out what treatment works best for them among the thousands of different types of options.
So as great as a dermatologist's office may be, the length of time to figure out proper treatment is significantly increased due to all the factors that affect individual acne experiences.
Shared decision making
Obviously, patients go to healthcare providers to receive diagnoses and treatment from experts. However, issues range across all medical fields and often intersect with diet, lifestyle, genetics, ancestry, and more. Due to social media increasing health literacy, the medical world has come up with an idea to make treatments potentially more efficient. This idea is called shared decision making (SDM) and takes place when a healthcare provider and the patient work together to decide on a decision that most benefits the patient.
According to Wei-Ming Wang, MD, Ph.D., “SDM can improve patients’ knowledge, satisfaction, and treatment adherence” (Physician’s Weekly). “SHARE” acts as a five-letter acronym for how healthcare providers can approach decision making:
- Seeking patient’s participation
- Helping patients explore various treatments
- Assessing patient's values and preferences
- Reaching a consensus on treatment decisions
- Evaluating the patient’s decision
This SDM process has begun to rewrite the narrative of acne treatment within dermatology offices themselves. They want patients to come in with some base education about their visit and also begin to understand a few treatment options beforehand.
Dermatology offices have started to follow in healthcare influencers' footsteps and have implemented “clinician-created videos” onto their websites to give patients a visual aid education tool. The use of visual aids to present education has been proven to be more effective than other methods like a trifold pamphlet.
There is no such thing as being “too educated” on certain topics. Social media has definitely aided in rewriting the narrative around acne treatment and how dermatologists go about treating each individual. It’s now easier than ever to gain some sort of information through credited social media posts on acne and possible ways to care for it. However, make sure that you aren’t taking any risky advice from a nonmedical account on social media. Also, utilize the shared decision method and consult with your dermatologist if you are having acne problems and want a more efficient way to get results.
Written by Emma Carlson
- Photo by Elisa Calvet B. on Unsplash