Skinfluencers are a new breed of viral social media users who have found fame dishing out skincare tips online, but the problem is not all of them are qualified to give out the advice you see on TikTok and Instagram.
However, one viral influencer who does have the right expertise is Dr Aamna Adel. She’s an NHS doctor by day and social media star by night, with over 200,000 followers on TikTok (@dermatology.doctor). We asked her to highlight the top skincare myths and mistakes she sees online and to share her top tips for navigating the world of digital dermatology advice.
1. Entertainment doesn’t equal expertise
They might sound like they know everything, but many skinfluencers are simply sharing their own untrained views and experiences online. “It’s entertaining for watchers but people will copy what they’re doing, and it can be dangerous. There’s a lot of guidance on skincare layering, which really can’t do much harm, but there’s another aspect where a group of people talk about, for example, sunscreen causing skin cancer, which is mad,” cautions Dr Adel cautions.
2. Skincare doesn’t have to be expensive to work
In fact, some of the brands Dr Adel uses herself have been low-cost TikTok trenders. “Brands like CeraVe, The Ordinary and The INKEY List are all things you’ll find in my bathroom cabinet. A lot of the time the money you’re paying for a product is actually just for its packaging and marketing, with the exception of some high-strength topicals like vitamin C, which cost more to stabilise,” says Dr Adel.
3. Wanting instant results is unrealistic
By focusing on a good, consistent skincare regime instead of scrolling for a quick-fix product, you’ll see better results in the long run.“I find it so frustrating that there’s this culture of wanting everything instantly,” Dr Adel says. “Skincare doesn’t work like that, it takes consistency and a good long-term regime to really reap the benefits of products.”
4. Home pore suction devices should never be bought
It doesn’t matter how satisfying they look in videos. “Who even invented these and for what reason?” asks Dr Adel. “People attach them to a screen to show the gunk coming out of their pores on TikTok. I really can’t see any benefit to using one, people just have a fascination with them. You really don’t need one.”
5. Not every viral product is going to work for you
Even if they’re good products, think of your skin type before investing in viral hits and potentially wasting money. “I love The Ordinary AHA 30% Peeling Solution, £6.35 at Beauty Bay, which went viral on TikTok, but it won’t work for everyone. It’s a strong formula and it won’t suit those with particularly sensitive skin. Start on lower concentrations of retinoids or AHAs if you haven’t used that type of product before, don’t go straight into punchy percentages,” Dr Adel recommends.
6. Be wary of people pushing "natural" narratives
“What does that even mean for a product to be natural? I’ll come across things where people talk about prescribed medicines like Roaccutane being the devil. They want to push a narrative of all chemicals being bad,” says Dr Adel. “They come out with fear-mongering videos and recommend these ‘natural’ products and promote eating certain things instead. However, if you have severe acne, chances are it won’t be fixed with a bit of celery.”
7. No spot should ever be picked
That goes particularly for the big cysts you see being popped on TikTok. “We can’t advise any spots, of any size, to be picked as that can lead to infection, hyperpigmentation and scarring,” Dr Adel warns. “However those giant cysts you see exploding – quite literally – on social media most definitely shouldn’t be drained at home. Either leave them alone or see an expert in extractions.”
8. Some product results you see are just fake
Those ‘magic’ videos of blackheads disappearing with just a sweep of a face wipe are almost certainly the result of digital trickery. “I was sent a clip on Instagram the other day from a follower asking if something they saw was real. The simple answer is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” says Dr Adel.
9. Pimple patches aren’t actually a gimmick
If you’ve been contemplating picking up a pack of spot patches after seeing them on social media, they’re actually one of the trending buys that do more good than harm. “Even if you just use them to cover a pimple so you don’t pick at it, they’re useful. I wouldn’t say they’re underrated, but they are a product I would recommend for creating a barrier and allowing a spot to heal,” says Dr Adel.
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10. Always see an expert for more serious concerns
Dodgy looking moles, skin tags or severe acne should definitely be looked at in real life by a dermatologist and not diagnosed or treated at home based on TikTok guidance. “I’ve seen videos of people trying to remove skin tags with string and it’s just such a bad idea. We’re lucky in the UK that we have access to free NHS experts, so we really don’t have an excuse to be performing risky experiments on ourselves,” Dr Adel says.
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