Current social media hair-loss related content primarily promotes hair care products, services, or treatments presented by individuals lacking medical and dermatologic training, according to study findings published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
With the explosion in popularity of social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, their content is often viewed by patients with hair loss and seeking medical information. Investigators evaluated the sources and content of hair-loss related information on Instagram and TikTok.
Their review and analysis used the top 10 hair-loss related social media hashtags: #hair, #haircare, #hairloss, #wigs, #hairlosstreatment, #hairgrowth, #alopecia, #hairtransplant, #hairlosssolution, #thinninghair; the study was conducted December 2020 through the end of January 2021. They identified the 9 most popular Instagram posts for each hashtag using Instagram’s “top 9” algorithm. For TikTok, they found the top 10 posts for each hashtag by comparing the number of views. Posts not in English, duplicated, or not related to hair care of alopecia were excluded.
There were 90 Instagram posts analyzed. There were more than 241 million posts related to hair loss in the top 10 hair-loss related hashtags. Medical professionals created 4%. Nonmedical professional influencers created 66%, and hair and wig companies created 29%. The most liked post for each hashtag was created by an influencer (50%), hair care business (40%), or professional wig manufacturing company (10%). Among the posts created by medical professionals, all were in the #hairtransplant category.
Among the 100 TikTok posts analyzed, medical professionals created 10%. Nonmedical influencers created 38%, patients created 38%, and hair and wig companies created 14%. More than 3.2 million likes and more than 50,000 comments were generated. Investigators found that 36% of TikTok posts were promotional in nature, 34% educational, and 30% inspirational.
Educational posts focused on hair tutorials, styling, and suggestions for patients using wigs. Other educational posts discussed over-the-counter hair-loss treatments including biotin, but only 1 post created by a dermatologist acknowledged that biotin has no studies to support use as a hair-growth agent.
None of the most popular posts on either platform was created by board-certified dermatologists.
Study limitations include the extent to which data can be collected from social media platforms, the fluctuating daily popularity of posts reflected only the day the search was conducted, and the exclusion of non-English posts.
“The overwhelming majority of popular hair loss-related content on Instagram and TikTok is made by individuals with no medical or dermatologic training,” stated investigators. They believe this may lead to misinformation while promoting products and services of limited use to individuals seeking help, possibly even harmful. They added “Social media represents a great opportunity for dermatologists to counteract these negative effects and use these platforms to promote quality, evidence-based information to better guide patients.”
Laughter M, Anderson J, Kolla A, et al. An analysis of alopecia related content on Instagram and TikTok. J Drugs Dermatol. Published online December 1, 2022. doi:10.36849/JDD.6707