Grease is being applied on people’s faces as part of the TikTok “slugging” trend.

Should you slug or not? Millions of TikTok users have that question in mind as they look to the social media behemoth for advice and information on what can best be described as a DIY skin care craze.

Slugging entails applying a sealing agent to the skin, such as Vaseline or another petroleum-based ointment.

What’s wrong with that, exactly? According to recent research, the majority of TikTok posts about the wrinkle-reducing technique are incorrect from a medical standpoint since they exaggerate the advantages while downplaying the risks.

For people struggling with dryness, irritation, or inflammation, slugging aims “to assist hydrate and improve the skin barrier,” according to research main author Kyla Pagani.

Pagani, who did her research as a medical student in the Department of Dermatology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, emphasised that the concept is not medically unsound.

She continued, “I’ve heard certain physicians talk extremely favourably about it, most frequently for treating hand eczema. It undoubtedly has advantages.

However, there could be drawbacks, according to Pagani, like an increase in the likelihood of acne. She and her colleagues also wanted to know whether the more than 1 billion users of TikTok are likely to understand what slugging actually entails, given that the website has such a “strong influence on the younger generation” and social media in general.

The research team did this by looking at the top 49 slugging videos on TikTok in English. These posts had accumulated more than 26.5 million views and nearly 3.3 million “likes” before the investigation was started.

However, just 37% of the movies were ultimately labelled as informative by the investigators. As a result, they provided a rather thorough overview of both the possible benefits of slugging, such as smoother and more moisturised skin, and the disadvantages, such as pore-blocking and acne.

The posting sources were quite important. For instance, the team discovered that almost 88% of the movies published by healthcare professionals were deemed to be balanced and educational. But when beauty-related “influencers” shared their posts, that percentage fell to only 43%.

Overall, the study’s authors discovered that only 2 out of 10 articles identified potential hazards, while around 6 out of 10 posts simply highlighted the benefits of slugging.

What we discovered, according to Pagani, “was not always untruth, but frequently a lack of information.” “Risks were simply not included a lot of the time.”

Pagani noted that there is a risk that any topical skin medication applied prior to slugging would essentially become trapped underneath petroleum ointments, and therefore potentially be absorbed more deeply — and for longer periods of time — than originally intended. This risk extends beyond a heightened risk for facial acne among acne-prone patients.

Slugging, as Pagani recognised, is one of the mostly innocuous activities that are available on TikTok. “The objective is that viewers will receive accurate information from dependable sources, information supported by science based on data and research, especially in the case of largely innocuous beauty trends. Because other fashions or cosmetics may undoubtedly carry greater risk of injury than something like slugging.”

The Clinics in Dermatology journal just published the findings.

Kelly Garrett, director of the School of Communication at Ohio State University, is troubled by that bigger problem.

Garrett stated, “It is no surprise that people wind up looking for health information in these digital places. Social media is familiar, simple to use, and may be an empowering method to undertake research.

And there are other sources of helpful health information outside only medical practitioners. For instance, Garrett stated, “Someone who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis can also have vital insights.”

On social media, however, “content providers’ aims are not always evident,” he said, and this is an issue.

Health care practitioners frequently want to inform their audiences through their posts, while other content creators can be more interested in entertaining viewers, convincing them to make a purchase, or simply increasing traffic to their website, according to Garrett. Customers who don’t grasp the intentions of the producers risk being mislead about the content as well.

In light of all of this, Garrett, a researcher who was not involved in the study, emphasised the need of social media users being aware of the dangers associated with online health information searches.

He said that the key to using social media for health information is “information literacy,” which means that users are aware of the need to distinguish “between those making a good faith effort to help others navigate complex health issues and those who are more concerned about getting attention than about being right.”

Information about

The Cleveland Clinic has further information on slugging.

SOURCES: Clinics in Dermatology, August 9, 2022; Kelly Garrett, PhD, director, School of Communication, Ohio State University, Columbus; Kyla Pagani, BS, medical student, University of Massachusetts T.H. Chan School of Medicine, North Worcester.

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