Overall, the study authors found that about 6 out of 10 posts only highlighted the benefits of slugging, while only 2 out of 10 mentioned possible risks.
“What we found wasn’t necessarily misinformation, but often a lack of information,” Pagani said. “Many times risks were simply not taken into account.”
Aside from an increased risk of facial acne in acne-prone patients, Pagani says there’s also a risk that any topical skin medications applied before slugging are essentially trapped under petroleum ointments and therefore potentially more deeply absorbed — and for longer periods of time — than originally intended.
“Well, slugging is one of the relatively harmless things you can find on TikTok,” Pagani acknowledged. “But even with mostly benign beauty trends, there is hope that viewers will get accurate information from reliable sources, information backed by science based on data and research. Because other trends or beauty products can certainly be potentially more damaging than something like hitting.”
The results were recently published in the journal Dermatology clinics.
It is this broader issue that obsesses Kelly Garrett, director of the School of Communication at Ohio State University.
“It’s no wonder people are searching for health information in these digital spaces,” said Garrett, who noted that social media is familiar, easy to use, and can be an empowering way of research.
And medical professionals aren’t the only providers of useful health information. “For example, someone living with a cancer diagnosis can also gain important insights,” Garrett said.
But the problem, he noted, is that “on social media, the goals of content creators aren’t always obvious.
“Posts from healthcare providers are often intended to be educational, but other writers may be more interested in entertaining, persuading consumers to buy, or just driving traffic to their content,” Garrett said. “Consumers who misunderstand the goals of the creators can end up being misled about the content as well.”
All of this means it’s important for social media users to be aware of the risks associated with searching for health information online, said Garrett, who wasn’t involved with the study.