Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme discusses how the rise of beauty video bloggers has impacted aesthetic patients
There is no doubt that social media has become an integral part of our lives and the ways in which our patients use it is continually evolving. With so many platforms and so much content available, our patients are now learning about aesthetic procedures from a variety of sources.
Playing a big role in how our patients receive information are video beauty bloggers, or ‘vloggers’, who produce video blogs and share them on social media and video sharing sites such as YouTube.
In 2017, US business magazine Forbes summarised who it believed to be the 10 top beauty influencers and, between them, they had 46,543,975 YouTube subscribers and a total reach of 135 million people.1
Beauty vloggers are acting as a resource for our patients to find out about the latest beauty trends and treatments, as well as aesthetic procedures, from someone whom they grow to trust. In a survey of more than 170,000 internet users, 42% said they had watched a vlog within the last month of the survey, and this rose to 50% for 16-24-year-olds and 25-34-year-olds.2
Being a beauty vlogger is, for some, a full-time job and some entrepreneurial YouTubers, such as Michelle Phan, have even set up cosmetic companies that have, so far, been successful.4 Popular beauty vlogger Zoe Sugg has 11.6 million YouTube followers and others have up to 16 million followers across all their social media platforms.4
While these particular vloggers aren’t necessarily known for talking about aesthetic procedures, they demonstrate how incredibly influential vloggers can be; which brings us to wonder, how is this influence affecting our patients?
A study by Gannon et al. in 2016, which combined depth-interviews of beauty bloggers with a review of participants’ blogs and selfies, suggested that [beauty] bloggers can use selfies in a positive way to record product [or treatment] experiences.3 These videos are like journals and, when done well, I have found they can reduce nervousness around procedures and help build realistic expectations of results.
This is generally because viewers have followed the vlogger’s journey and seen the continual improvement in results, as well as learnt about all the potential side effects and complications that can occur. The influence of vloggers and their reach can lead to an increase in sales of a new product or procedure as well.
In my practice, over the last 12 months, I have seen an increase in requests for lip enhancement treatments. At the time of writing, a simple search of YouTube for ‘lip fillers vlogs’ that have been uploaded this month generates 2,760 results.4
Beauty vloggers come from all walks of life and often have no formal training in health or beauty. While this is of course not essential, it does mean that sometimes opinions can read as if they were facts. I recall a patient who had acne, watching a video that advised that coconut oil could help improve her complexion. This led to a severe acne breakout as coconut oil is pro-comedogenic.5
If it had been a medical practitioner producing the vlogs, I would expect that they would follow guidance on social media from the General Medical Council (GMC), Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) or General Dental Council (GDC), which would hopefully lower the chance of misinformation being shared. The GMC states, ‘You must make sure the information you publish is factual and can be checked, and does not exploit patients’ vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge’.
It also notes that, ‘The standards expected of doctors do not change because they are communicating through social media rather than face to face or through other traditional media.’6 As well as this, some beauty vloggers are sponsored by companies that pay them to produce content about their product or services.
It can therefore sometimes be unclear whether or not they are sharing genuine recommendations or being paid to advertise a product or service, with no control over the content. In the case of aesthetic treatments, there is a risk of a company paying a vlogger to only talk about the positive results that can be achieved with a treatment – leaving out any mention of side effects or complications.
In response to calls for greater clarity on advertising in vlogs, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) produced guidelines specifically for vloggers in 2015, that aim to help them better understand how and when advertising rules should apply. The guidelines state that, ‘If there is a commercial relationship in place, it needs to be made clear’ and goes on to discuss the various formats advertising content can appear in and how to inform vlog viewers of any commercial relationships.7
Of course, it is our responsibility as practitioners, not the vlogger’s, to ensure that all patients are fully informed of all aspects of a procedure prior to treatment.
However, if the viewer of the vlog goes to an unscrupulous practitioner who does not offer a thorough consultation, then they could be at risk of experiencing side effects or complications that they were not prepared for and that the practitioner cannot manage.
To begin, it is vital that we offer patients a thorough medical consultation and ensure that they are basing their final decision on whether to have treatment on the information provided in the consultation, not from what they have heard in a vlog.
In addition, I believe we should take ownership of the information our patients are receiving. Why not make your own videos and educational content, in a format your patients will watch, that also maintains our professional standards? As well as this, if you ever see incorrect information being shared online, why not reach out to the vloggers themselves? You could gently inform them of points they may not have covered and provide them with additional information they could share, which, in addition to promoting safe treatments, has the potential to increase their reputation and build their profile as a trustworthy medical aesthetics vlogger.
Building a relationship with a vlogger in your area could benefit your clinic too. There may be an opportunity to reach a partnership agreement, in which you waive a treatment fee in exchange for coverage of the services you offer. While the finite details are outside the scope of this article, it’s vital to note that any advertising content you produce together follows CAP guidelines and is conducted in a safe and ethical manner.
Beauty vloggers can clearly have a positive influence on our patients and our consultations, however, as discussed, there are a number of negative points associated with vloggers talking about aesthetic procedures. As practitioners, we should remain vigilant in our consultations to ensure that patients are making informed