A new survey of acne vulgaris misinformation has identified key themes including diet and other acne ’causes’, unconventional ‘cures’ and distrust of conventional treatments for acne. acne.
Investigators have suggested that dermatologists should be aware of the distress caused by acne as well as the surplus of misinformation about the condition to prepare to combat misinformation through evidence-based practices.
Young acne patients often seek help online via social media and “influencers”. This practice can make patients vulnerable to misinformation, a global challenge that has only worsened in recent years.
As such, investigators led by Cathal O’Connor, PhD, Department of Dermatology, South Infirmary at University Hospital of Victoria, assessed misinformation about acne available online.
O’Connor and his colleagues used PubMed to search the literature using terms such as “acne”, “disinformation”, “disinformation”, and “conspiracy theory”.
The team identified 1024 abstracts which were reviewed for inclusion. Of these, 5 were deemed suitable for inclusion.
A Google search was also performed using the same PubMed search terms, and additional targeted searches of social media including TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were performed.
Key themes found among this research included the influence of diet on acne and other “causes”, unconventional “cures”, and skepticism towards conventional treatments.
With respect to diet, suspected common causes of cane included various foods, poor hygiene, systemic infections, and fluoridated water.
Dairy products have often been cited as the “causes” of acne. Despite a “modest increased risk of acne” due to higher milk intake, the investigators noted that there was no evidence that it caused acne.
However, the strongest link between diet and acne was a high glycemic load diet – or foods high in sugar – which would increase IGF-1 levels, leading to increased acne breakouts.
Notably, investigators observed several “miracle cures” – or “cures” with insufficient evidence – including veganism, nutritional supplements and brand name creams. These practices claimed to “rapidly eradicate severe acne refractory to standard treatment.”
Additionally, several conventional therapies such as antibiotics and oral isotretinoin have been associated with negative opinions.
On some blogs, systemic infections were believed to cause acne, and more “extreme” blogs claimed that a hidden cause of acne was fluoridated water, a claim that investigators said lacked any plausible scientific basis.
Also, several veganism support groups have claimed that veganism clears acne fast, but there is no evidence to support this claim.
Perhaps most concerning, ‘miracle’ treatments such as toothpaste, lemon juice and garlic were claimed to treat pimples on various blogs, an investigator noted that antibiotic treatments were defined as ‘pollutants’ and “ruining health”.
A controversial link between depression and treatments such as isotretinoin has also been observed, with the researchers adding that the development or worsening of depression is very rare.
In their closing remarks, O’Connor and colleagues suggested that the psychosocial impact of acne on adolescents could expose them to the misinformation detailed in the study, adding that dermatologists should be more aware of the need for more factual resources.
“Dermatologists should be aware of the vast amount of acne misinformation available online and be prepared to challenge and refute misleading health information,” the team wrote.
The study, “Spotting fake news: a qualitative examination of misinformation and conspiracy theories in acne vulgaris”, was published online in Clinical and experimental dermatology.