Doctors are the New Celebrities of Skincare
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Doctors all over the globe are offering free skincare advice via their social media channels, empowering their followers while gaining popularity.
The role of 'skinfluencers' on social media in helping raise the profiles of skincare brands is more important than ever.
Take for example the ultra-popular skincare brand The Ordinary by Deciem, with 949 million hashtags and 288,000 followers on TikTok, making it the most popular beauty brand on the platform as of July 2021. As it makes its way into Asia via online shopping platforms, The Ordinary has overtaken well-established household names such as L’Oréal in popularity, despite still being referred to as a 'cult favorite according to global social media.
Discussions on platforms like Reddit where peer-to-peer discourse on skincare have created forums with millions of members further prove that current skincare trends are influenced by information sharing, and are now decided by the consumers, not by the brands.
The rise of aesthetic doctors as influencers
All over the world, consumers are hungry for information on skincare, but not just general information about the latest products – they want details about formulae, scientific evidence backing up claims, and personalised advice. And across the globe, providers of real information have decided to offer their advice on the internet, for free.
When trusted talking heads and skinfluencers — many of whom are insistent about not taking sponsorships — drive the conversation about skincare brands and trends, they succeed at ultimately influencing brand mindshare and sales.
Medical professionals who make content thrive in an era where consumers are not easily satisfied with information that is being directly fed to them by big brands. Armed with years of medical training and clinical practice, doctors are in an excellent position to provide the sort of information sought after by today's consumers in a way the latter can relate to.
Navigating the tricky world of online skincare
While skincare users are often eager to share their own success with beauty products on social media, it's not so simple when you’re a certified medical practitioner.
“When I review products, I would never say ‘I love this brand, go out and buy it now’. I have to be careful when talking about products and their efficacy such that I am educating my followers about ingredients, but I do not personally endorse brands,”
explains Dr Lim Ing Kien, or more fondly known as @dr_ingky on social media, adding: “Even if I appear to like a product, I will use the word ‘personally’ when giving my approval, and I make sure every video has a disclaimer that whether a product will have any effect on your skin depends on whether it is suitable for your skin type.”
Dr Lim is the founder of a chain of clinics known as Medii Skin Studio, as well as SkynFyx, Malaysia’s first fully online skin clinic. Having been an active content creator for years, Dr Lim has become quite the skinfluencer, and enjoys little moments of celebrity such as when fans approach him in real life to ask for a selfie. However, being a content creator is not without its drawbacks, with challenges often coming from skincare brands themselves.
“When a brand doesn’t present scientific evidence to back up their product claims, I may mention in my review that the promised results are an overclaim, and this has led to some brands threatening (legal) action against us,” he says, while explaining that no brand has ever actually had a solid case against him.
Furthermore, creating public-access content has also led to misappropriation: “There have been smaller Malaysian skincare companies that have repurposed my videos without my consent, to make it look like I've given them my endorsement. The intent behind my content is to educate, but these brands edit my videos to sell their products. In those instances, my team had to reach out to them and ask for them to stop using my videos or we will pursue legal action.”
Giving followers what they want
He attributes his large following of almost 100,000 followers on Instagram and more than 300k followers on TikTok to his use of the Malay language in his videos, the predominant language used in Malaysia.
Dr Lim realised while there is an abundance of English language content on social media, there is a lack of content in local languages generated by Southeast Asian doctors.
Being multilingual and as someone who has always enjoyed public speaking, Dr Lim saw an opportunity to reach out to the people who might need his content the most: “Most of my patients are Malay, and we cannot discount the fact there are segments of the population in Malaysia who are on social media but don’t use English as their first or even second language, and may struggle with technical terms and medical jargon,”
he says, crediting his use of Malay in his videos as key to his online growth.
Dr Lim holds a weekly Instagram 'live' (IGLIVE) session where he answers questions from his followers and addresses common skincare concerns, while crowdsourcing for potential topics to feature on his platforms. At first only 15 minutes long, his sessions have since expanded to more than an hour each.
What’s good for the influencer is good for the doctor
Being an influencer, whether or not it is your main profession, can be a full-time commitment. And while some may think doctors should not be offering free advice, Dr Lim says business has never been better because of it. He initially only saw patients from the Klang Valley at his clinics in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, but thanks to his popularity on social media, until the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Dr Lim has been welcoming patients from all over Malaysia and even from neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
“It turns out giving free advice is great for business, and being present online has also worked well for SkynFyx, which as a digital startup is expected to take some time to build,” he says.