Until recently, the only place many people could interact with a dermatologist was in the doctor’s office. This required a pre-booked appointment, usually health insurance, and sometimes a day off. But social media, especially TikTok, has changed all that. Now with dermatologists like Mouneeb Shah, MD, on the platform, users can get solid skincare advice right from their phone while lounging on the couch.
When Dr. Shah, alias @DermDoctor, joined TikTok during the pandemic, he had no intention of becoming one of the most followed dermatologists on the app. “I just enjoyed it and started making videos for fun because we had some time because our schedule had slowed down with the pandemic,” Dr. Shah told POPSUGAR. However, with 12.3 million subscribers and counting, that’s exactly what happened.
The TikTok video that made it viral
As a devoted TikTok consumer, he noticed a hole in the app’s beauty content: there were lots of makeup and hair videos, but not many skincare informational videos despite a need clear and strong. People started asking her basic skin questions in her comments, like how to treat acne or what’s the best ingredient for fading hyperpigmentation. That’s when it hit him: “People ask me this stuff all the time at the clinic – I could easily make videos to answer these questions.” His videos took off from there.
“I didn’t plan on being an influencer,” says Dr Shah. He remembers the exact video that catapulted him to TikTok fame. He was lying in bed, scrolling through his FYP to relax after a long day at the clinic, when an idea occurred to him. “I was just like, ‘You know what I should do? I should just start explaining different conditions.'” He called the impromptu series “What’s on your skin?” and used the app’s green screen feature to create 16-second videos. “I did three in a row that night, fell asleep, woke up – they were all in the millions [of views].”
“I want my content to benefit people and the specialty of dermatology. It’s so important that we move the agenda of dermatologists forward and really try to make people see us as experts.”
At first, Dr. Shah’s video creation setup was very simple – he had a few lights, a phone stand, and his iPhone headphones with a mic to talk into. “I just embraced it and realized there was an opportunity to reach billions of people without having to leave the office,” he says. Since going viral, he’s branched out to other series, including “DermDoctor Reacts,” where he duets with other people’s skincare videos (think bursting pimples, DIY extractions, etc.) and gives his honest comments, and “DermDoctor Explains”, where he gives brief explanations of various conditions, trends and concerns. All of Dr Shah’s videos are laid back and informative, but also entertaining. “People call it ‘education’ because you’re educating yourself, but in a way that’s going to get your attention.”
The quest to make dermatologists more accessible
It has been difficult for Dr Shah to keep up with the demand for new TikTok content while working full time seeing patients in his office, but the positive responses from app users keep him going. “I want my content to benefit people and benefit the specialty of dermatology,” says Dr. Shah. “It’s so important that we move the agenda of dermatologists forward and really try to make people see us as experts.” It is its mission to make dermatology more accessible. “People said to me, ‘I thought derms were unrelated, and I didn’t want to see one. Then I saw your videos and I thought, This guy looks cool.’ And they’re giving them another chance.”
Dr. Shah’s main mission is to prove that having beautiful skin is accessible and affordable. “Even before I got into dermatology, I thought you had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying good skincare products,” he says. “Then when I started to learn about the ingredients [and] to learn more about skin, I realized you just need actives that address your issues.” That’s why he frequently makes videos recommending affordable drugstore products to people while sharing articles more high end he swears by.
Her 5 Holy Grail Skincare Products
Her five personal products at the moment are the CeraVe Cream to Foam Cleanser ($15), EltaMD UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 ($37), Biossance Marine Algae Eye Cream ($54) and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizing Cream ($33 ). ).
Why TikTok doesn’t replace in-person medical visits
Dr. Shah says he is thrilled with its ability to reach such a large audience on TikTok and that other dermatologists are getting involved on the app. “Things are changing rapidly, and we need to be part of that conversation.” That said, he can’t stress enough that social media and even the rise of virtual appointments can’t replace visiting a doctor in person.
“I truly believe you get the best care in the office,” says Dr. Shah. In order to properly diagnose and prescribe solutions, dermatologists must be able to feel and see the skin up close. But that’s not all. “There are times when people come to me for acne, and then I look at their arm and I’m like, ‘Hey, that mole is funny,’ and it ends up being melanoma. You can’t never do that on a virtual date.” Or on TikTok.
Image source: Courtesy of Muneeb Shah