Marketing can increase disparities for people with skin of color


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Targeted tagging may increase health care disparities for people with skin of color, study finds.

“Marketing and targeted media can serve as potential sources of health information for consumers, influencing knowledge, practices, perception and utilization of health care services”, Amaris Geisler, MD, from the department of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and colleagues wrote. “These sources have the potential to set societal beauty standards, thereby affecting the dermatological health of patients.”

Diverse people

Targeted branding may increase health care disparities for people with skin of color.

A survey regarding skin care practices, concerns, and habits was distributed to 331 potential participants at SUNY Downstate between January 2020 and August 2020. The survey was completed by 164 people, of whom 121 (74% ) identified as non-white and 31 (19%) identified as non-Hispanic white.

For respondents with skin of color (SOC), the top concerns were acne and blemishes (40%), dry skin (32%), and pigmentation or dark spots (26%). For non-Hispanic white respondents, only 10% mentioned pigmentation or dark spots as a concern. Fine lines and wrinkles (42%), acne and blemishes (39%) and dry skin (26%) were the top concerns for this population.

The internet and social media were the most common sources of information for SOC respondents at 42% and 29%, respectively. For non-Hispanic white respondents, 26% and 13% had the same answers.

Of those with OCS, 11% said they had difficulty finding products suitable for their skin type, compared to 0% of non-Hispanic white respondents. Price and lack of product knowledge were also listed as barriers to skincare in both groups.

Sunscreen use was significantly lower among participants with SOC, with 38% reporting no sunscreen use, compared to 16% of non-Hispanic white respondents.

Previous studies have highlighted the emphasis on anti-aging and wrinkles in advertising and media aimed at a general population, compared to the emphasis on skin tone and pigmentation in media aimed at women of color, the authors added.

“Health care disparities can be exacerbated by targeted marketing and the media, which have a major impact on patient health literacy and consumer choices,” the authors wrote. “Dermatologists need to be aware of this impact in order to fill knowledge gaps, minimize bias and increase inclusivity for all skin types.

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