The COVID 19 pandemic has replaced physical association with social media platforms and other websites as the primary communication and interaction channels. People can easily express their feelings and perception of different habits and lifestyles altered by the sudden prevalence of the coronavirus disease through the internet. Over the years, Google has remained the most popular global search engine, and therefore, trends of various subjects of interest can be traced easily using Google data. Recently, many people have changed their perception of skincare as a result of limited social interactions.1In the article, “Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on population-level interest in Skincare: Evidence from a Google trends-based Infodemiology study,” Symum et al.2 assess the current trends and perception in skincare during the COVID 19 pandemic. Although this study showed significant changes in the skincare trends in the coronavirus epidemic, the findings were undermined by the overdependence of Google data only and the exclusion of people without an internet connection.
The authors investigated the significant changes for skin care in people’s interests due to the COVID-19 pandemic using Google trends. The data was collected from COVID’s web tracker by John Hopkin’s University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The author’s used daily COVID-19 data of reported cases from 23 countries globally between January and August 2020. Each country’s Google trends information from January 2015 to August 2020 was collected using “Skin Care” as the keyword. An interrupted time-series analysis was conducted to investigate the degree of the effects of COVID-19 skincare-related search queries in the world. The analysis involved the identification of the best-case autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) for each country and relative search volume (RSV). The authors then assessed various periods together to determine the degree of the interruption. From the results, it was evident that since the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, RSV for skincare increased than ARIMA in 17 of the 23 countries in the study. Besides, the researchers identified an interrelation between lockdown and the number of reported cases of COVID and people’s interests in skincare. The researchers also pointed out that the findings of this research are crucial because they would assist health authorities in understanding the trend and changes in the interests of the population about skincare.
Nonetheless, Symum et al.’s study had several limitations. First, although the researchers managed to outline a significant increment in skincare interests among members of the society during the coronavirus pandemic, the use of Google search only as the source of information limited the study from providing the exact number and percentage of folks expressing their interest in skincare. Further, the number of COVID 19 cases and death tolls are surging daily. The variation in the pandemic impact results in changes in the preventive measures in nations, thus leading to the changes in Google trend. The changes limit the study from being used for references as the researchers would require updated findings. For instance, the engine search did not elaborate whether the folks were studying skincare or expressing their concerns for treatment. Hence, the clarity of the results is in question. Secondly, the research excluded some participants from the study—specifically, the folks who do not have access to the internet connection and those who lack the skills to operate a smartphone or iPad gadgets. While the findings outline a significant correlation between the lockdown and the increment in skincare concerns, the exclusion of some participants demonstrated a biased selection. According to Patino and Ferreira3, exclusion of participants leads to the unsound judgment of results.3In the article, the researchers focused on an important subject to show the relationship between the COVID 19 pandemic impacts and the level of skincare concerns in society. Some arguments may arise regarding the dependence on Google as the only search engine and excluding people. For instance, Fauci et al.4 argue that almost 60% of the world population uses Google search; hence, obtaining data from the engine provided a wide representation of the larger population. Although the claim may seem valid, Rice et al.5 argue that internet-based surveys should employ several search engines for a wider review, thus providing accurate and reliable findings.
In conclusion, the coronavirus infection has dramatically contributed to the current trends in skincare. However, the outcomes of this study cannot be used as an ideal measure for the variations in the skincare perception due to critical shortcomings such as the exclusion of non-internet users and reliance on Google search engines only. Due to the typing errors on the Google platform, the findings may not establish the actual skincare trends. Besides, the generalization of this study’s outcome was only limited to internet users, excluding people from marginalized or underdeveloped countries who may not have internet access. Therefore, further studies are needed to provide more transparent results.
- Duque D, Morton DP, Singh B, Du Z, Pasco R, Meyers LA. Timing social distancing to avert unmanageable COVID-19 hospital surges. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2020 Aug 18; 117(33):19873-8. Available at: https://www.pnas.org/content/117/33/19873.short
- Symum H, Islam MF, Hiya H, Ali KM. Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on population-level interest in Skincare: Evidence from a google trends-based Infodemiology study. medRxiv. 2020 Jan 1. Available at: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.16.20232868v2.abstract
- Patino CM, Ferreira JC. Inclusion and exclusion criteria in research studies: definitions and why they matter. Jornal Brasileiro de Pneumologia. 2018 Mar;44:84-. Available at: https://www.scielo.br/j/jbpneu/a/LV6rLNpPZsVFZ7mBqnzjkXD/?format=html&lang=en
- Fauci AS, Lane HC, Redfield RR. Covid-19—navigating the uncharted. Available at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejme2002387
- Rice S, Winter SR, Doherty S, Milner M. Advantages and disadvantages of using internet-based survey methods in aviation-related research. Journal of Aviation Technology and Engineering. 2017;7(1):5. Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jate/vol7/iss1/5/