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The Skinfluencer Allure: Apply with Care

What role do skinfluencers play in Gen Z and Millenials’ obsession with skincare and what exactly is the price we pay in our quest for perfect skin?

Illustration of a woman lying in bed next to a laptop. The screen reads: '100 SKINCARE PRODUCTS YOU NEED!'
'Self-Care in The Age of Corona', Elish Kathleen, 2021.

Enter my bedroom at 1am and you will find me in the presence of another. No, not the warm muscular arms of a lover. I am talking about the warm, embracing arms of the Skinfluencer, reaching me through the bright light of my iPhone. Can’t say I’ve ever dated a man who gave me a warm fuzzy feeling AND correctly layered his active ingredients, thanks very much.

For those uninitiated, a Skinfluencer is an influencer who is big on skincare. Daily content includes videos about solve-all acne products, a facial SPF perfect for oily skin and the endless, endless benefits of niacinamide.

Skinfluencers could be dermatologists or estheticians with years of medical training behind them. A handful of such includes Dr Dray, Dr Shah and The Golden Rx. Or they could be ‘skin experts’ such as Hyram Yabroo and James Welsh, with little to no medical training but armed with a wealth of internet research and the ability to read product ingredient lists.

@mattrandon

I’m a ✨skinfluencer✨ y’all #skincare #tiktokpartner #skincareroutine #skincarebyhyram #ance #foryou

♬ Mariners Apartment Complex – Lana Del Rey

Interest has grown in skincare and skinfluencers over the last year. Swedish beauty brand Foreo found that 96% of consumers would rather invest in skincare instead of make-up during the pandemic. Skinfluencer Hyram Yarbro, or ‘Skincare by Hyram’, has jumped from 100,000 followers to nearly 7 million on TikTok since March 2020. The pandemic is enabling us to stare and squeeze at our faces from the comfort of our own home, 24/7. As a result, both Gen Z’s and Millennials are craving their skincare content fix.

But it’s not just the pandemic making skincare and consequently skinfluencers so appealing. A key part of the skinfluencer’s appeal is their accessibility. Skinfluencers James Welsh and Hyram are big proponents of affordable skincare, with inexpensive brands such as Cerave and the Inkey List making their top Products of 2020 Youtube videos. Giving glowing reviews to products that are available for around a tenner online or at Superdrug means many can get a haul in without breaking the bank.

Their real, bubbly and no bullshit personalities are another inviting part of their accessibility. They’re not afraid to take down brands or products they don’t like: see Hyram’s video The Truth about St Ives which demolished the brand’s’ Apricot Scrub to millions of viewers. These influencers attempt to cut through the skincare marketing gimmicks and seemingly simplify the previously exclusive world of skincare designated for the pages of Vogue. Viewers buy the recommended products with full trust that they will improve their skin.

It’s not just their personalities, however, which help the influencers achieve this feeling of being real and connected to their audience. It’s by consistently uploading new and exciting content. Every week they include and promote new products for viewers to use on their skin.

In practice, this could result in the very opposite of what the videos are suggesting to promote in the first place: healthy skin. James Welsh himself has noted the mistake of overzealousness in his viewers, who leave frustrated comments after they take up lots of products as a result of watching him. In a Youtube video, ‘4 Skincare Routine Mistakes We All Make’, he warns, “It’s my job to test brand after brand…if I find a product that I love, it’s my job to say that I love it and move onto the next thing, even if it works perfectly for my skin.” In conclusion: “Stop shopping like an influencer”.

However, there’s some irony to a skinfluencer being no-bullshit truth tellers, encouraging their audience to work with only the needs of their skin and then a day later uploading a new video discussing amazing new products from a Korean skincare brand which could solve the small sebum plugs in your nose. The fault isn’t necessarily all at the feet of the influencers. As Welsh says, it is his job and he does try to expand on the skin care small print. But these more informative videos can be lost under a barrage of click bait which, frankly, can be an overwhelming amount of content for viewers to sift through. The important bits are skipped out in favour of the algorithm guiding you to the most trendy videos which, if you’re playing around with active ingredients such as retinol and acids, could be the difference between glowing skin and a lot of irritation.

@skincarebyhyram

##AD Benzoyl Peroxide: What Is It? 🧐 ft @panoxyl ##skincarebyhyram ##skincare

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

An example: After watching two separate videos singing the praises of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid for spots, one December evening I liberally applied both over my face. I then spent the entire festive season looking like a sad little red santa. This was a direct result of not doing enough research to realise they didn’t exactly gel together. Doing an influencer induced skincare haul could do a lot more damage to your face than say, a clothes induced influencer haul (unless you pick some really ugly shades). Skin doesn’t care about what is trendy right now and it will show you the hard way.

Loading all those products on your face can also be particularly appealing under the guise of ‘self-care’. Skinfluencers are particularly absorbing content creators for the Gen Z/Millenial group precisely because they fit so neatly into this notion. Used ironically and sincerely, ‘self-care’ is seen as a way of surviving as a young person in this mad capitalism-fuelled world. You may be working a corporate 9-5 that makes you want to dissolve into the cold hard earth, but a little skin care self-care activity in your evening can make everything just that bit more bearable. Especially if you have a bubbly personality on your screen telling you how much it will improve how you feel about yourself inside and out. Yet scrolling through TikToks and consequently purchasing endless products, most of which will probably never be used again, all under the umbrella of self-care? That’s isn’t self care: that’s consumerism baby! With a lot of non-recyclable bottles. Your face and the environment will thank you for refraining.

Improving your skin health is a respectable and achievable goal. Loving Skinfluencers may be a part of that. However, watching 1 minute 43 seconds of a 10 minute Youtube video and using it to inform your full knowledge on skincare: not so good. Spending half your monthly wage on recommended skincare to target ‘problems’ which your skin barely has and then throwing everything away: also, not so good. Getting stuff for your skin should be a slow, conscious process based on research. Not a viral vid. Take care and don’t slather all the Skinfluencers on at once.

You can find Rosa on Instagram making funny videos here @caffeinatedcollins or uploading boring life content here @rosacollins_

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