The Rise of the Skinfluencer

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If you’ve ever Googled “how to get rid of a zit quickly” or “do I have to use eye cream in my 20s” you’ll understand the vast extent of the Internet’s skincare advice. From WebMD to brand-sponsored FAQ landing pages that offer generic advice and then promptly push their branded products, there is no shortage of skincare tips available to anyone with Internet access. As with a lot of free advice, while not all of it is up to par, it is leaps and bounds from old wives’ tales like using lemon to “lighten” your skin or liberally slathering on products that contain dangerous amounts of mercury. In the face of overwhelming, endless amounts of content being produced for digital use, the voices that rise to the top are those that feel the least like the opinion of a company trying to push products and the most like talking to a friend about your skincare woes over a cup of coffee, perhaps, or maybe a meal and then a stroll through Sephora. The undeniable appeal of an influencer in any niche comes down to an individual consumer’s preference for another individual (as opposed to a brand or corporation), and within industries that can feel sterile as opposed to personal, audiences listen en masse to the voices of skincare YouTubers, bloggers, and content creators.

Meet the skinfluencer — the most recent iteration of the beauty gurus, the WordPress bloggers, and the Mary Kay girls. The skinfluencer has a social media platform within the skincare niche, and thanks to the general accessibility of the Internet they might be working professionals that take to Instagram on their lunch breaks to create informative infographics about sunscreen usage, or they might be teenagers filming short-form product hauls and night routines in their bedrooms. The skinfluencer meets the demand for warm, personal advice on potentially sensitive topics like scarring, rosacea, or eczema where people may have previously only received less-than-kind albeit well-meaning unsolicited advice from family, acquaintances, or even strangers. Trust is built between these skincare content creators and their audiences who, over time, become familiar with their filming backgrounds, bedrooms, routines, preferences, and mannerisms — and who better to go to for beauty advice than a knowledgeable, trusted, skincare-obsessed friend?

Skincare influencers like Hyram Yarbo (@skincarebyhyram), Amy Chang (@bondenavant), Vi Lai (@whatsonvisface), Young Yuh (@yayayayoung), and Ben Neiley (@benneiley) have collectively garnered millions of dedicated users that credit these creators for teaching them to remove makeup before bed, slather on SPF in the morning, and scan ingredients lists for buzzwords like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid. There’s no one face when it comes to these skincare gurus — they’re parents, students, working professionals, full-time content creators. Hyram Yarbo is a Gen Z favorite with over 12 million followers across platforms, and he tells CR that when he joined the skincare community, “it was more niche and specific to people who worked in the industry. Now, it’s encouraging to see so many young teenagers, mature individuals, and people of every gender contributing to the conversation! With all of our collective voices, we can push the industry to be more inclusive and more impactful.”

Thanks to their loyal followings, these skinfluencers have also helped certain brands and products to skyrocket in popularity. Hyram is famously a huge fan of Cerave products and Deciem brand The Ordinary (you’ve definitely seen red-faced selfies of people using The Ordinary’s peeling solution), and other gurus have educated the masses on the benefits of retinol usage. Amy Chang, also known as @bondenavant, tells CR that she recently created a TikTok video on retinols and received questions about proper retinol usage from a 15-year-old follower, illustrating the impact that a skinfluencer can particularly have on younger generations who are digital natives (even when it comes to anti-aging products). Chang’s skincare expertise extends to hair advice as well as she often offers advice on scalp care — your scalp is, after all, simply an extension of your face!

Other brands were not so lucky as this uptick in popularity and conversation around all things skincare has led to the discussion of shared trauma from less-than-effective (and typically from the 2000s!) products from then-popular brands like Clean & Clear’s micro-bead face washes, Mario Badescu’s drying lotions, Oxy Cleansing pads, and literally anything by Proactiv. These harsh, stripping products are thankfully no longer the go-to recommendation of many, but that hasn’t prevented them from being turned into memes like the one below, dubbed the “having teen acne and having parents that never struggled with acne or knew anything about skincare” started pack. Clearly, shared trauma has always and still makes for relatable comedy.

Skinfluencers who take to social media to talk about their own skincare struggles and journeys offer to young teens what less-knowledgeable individuals and sometimes even medical doctors have not able to offer — more nuanced advice about treating skin conditions. Each person’s skin is unique, and the creators that focus on educating their viewers rather than giving generic advice (like putting toothpaste on zits, or redirecting anyone with breakouts to the Clean & Clear section of the drugstore) create long-term value and knowledge for young people to start their skincare journeys with.

These skinfluencers weren’t immune from receiving terrible advice themselves, either. Hyram, known for offering his audience product recommendations based on his mantra “ingredients don’t lie,” tells CR that the worst advice he ever received was “to go sun tanning every time I had a breakout. For some reason, a common misconception is that the sun helps to heal acne, and staying inside too much causes it. Sun damage is the worst thing you can do to your skin, especially when it’s already compromised.” Hyram recently launched his own skincare line called Selfless by Hyram, a skincare brand focused on sparking social change through gentle active formulas that prioritize skin health while delivering powerful results to the skin. Thanks to his wide-reaching platform and fans who express their skincare needs and concerns to him on a daily basis, Hyram was able to create a product line that directly addresses the most frequently mentioned concerns that are expressed in the comment sections of his videos, like hyperpigmentation and scarring.

The accessibility and anonymity of the internet have allowed a more open discussion of common skincare issues that might have previously been embarrassing or shameful to discuss. Amy Chang tells CR, “I’ve become more comfortable sharing the personal beauty struggles I’ve overcome. It’s part of the reason why I know so much about skincare and haircare, and I think it makes it less lonely, shameful, or embarrassing for others who are currently going through similar things that I did (like acne, hair loss, botox mishaps, filler mishaps, etc.) I think that social media historically has been a place where people put on display their best selves — photos of luxury vacations, flawless skin, perfectly styled outfits — but I think that the beauty community has fatigued of that perfection.” Skincare gurus like Chang create real change in normalizing real people with real experiences and real struggles, and she continues to utilize her wide-reaching platform to educate her audience and honor the trust that they have in her recommendations.

These skinfluencers not only have their own platforms, but they are also at the forefront of the creation of online communities on TikTok, Reddit, and Instagram revolving around skincare. To understand the extent of these communities, take a look at the numbers. The subreddits r/skincareaddiction and r/asianbeauty have 1.3 million members each, the TikTok hashtag #skincaretiktok has been watched by 287.7 million people, and #skincareroutine on Instagram has 16.9 million posts. It makes sense — short-form content is easily consumed, easily shared, free, and seriously less intimidating than a visit to the dermatologist.

However, these abbreviated videos and infographics run the risk of misinforming a casual viewer. There can sometimes be a trade-off between brevity and nuance, and when it comes to potent ingredients like chemical acids, facial peels, and retinol, skincare gurus have to work twice as hard to make sure that misusage doesn’t occur. Tack on the added barrier of social media influencers who attribute their genetically blessed skin to specific products that won’t necessarily produce the same results for others, and you’re left with some issues to wade through. “I think we live in a world that loves sound bites and viral moments and with this type of content, there isn’t always the time to dive into nuance. I don’t think this happens because people are trying to spread misinformation, but rather it’s symptomatic of the rest of our culture, enabled by social media,” says Amy Chang. Her personal philosophy is not to demonize brands or ingredients, but rather to focus on guiding her audience in finding products that work for their own skin needs, budget, and lifestyle.

Skinfluencers like Chang and others who are well-informed and utilize science-backed information rise above those who don’t when it comes to the sphere of navigating the wide variety of product offerings and advice. Hyram speaks to the overwhelming amount of information on the internet, saying “I’ve seen a lot of trends originate from DIY ideas, fun “hacks”, and non-professional advice, and I think it’s good for creators to always double-check that the information they’re presenting is approved by professionals within the industry so I always source my information from dermatologists, chemists, and estheticians in order to ensure I’m relaying the most accurate information.” He recommends generally practicing a healthy level of skepticism and always reading product ingredient lists with a critical eye — and if you’re feeling lost when it comes to the ingredients lists, a quick search for retinol, AHA, or hyaluronic acid on TikTok will reveal plenty of resources for breaking each one down.

Dermatologists have also taken to these social platforms as well to throw their hats (and extensive skin knowledge) into the ring. Professional dermatologist by day and content creator by night isn’t as uncommon of a profession as you might think — take a look at both Dr. Shah (@dermdoctor) and Dr. Azi (@skinbydrazi). These two dermatologists, along with others on social media, have contributed expert advice when it comes to debunking drinking liquid chlorophyll, the general effectiveness of jade rolling your face, and even the best hair removal methods. These doctors have helped to curtail some of the more unfounded advice given on the skincare side of TikTok while maximizing accessibility as many people aren’t financially able to regularly visit a dermatologist. Although an in-person consultation is the only way for a dermatologist to fully understand your skin, the Internet has exponentially increased the reach potential of these skincare professionals by allowing them to offer advice to those who are too intimidated, too busy, or unable to cover the cost of one-on-one visits.

In short, skinfluencers are changing the accessibility game so that basic skincare knowledge isn’t a privilege that is offered only to those who have the resources and the expendable income. The general sentiment around taking care of your skin has shifted drastically thanks to the wealth of thoughtfully curated information and open conversation that now exists within the skincare niche across social media platforms. If you’ve recently started taking off your makeup before bed, wearing SPF every day, and incorporating a gentle retinol into your routine, you probably have a skinfluencer to thank for that — we know that we do.

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createdAt:Wed, 07 Jul 2021 14:20:55 +0000
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