When I finally decided to take the plunge and create my skincare line, I waded into the intimidating world of social media to generate traction for FIGGI Beauty. This led me down a rabbit hole of skincare influencers (“skinfluencers”) and an array of contradicting advice.
I also thought I needed to operate on product recommendations and advice, so I set out to do just that. My main problem, though: I have sensitive skin. But if millions of skinfluencers with “sensitive skin” (some of them with impressive medical qualifications) can recommend a stream of products every month, so can I. So off I went to do the same. Worst. Idea. Ever!
Here are the 3 things I learned about skinfluencer advice and recommendations:
1. They Don’t Have Sensitive Skin
“If you regularly evaluate that many products on your sensitive skin, you would be in a unique form of pain. At least, this would be the case if you had my sensitive skin.”
I always thought Sensitive Skin was the one skin type that was most prone to subjective interpretation. This may be because people experience sensitivity differently, whether redness, itching, or breakouts. In my personal opinion, I have always had dry and sensitive skin. In my case, sensitive means my skin severely dislikes it when something minuscule in my routine changes. Think burning, instant breakouts, and itching. It also means that my skin often turns the same shade as a tomato and burns like hot coals when I use certain ingredients (hello fragrance!). I usually break out in an array of red spots with the slightest temperature change, especially on the chest area.
I would not describe my skin as resilient, tough, or able to manage anything you throw at it. As a rule, I always apply half of the lowest recommended usage of actives, and I still get a reaction. Knowing this about myself, I can say this is one of the prominent examples in my life when I did not stay true to myself and opted for following the herd. My skin was not just upset with me; it was severely angry when I took to trying products for review! I am still recovering from the one month of product hopping I did in the name of social media 7 months ago! Obviously, this was not the social media route for FIGGI Beauty. My sacred skincare ritual turned into a form of purgatory.
Given this outcome, how could all these skinfluencers announcing that they had sensitive skin could evaluate and recommend this string of various products, sometimes daily? The conclusion I inevitably came to here is that they do not have the sensitive skin they claim to have. If you regularly evaluate that many products on your sensitive skin, you would be in a unique form of pain. At least, this would be the case if you had my sensitive skin. So be wary when skinfluencers claim to have sensitive skin because if you can throw anything at it and still look perfect, the odds are that you have resilient skin.
2. They Don’t Properly Test Product Recommendations
“It is impossible to rigorously evaluate the actual effect of products on your skin within a few months, especially when you are simultaneously throwing various other new products at it.”
Most social media influencers work according to a set posting calendar and schedule. Therefore, they pre-plan all their posts and topics months in advance. Most of the episodes, clips, and reels you see are filmed well before it is posted. This is how they ensure they stay consistent and constantly deliver content to their audiences.
The products they may be reviewing and recommending in this week’s episode may have been evaluated during a prior period and listed for later publication. The problem remains: They still need to use an excessive amount of products on their skin for a brief period regardless of when the actual testing took place.
To me and my sensitive skin, trying that many products on my skin within a few months is impossible and not be in agony. Assuming the skinfluencer with sensitive skin is my version of sensitive, they would be in the same boat. Even if you take sensitivity out of the equation, it is impossible to rigorously evaluate the actual effect of products on your skin within a few months, especially when you are simultaneously throwing various other new products at it.
The only logical conclusion I could come to here was that they do, in fact, evaluate the products once or twice. This would be completely acceptable if you only consider the product’s sensory aspect or formulation. Knowing what a product looks like and how it glides on the skin, smells, and absorbs only takes one try. On the other hand, learning how a product calms the skin, whether it causes breakouts or other unwanted effects, takes more than one try. Understanding its impact on your skin is more complicated when evaluating this product while simultaneously testing various other products. It is impossible to know which product is causing unwanted outcomes or good outcomes.
Take product recommendations with a grain of salt and listen to how the product is described. Are they talking about the consistency, i.e., the product’s feel on the skin, how it’s absorbed, etc.? Or are they talking about the effect on the skin? Don’t purchase product recommendations just because your favourite skinfluencers approve. Look for specific recommendations for a particular problem you are experiencing with your skin. If you are experiencing great difficulty, a medical professional is the best choice.
3. Makeup & Good Lighting Hides A Lot
“Most skinfluencers always seem to look bright and glowing. ”
The last conclusion I came to was to assume that the skinfluencers really did have sensitive skin and were giving all their recommendations a fair and honest go. The problem with this is that, should they have sensitive skin, they would be breaking out. There would be many other types of effects on the skin. It is normal to have a period of adjustment when you introduce something new to your routine. That is why you do it slowly and carefully. However, the consequences must be devastating if you are trying so many assorted products on your skin at once.
Yet, most skinfluencers always seem to look bright and glowing. This leads me to the question: Are they really and rigorously evaluating all these product recommendations? If they really are, they either have the world’s most resilient skin, or the camera does wonders to hide the effects of their foray into the skincare rabbit hole.
“Carefully and realistically consider your favourite skinfluencer recommendations and only concentrate on the products that address your specific problems. ”
I want to do the best for FIGGI Beauty, but spending a fortune on assorted products and trying them out for the camera on my sensitive skin was not the way to go. The entire premise of my skincare line is to deliver quality skincare for dry and sensitive skin, so operating in this way is counterintuitive to my purpose.
It is difficult to understand if someone has sensitive skin based on social media posts, and if they do, how their sensitive skin differs from yours. Ultimately, I reminded myself to follow the Golden Rule: Skincare is personal. I read this statement a lot on social media. Still, it seems like an afterthought or disclaimer rather than an actual rule. Dare I say it, but a product that works well for you may not work for me. In fact, it may break me out, create a stinging sensation on my skin, or dry me out. This may not be the case for you. I may be intolerant to fragrance and need to avoid it, but you may not be.
Ask yourself why you are seeking a product recommendation. Are you just scrolling through your Instagram feed, watching your weekly YouTube episode, or do you have a specific problem you want to address? So often, we lose ourselves in the skincare industry’s noise. We are bombarded with messages of “do this, not that” and “use this, not that,” and we forget to remember the purpose of why we are interested in these topics in the first place.
Are you just interested in educating yourself and knowing more about your skincare, or do you need a solution for a specific problem? If it’s the former, scroll and read with interest but don’t change your routine based on every Instagram Reel you see. If it’s the latter, take time to ask yourself:
- What exactly is bothering me about my skin? (breakouts, itching, flaking, etc.)
- How does this problem manifest? (periodically, only on your cheeks, when you use certain products, etc.)
- How long has it been an issue & what have I tried?
- What changed in my lifestyle recently? (hormones, added stress, dietary changes, climate changes, etc.)
Carefully and realistically consider your favourite skinfluencer recommendations and only concentrate on the products that address your specific problems. If you need additional help, refer to the advice from professionals like cosmetic dermatologists or medical aestheticians. They obviously have the best arsenal from the array of advice. Even if they did not try it themselves, they treat patients with sensitive skin and have seen over the years what products work to help their patients and which do not. If you cannot afford an in-person visit, choose the skinfluencers you follow wisely. My favourite is Dr. Shereene Idriss and Dr. Sam Bunting. Their recommendations are not based on a slew of product empties they’ve evaluated but on their experience with patients with specific skin types and concerns.
Happy skin journeys, my fellow sensitive souls.