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When #TiktokMadeMeBuyIt is Not Enough: An Expert Guide to Skincare on Social Media

The appeal of sharing great finds and life hacks on TikTok is undeniable, and we've loved many of them - from kitchen-cleaning secrets to looking chic on a budget. However, caution takes over when we come across anything whose potential downsides, should they go wrong, would make us miserable. On top of this caution list? Personal care.

Take skincare, for instance. We love discovering product gems as much as anyone who wants to solve a pesky problem or save some dollars, but we also know that advice gone wrong can do more than lighten our wallets - it can wreak havoc on our skin. In 2022, a whopping 71% of beauty buyers said they tried a beauty or personal care product that was new to them, so with this huge appetite for better self-care, adopting a thoughtful approach to social media recommendation is the smart way to go. Having heard true tales of hits & misses, some with worse results than others, we’re sharing hard-earned wisdom about how to deal with skincare advice from Tiktok and all other social network platforms. Here are things to keep in mind:

Rule #1: Know that everyone's skin is different

Science has gotten us quite far in helping us categorize our skin types, and of course, we’re aware of our physical characteristics related to our race and ethnicity. That variety does mean that our skincare needs will vary, even before skin conditions factor in. Our individualized diets, daily routines, and stressors all lead us to have individualized needs for our skin, on top of our inherent physical makeup.

Therefore, the reality is that no one product or hack will work well for everybody. So, when considering that “magical” product that’s blown up on TikTok, ask yourself if its context closely resembles yours before even checking the price to see if it fits your budget. Creating an effective skincare routine requires that we consider all these personal characteristics and more. Take a thoughtful pause to check if and how a recommendation applies to you, and both your skin and wallet will thank you.

Rule #2: All products are not created equal, and it takes a closer look to understand why

The universal truth that some products are better than others is especially true for skin care, wherein the variety can be overwhelming. Factoring in Rule #1 takes that complexity to a new level because products = ingredients + formulation. Simply put, some require expert interpretation to explain why something may not be good on their own, or, even, why they’re not good for you even if there’s nothing inherently wrong with the product. More often than not, a 10-second social media isn’t probably going to cover that.

The good news: between the FDA requiring ingredient declaration on cosmetic labels in descending order of predominance and the availability of reliable ingredient definitions online, we can get halfway there. Add in expert help, and you can have someone connect all these dots while considering your circumstances (including your current skincare routine) in a meaningful way, increasing your chances of skincare success.

Having a little skepticism of skin care products is not only healthy, it’s also responsible.

Rule #3: Skincare needs time to manifest its full effects

Ever heard of the “skin cycle”? (And by that, we don’t mean the #SkinCycling hack that blew up the internet months ago.) It’s the process where a new skin cell is formed at the deepest epidermis layer and works its way up to the skin. Skin cycle varies per person and lengthens with age, though on average it’s five to six weeks. Absent any immediate adverse reaction to a skin care product, it takes a while to know if that moisturizer you found on Instagram is truly effective and worth the $$.

Skincare professional and licensed esthetician Lily Agosto of Mindful Beauty emphasizes, “Get it right from the start: not just the products themselves but also how to use them, such as making sure they work well with other products you’re using.” Social media makes it possible to be aware of what products are out there, but be intentional about which to introduce in your routine and for how long, so you can accurately evaluate your purchases and lessen frustration.

Rule #4: Influencers can be helpful, but consider other factors, too

“About 80% of your skin health depends on what you do at home and only 20% comes from anything done at our treatment tables,” says professional holistic esthetician Gabby Klizentyte of Ildi Pekar Wellness. This means a lot of responsibility falls on us when making choices, so it’s only right that we look closely at the information source.

When influencers are truly “just like us”, they can be such a helpful resource for advice because we can benefit from their experience. But to be responsible consumers, especially when it comes to skincare, consider other factors about them, too. Among others: their context and situation (see Rule #1), if it’s a sponsored post (which they’re required to disclose on certain platforms), whether it’s a product or brand they’ve always loved even without sponsorship (a green flag), how truthful and realistic their content is (acne-ridden skin cleared in one day? See Rule #3), and most importantly, will they bear any responsibility for an unsatisfied customer.

Licensed and trained skin care professionals have an undeniable edge in many of these factors, ultimately because they’re motivated to have as many loyal customers as they can serve, who in turn will only come back because of positive results.

Whether it’s influencers or licensed experts, it all comes down to whether they’ve earned our trust and our appetite for risk given such.

Rule #5: There's more than one way to define convenience

Information by way of social media is as convenient as it gets: it’s on our phones, “wisdom” is available in 20 seconds or less thanks to short-form videos, and it can come from anywhere. In fact, 55% of all Tiktok users put this into practice, having bought from a brand after seeing it on the app. This convenience is only worth it, of course, if all the stars align: advice seen, product bought, and problem solved (the one that matters the most).

Virtual consultations surged during the pandemic across different fields - their convenience a welcome addition to getting professional advice. With skincare professionals - trained and licensed to treat a wide range of skin types and conditions - able to dole out personalized and expert advice in a live and interactive session from the comfort of your own home, expert skin care consultations provide both convenience and confidence. How to know you have a good one? They’re licensed, require an intake form to ensure safety and a personalized consult, and actively listen to your concerns and goals: in fact, you’ll feel so safe in this consult that you’ll never think you’re asking an “ignorant” question. Best of all, they’re accountable for keeping your skin in tip-top shape.

When it comes to accessible advice, social media can truly be a godsend. But it’s the epitome of the “caveat emptor” (or buyer beware) doctrine at work, and seems especially precarious when it involves personal care. Whether frustration has already set in from wasted money on products that don’t deliver or the oh-so-understandable fear of getting it wrong, calling on an expert could be the better path. After all, we’re confident that, instead of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, we’d all much rather write #ItReallyWorks.


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