Whether you have dry, scaly skin or a spot that’s festering, you can find an answer for every skin concern online.
A host of “skinfluencers” are offering to help – and may suggest a product, too. Millions of people, unhappy with their skin, watch tutorials and advice videos online – even though very few of the influencers have any specialist training.
American actress Madelaine Petsch, 27, revealed her morning skin routine in a video for Vogue watched 8.6 million times on YouTube by July. It includes 38 steps.
“I like to take my time. If that means I have to take two extra hours in the morning, I’m gonna do it,” she says.
Skinfluencers’ work online goes beyond how-to videos. Stars and celebrities tell their fans about “good” and “bad” ingredients, how environmentally friendly they are, and which companies are involved in testing on animals.
Their popularity suggests they are meeting a need. US YouTube channel skincarebyhyram had 4.6 million subscribers in early July.
Berlin-based dermatologist and author Yael Adler is critical, however. “It is good and important to deal with ingredients. People should become more mature about that,” she says, but “skinfluencers” often lack medical training, an understanding of skin physiology and “real professional expertise”.
Adler says anyone who recommends a skincare routine often wants to persuade people to buy something. “There is often a commercial interest.”
In her private practice in the German capital, Adler – who also has her own Instagram channel – gives patients individual advice, but she draws the line at making general product recommendations in public.
“As a doctor, I’m not allowed to do that. And you can’t give blanket product recommendations,” Adler says. In general, her advice is to avoid fragrances and alkaline soaps but not sunscreen.
Many influencers are eager to point out that while they may lack medical training, their knowledge is based on scientific insights.
And they advise anyone with a serious skin problem to head to a dermatologist, they say.
Shenja Cerzo is a trained chemist and the influencer who runs the inci.pedia channel. But she sees herself more as an adviser. “What we really need is more transparency and education, and for education to get more reach,” she says.
People are “literally drowning in the mass of products that are on the market”, she says. “But if you get the tools and understand what’s behind the ingredients, you’re more likely to know what you need.”
For Shenja, skincare started out as a hobby. Struggling with some skin problems herself, she bought lots of books and studied the ingredients in different products, and kept up with the latest science.
Skinfluencer Shenja Cerzo is a trained chemist and the influencer who runs the inci.pedia channel.
She is now self-employed and has her own line of skincare products. “I haven’t become rich with it yet,” Shenja says. She doesn’t promise her customers a panacea in a jar, so people’s expectations are not so high. “I don’t promote my products intensively, but I have a lot of regular customers.”
Consumer experts see positive and negative aspects in the slew of skinfluencers around. According to Daniela Hubloher, a medical expert at a consumer advice centre, it is also good news that consumers test products and then recommend them to others based on their experience, making shoppers less dependent on conventional advertising.
That’s exactly where Shenja sees her role. She says people should be sceptical about what they read on the front of any product’s packaging. “It’s only advertising for the product – what’s really interesting is the back.”Internet Explorer Channel Network