Against: Dr Ankit Sharma, MBBS, MD, DM Onco-Anesthesia (AIIMS, New Delhi) Panic-friendly doctor, tone-deaf percussionist, failed humorist, unimaginative writer. Blogs at notintandem.wordpress.com
For: Hitiashi Thakkar, Medical Student & blogger, Terna Medical College
There was a time when selling false/unsubstantiated promises beyond your ability to comprehend was associated exclusively with politicians. Now, that trait is a celebrated career opportunity. All you need is a phone, a ring light, an Instagram account and some appropriately placed sense of confidence to become a brand ambassador (of sorts). And if you think this is limited to selling some detergent powder, you’d be missing the entire point of this debate. We’re going to talk about the phenomenon of “so this brand sent me some money/a free sample kit and now I’m going to mislead you into believing that this makes my skin glow like an iPhone screen clicking a selfie at night”, or as they are more commonly known as… Skin influencers.
I love this era of social media, do you know why? Because it is equitable. Good cinema or posts in any language get appreciation as long as they’re creative. A living proof is the rise of K- cinema which has become the newest global sensation.
A part and parcel of this is the new Korean skincare regime, which has been adopted by everyone on the internet.
The rise of these so-called “skinfluencers” has inspired us to take care of our skin, like we take care of our bodies regardless of gender.
As this new industry booms, we are now becoming aware of the contents of the various products as well as opening up to a new market.
It is now “cool” to take care of our skin, as opposed to the old norm, where skincare was only for the creme de la creme.
As a biological male (or if you’re uber woke, “was told around 3 years of age that I’m a boy”), my opinion regarding skin care may not be valued much. Not only do I not follow the 8-step morning and 14-step nighttime skincare routine, but I also do not legitimately own a face wash (I go to-and-fro sneakily using my wife’s face wash and my bar of soap). Hence, I’ll try to give my argument some weightage based on the fact that during my undergraduate days, I read a few chapters from a concise guide on dermatology, and can name at least 2 of the 3 layers (or is it 4?) of the skin correctly (though not necessarily in the right order).
I have no issues with influencers selling any number of random daily-use products. If actors can sell carbonated drinks disguised as ‘bravery potions’ or sportspersons can claim that a sugary chocolate powder in a glass of milk is the reason for their sporting prowess (or ‘secret of their energy’), I guess the consumer is willingly blindsided by all of this, but I feel we’ve got to draw a line somewhere. I feel that line should be drawn at ‘medical’ products.
Regarding the point of this debate, one could wonder if it is really a ‘medical’ product if it is an online ordered cash-on-delivery product or available freely over-the-counter. Two wrongs won’t make a right. If you’re giving your progeny sugar-laced chocolate drinks while your paediatrician advises against it, you’re making the same mistake using any product under the sun (ironically, including sunscreen) against a dermatologist’s advice.
For what it’s worth, my suggestion is to do what you do for your toothpaste: make sure at least 9 out of 10 dermatologists agree on that (which is what every brand would claim but look out for that asterisk that says in fine print that those nine were made to agree at gunpoint or were employed by the company itself).
This brings us to Sk(influencers). Essentially what they claim is…
“Look! My beauty is not all genetics or good nutrition, it is essentially this sunscreen or serum that I’ve signed a ‘Paid Partnership’ contract with, hence you know that it is my honest and unbiased opinion regarding this product. What I lack in my knowledge of dermatology, I pretty much make up for the fact that my dance reels in crop tops have gathered a decent following of desperate men and jealous women, so consumers should take me seriously. When I’m done with imparting unquestionable gyaan on skincare, make sure to subscribe to my account for fashion advice… that you
couldn’t carry off because you’re not pretty and slim like me can emulate as well because… you’re worth it (copyright pending).”
Skincare, as a market segment, is growing faster than any other part of the beauty industry.
This has been made possible by the contribution of the various skin-fluencers on social media
Skincare’s growth is attributable to the unique position it occupies amongst a variety of trends: growing desire for health-promoting and self-care products, increasing interest in the power of regimens and routines, the ability of social media to more rapidly empower and inform consumers and, uniquely, the ability of new technology to simplify the unusually complex choices consumers have when they interact with skincare brands.
In today’s world, the audience is largely health and wellness conscious than before. A lot of these trends, mainstream as they are now, would’ve seemed especially “woo woo” 10 or 20 years ago.
The real game changers in this scene are the male skin influencers who are normalising skin care and breaking gender barriers. This is bringing about a change in a mindset that for decades associated men with ruggedness and the use of beauty products as feminine. Beyond the peer pressure of dealing with acne breakouts at puberty, men have been conditioned to not give as much importance to skincare issues. For many men, the simple act of walking into a store to choose products for themselves is loaded with stigma. In light of the changing landscape, men can now be categorised as beauty-curious, if not enthusiasts quite just yet.
And by the same token, many of the skin concerns that drive interest in today’s products would’ve also seemed less relevant in the past.
Pollution, increased UV ray exposure, global warming, workplace stress, and fast-paced life – all these are the aspects that have risen in the new age world and they directly or indirectly affect the quality and ageing of the skin.
To counteract this ageing, dermatological products are needed by all and not just the elite.
Many of us are now aware of the harmful sulphates and parabens in cheaper products and prefer natural organic ones.
For the uninitiated, skin influencers have done a great job in listing out the harmful products while putting out and advertising the organic & au naturel products, which seems like a win-win situation.
Organic products are expensive and cause increased profits in skin care brands looking to capitalise and uniquely market their products.
While I might agree that not all so-called skin influencers are genuine, it sure gives us an idea to think about or bring our own spin to the 10-step skincare regime.
In a deeper sense, it is therapeutic watching the aesthetic, skin care night videos where skincare is romanticised.
It’s finally a norm to nest in and have a quiet night by yourself and just pamper your skin while creating a mentally relaxing environment.
Skincare can have a positive impact on mental well-being by promoting relaxation, self-care, and a positive body image. It not only keeps your skin healthy and protected, but it’s excellent for your mental and emotional health, too!
Do you think there should be a ‘minimum qualification’ to become a Skinfluencer? If yes, then what? If not, then how is a Skinfluencer different from the WhatsApp Uncle who suggested that rubbing a lemon over your elbow could cure Covid, apart from being simply more glamorous (the Skinfluencer, not the uncle)?
REPLY BY FOR:
Hard to argue with this logic, but let’s try to hide this article from the politicians in India because they will clearly not meet any ‘minimum criteria’ set for their profession while making big decisions for our countries’ economy and here we judge a random person for promoting the products they like on the internet.
Information or misinformation, skinfluencers do a great job in creating buzz and a sense of interest and have carved a niche audience as well as a wellness group on the internet.
Unfortunate as it is, the onus to protect ourselves against misinformation has fallen on us. What a ‘celeb’ could say must be limited to “Mutual Funds Sahi Hain”, but you should trust only a certified CA for your finances. Similarly, the place to go for skin care advice is a qualified DERMATOLOGIST, not the apparently shiny filter-laden reel-maker and the product of the day he/she is trying to guilt you into buying. The least these Skinfluencers could do is to give out a disclaimer “SkincareAdviceFromAnUnqualifiedPersonIsSubjectToMarketRisk.PleasePrayToGodBeforeBelieving.”
Skincare should be mandatory in today’s world of stress, pollution and bustle. We have a normalised hustle culture and are constantly overworked.
It is refreshing to see skincare being popularised on a global platform as a mode of self-care and detox. Even though most of the skincare isn’t coming from certified experts, the knowledge about self-care and the various ways and products must be known to and available to all.
Advertising regarding such products is generalised and limited to various over-the-counter drugs and not necessarily the drugs used to treat dermatological diseases.
Let’s take care of our skin and romanticise this era of self-care.