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When Did We Start Believing Everything We See on TikTok About Beauty?

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Main image – Katarinaradovic/Stocksy

Welcome to The Beauty Debrief where beauty editor and nail tech Tori Crowther shares her musings on the latest beauty trends, buzzy treatments and misinformation. Today, she’s delving into the divisions we’re increasingly seeing in the beauty community over brands, products and ingredients, and whether it’s time to start looking for nuance again.

If I had a pound for every myth I had to debunk after someone quizzed me on a ludicrous statement they saw an influencer post on TikTok, I’d be rich enough to get Augustinus Bader on repeat purchase. 

No seriously, after the 12th friend asked me whether the sulphates in their shampoo are going to make them infertile, their face wash was trying to control their mind, or generally thinking their beauty products were trying to kill them, I began to question why my smart friends were believing such BS.

And why they’re so quick to believe what Kelly without a science degree on TikTok has to say. 

The hilarious (and by hilarious I mainly mean ridiculous) thing about it all? Most of the people buying into it all are either drinking, smoking or doing both. You know, the two things proven to negatively impact health in the long-run. Yet they’re demonising the entire beauty industry for supposedly trying to make them sick with their face cream. Wouldn’t really be great business, would it? 

 

Image – Carmenpalma/Stocksy

 

And no, I’m not saying that there aren’t unscrupulous companies out there selling dodgy beauty products, but what I am referring to here is our current enthusiasm for completely writing off scientifically proven, sound ingredients or brands based on opinions we’ve found online.

But that’s the thing about the beauty community. It’s become a sensationalist, polarised place where the most outrageous statements are often the ones celebrated and financially-rewarded (algorithm boost, anyone?) — and it seems that no one is safe from buying into such drivel.  

I’m wondering where on each did all the nuance go? Apparently it left the beauty building a long time ago and now we’re labelling products ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with little-to-no thought behind it.

Perhaps the problem is that information is simply everywhere now. There is little time to even contemplate what we’re having for dinner, let alone learning the intricacies of dosage of parabens in a moisturiser to determine whether to use it. Spoiler: parabens are one of the most tested skincare ingredients out there. 

It seems that in this oversimplistic labelling, we’ve become part of the anti-toxins brigade or pro-chemicals train with little wiggle room. Once chosen, we become trenchant in our views.  

Add to that our brain’s greater tendency to focus on negative news than positive and we’re all doomed. Just kidding. But it does take us more effort to draw back the curtain on questioning our beliefs.

Many of us have become used to preaching online into an echo chamber, unaware of the solid views of the opposing group. We use studies, data and thought leaders for confirmation bias; the more sensational the headlines the more we’re drawn in.

Oh, and if we didn’t have to be aware enough of that, it’s actually proven that we’re drawn to sensationalism. Brandolini’s law — also known as the bull**** asymmetry principle — explains that misinformation is far harder to debunk than create in the first place.

Someone can post outlandish conspiracy theories online (and lord knows my generation loves a conspiracy theory) with little proof backing it, and yet it’s far harder to convince people it’s rubbish than have them believe in the wild claim. 

It’s even more difficult when people with full-on science degrees and qualified doctors are part of the group misreporting facts to fit a personal agenda. I mean, no wonder we’ve all got trust issues. 

 

skincare lotion and gels textures

 

And this oversimplification leads us to cancel certain ingredients from our lives (parabens, SLS, fragrance) as being inherently bad, when nuance is needed. This is where I scream (at what seems into the abyss right now) that’s not always as straightforward as we’d like. It’s harder, and less interesting, to tell people that you’re in the “it depends” camp, rather than someone who is passionately for or against ‘chemicals’ in beauty (everything is a chemical FYI). 

Another major problem is that when it comes to beauty, individuals are also expected to be part-time chemists. The Ordinary, a brand that truly did change the industry for the better, is also the reason consumers are expected to know complex names and processes. It’s bloody exhausting. Because of this barrage of information, many of us have been left more confused and dumb-down very complicated science. 

On top of that, we just don’t have the time to dedicate to learning all of this. After all, it is people’s whole job to understand and know beauty products. Practising chemists, regulators, toxicologists dedicate their lives to making sure our products are safe.

Or perhaps we’ve become a little lazy in doing the research? Whilst I do partly think that’s true, namely not bothering to read up and fact check things we’ve seen online from someone with zero credentials, I do think most of it stems from not having the know-how to decipher fact from fiction.

Critical thinking is, what feels like, at an all-time low. In turn, we’re putting our trust in people we probably shouldn’t and demonising perfectly safe (and fun) beauty based on a lack of nuance.  

There are a huge amount of factors that determine whether something is “good” or “bad” for your own particular beauty issues.

So I ask, and lowkey beg, you to consider the nuance in beauty. Not everything is all good, or all bad. Don’t blindly trust one viewpoint (particularly if it’s absolute because we all know that science is never absolute) in beauty. Do your (balanced) research and then slather on that moisturiser you love, swipe on the deo that works and spitz the perfume that makes you happy.  

 

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Contributing Beauty Editor

Tori Crowther is a beauty and health journalist and qualified nail tech. The former beauty editor of Popsugar UK, Tori regularly write for titles like Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, and Women's Health and is Contributing Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she's not interviewing derms or writing features, you can find her seeking out the best coffee outside of London.

Expertise: Nails, skincare
Education: Nottingham Trent University
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