Like many women my age, I lived with moderate acne and for the longest time, my nightstand was littered with beauty products — most of which I purchased after hearing rave reviews from the online beauty community. But after many failed attempts at resolving the issue with promising DIYs and miracle creams, I had to go to a skin specialist to get to the root of my issue and solve it internally.
Now if you were in my place, needing to part ways with your hard earned money so that your skin doesn’t resemble the potholed roads of Mumbai, who would you consult — a dermatologist, a licensed esthetician or perhaps, a beauty blogger?
With nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram, Debasree Bannerjee is one of India’s most popular beauty influencers. Last week, she launched her own line of beauty products but it was an additional service offered on the website that caught the attention of people on the internet. Some took to Twitter to ask why Bannerjee, who is not a certified skincare specialist, was promoting paid sessions where she would be personalizing skincare routines and recommending products to use.
This latest incident comes hot on the heels of fashion influencer Santoshi Shetty attempting to provide mental therapy through her initiative “Flying Cheese.” An architect by qualification, Shetty claimed that she would offer “positive vibes” and help those who’re struggling with their mental health for a hefty price tag of INR 1,500 per session, which is considerably higher than what most qualified therapists charge in Mumbai. She then rolled it back after it was met with criticism from mental health professionals.
Is wanting a slice of a pie you’re not qualified to serve the ethical way forward for creators?
It is understandable that in these dire times of COVID-19, many have had to turn to creative ways to make more money, but is wanting a slice of a pie you’re not qualified to serve the ethical way forward for creators?
In the realm of skincare for example, hormonal acne, cystic acne and sometimes even purging due to different products can all present very similarly on the surface but it takes an expert with years of education and experience to be able to differentiate and treat it accordingly. Another creator brought up whether Bannerjee would recommend brands that sponsor her or offer paid partnerships, which is another grey area in India.
Early last month, Inc42 reported that Indian social media influencers could now face the responsibility of ensuring the veracity of claims made in advertisements as per the draft guidelines issued by the Central Consumer Protection Authority. In countries like the United States, the regulations regarding disclosure of paid content on social media are far more clear and are implemented by the Federal Trade Commission. But, regulations like these that safeguard consumers online are still limited in India despite the content boom.
As the laws aren’t airtight, it’s easier for creators in India to hide paid partnerships, skirt around ethics and provide questionable services. Whether it’s skincare, mental health or even fitness influencers shelling out sketchy diet advice, not getting the right kind of help may actually do more harm than good. However, it is the numbers on their profiles that give them leverage with brands, and you, as a follower, are an important part of that transaction.
We need to stop putting people up on a pedestal simply because of their aesthetic feeds and “good vibes.”
In the United States, skincare influencer Susan Yara was called out by fans for being dishonest and not disclosing that a brand that she had been heavily promoting was actually her own company. It’s difficult to change things unless passive followers become smart consumers and question the content and services that influencers are serving them. As an audience, we need to stop putting people up on a pedestal simply because of their aesthetic feeds and “good vibes.”
Some newer beauty and skincare content creators have added a caveats to their profiles that they will not be curating routines for people nor shelling out skincare advice but simply reviewing products that have worked for them. In the current environment with little regulation being implemented, this seems to be a step in a responsible direction.
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