Recently, I shared my Skincare Wish List, which made me realize how much I rely on Instagram when it comes to prospective beauty purchases. Most of the products I featured were discovered via IG accounts I follow and trust.
So it made me wonder about the buying habits of other beauty lovers. What influences their purchases? Who else relies on Instagram as much as I do? And what do they think of influencer marketing?
I took to my Instagram Stories (naturally) to find out how my fellow beauty lovers shop in the age of social media.
What I learned from my fellow beauty lovers
1. Social media reigns supreme when it comes to finding new products
A whopping 95% of participants are like me and rely on social media — namely Instagram — to keep them in the know. Beyond that, 2% of respondents said they look to digital magazines like Cosmo or Allure for their news.
Meanwhile, 3% answered “other,” which encompasses marketing emails, Reddit, a mix of print and digital publications, and new release pages on brand sites.
The most compelling stat? Blogs, which was offered as a selectable answer, garnered a whopping zero percent of responses. Well, it’s a good thing I vary my content on this blog, huh?!
2. Customer reviews hold a lot of weight in buying decisions
When it comes to who or what influences their beauty buying decisions most, 54% of participants said they rely most on customer reviews. Meanwhile, 21% said they look to influencers for advice, and 7% count on their friends and family to help them with making a beauty purchase.
“Other” received 18% of the vote, many of which were write-in answers touting the importance of ingredients lists. I was happy to see that, yet I almost feel guilty for not including it as a selectable answer!
Another write-in answer I saw quite a bit was the Hwahae app. Although it’s totally in Korean, with no plans to support additional languages any time soon, it’s become a reliable resource for K-beauty lovers worldwide. There are several guides available in English on how to effectively use Hwahae, which you can check out here and here. Otherwise, you can stick to something like CosDNA.
A standout response to this question came from blogger Skindeavor, who said, “I choose what to buy after surveying my own collection to make sure it would serve me.” Personally, I’m trying to be more mindful of what I already own. When I see a product that catches my eye, I usually ask, “Does this fill a void in my collection, or would this be redundant?” Of course, there are still times when I lapse and forego my mental inventory for the sake of impulse.
3. Instagram hype is real (disappointing)
Considering the response to the first question, it makes sense that nearly three-quarters of participants claimed to have made a purchase just because they saw it on Instagram. However, 70% of them were ultimately disappointed in those products. Oof.
“[I was] disappointed that I fell for the hype and bought something I didn’t need.” — @skincarebymoonlight
Common reasons for lack of satisfaction include incompatible ingredients and simply falling victim to hype. I cast no judgement here whatsoever. After seeing a certain lip mask all over my Instagram feed, I purchased it myself and was incredibly underwhelmed.
While buying online is convenient, customers miss out on experiencing qualities that can make or break a product like texture and scent. The latter has been the downfall for Jude Chao of the popular skincare blog Fifty Shades of Snail. “Sometimes, things smell bad in ways people don’t properly explain,” she lamented.
And which IG-hyped products scorned Lady Fiddy? An herbal soap that she claims “smells like literal death with hanbang dusted on top” and a now-discontinued AHA gel with a stench that allegedly resembled “sweaty female genitalia.”
Of course, just because a product didn’t satisfy your needs doesn’t automatically make it bad — just bad for you.* A common refrain among the skincare community is YMMV, or, “Your mileage may vary.” Everyone has different skin concerns and personal preferences. No one product will work for everyone, no matter what marketing materials may say.
*Bear in mind that there are skincare products that are just one-hundred-and-ten-percent awful, no matter who uses them, because they’re terribly formulated.
4. Attitudes toward influencer marketing are positive yet cautious
Before we delve into what people think about influencer marketing, let’s learn what an influencer even is. Popular social media platform Sprout Social defines an influencer as “someone in [a] niche or industry with sway over [a] target audience.”
I posed the same question to my followers, and most responses generally fell in line with the above definition, with some adding that influencers should also be transparent about their partnerships and honest in their opinions.
“[An influencer is] someone honest, approachable, and balanced. They don’t ‘totes love’ everything and are clear about partnering with brands.” — MsMerriam
So what about influencer marketing? Most respondents (60%) believe it’s good in theory, but wonder how much of it is trustworthy. Beyond that, 19% of participants support it as a way for both consumers and brands to benefit, while 17% think the influencer marketing space is over-saturated and needs to dissolve.
I’m with the majority on this, even as someone who has been gifted items for PR and review purposes. While there are definitely influencers who milk their privilege for all it’s worth — finding no fault in any product they “try” — I believe most are coming from a good place while trying to figure out the rules of the game along the way. As @meetashleyd bluntly put it, “Not all [influencers] are created equal.”
Honestly, this is a topic befitting of its own blog post. There’s been so much buzz about the legitimacy of skincare reviews when it comes to gifted/PR products. I have plenty of my own thoughts swirling around my head about it, but I shouldn’t digress here too much!
5. The resources people trust most for skincare and beauty reviews
When I asked my followers which accounts they trusted most for beauty reviews, I received several mentions for:
(By the way, for anyone who answered @queenofwrongstyle, my ego thanks you!)
More Instagram accounts that were recognized by others for their trustworthiness include:
Meanwhile, I’d like to share a few Instagram users who I think are honest and knowledgeable:
Outside of Instagram, where else do people look for advice? @beccasbeautylist counts on an employee at her local Sephora who she says “gives the best tips.”
YouTuber Biatch Planet / 丹妮婊姐星球 is @belindajonelle’s choice for news and reviews. The Taiwan-based channel features videos in Mandarin. But even for those who don’t understand the language, it can still be entertaining to watch Biatch Planet’s videos because “she’s so animated.”
What I learned from this
I’m just scratching the surface…
I felt like I could have gone deeper with my questions, especially when it comes to generational use of social media. But I only have so much time on my hands! However, I would like to do a more in-depth look into the habits of beauty shoppers from Gen X to Gen Z. Maybe that’ll be an ongoing project for 2020?
I don’t feel so alone in my social media reliance!
Social media has become such an ubiquitous part of our lives. How many among us automatically head on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter without a second thought? I certainly do. For better or worse, social media has played a key role in what I choose to purchase (or not). Influencer marketing will only continue to grow. It’s not a perfect system, but it still has its benefits.
Reviews are not the end-all, be-all, no matter who posts them
I’ve come to realize this the more I read (and write!) reviews. If something I’ve written has either compelled you to buy a product or pass on it, I’m equally flattered and intimidated by the power I appear to wield! There’s a certain level of responsibility that comes with writing a review, especially for a wide audience. I always keep that in mind because I want to do right by my readers.
But I am me. You are you. Remember, YMMV. @raeraebeaute said she looks to influencers and reviewers for thoughts on new products, but also makes sure to “do [her] due diligence by researching” items for herself. Personally, that’s the best way to do it. Broaden your scope. Seek good reviews, bad reviews, and everything in between. And get to know your skin better. Pay attention to those ingredients lists! Ultimately, make purchases for yourself armed with as much knowledge as possible.
But face it — we’re all very human
We’ll still slip up from time to time, giving in to IG hype or occasional fear-mongering. But hey, we’re all just learning here. And that’s what we need to continue to do. Keep educating yourselves, and stay curious.
Now over to you…
How much does Instagram and other social media influence your beauty purchases? Which outlets do you trust the most for reviews and insights? Have you ever been burned by an over-hyped item (figuratively speaking, I hope)? Share it all with me in the comments.
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I am not a professional. All opinions are my own.