Claire Biggerstaff

Claire Biggerstaff is a freelance writer and photographer from Charlotte, NC. Her curiosity leads her to write about a lot of topics, but her passion is covering sustainability and ethics in the beauty industry. On her off days, she enjoys baking, reading Polygon articles, and watching way too many YouTube videos.

We Hold Brands Accountable for Pushing Harmful Products, So Shouldn’t We Call Out Influencers Too?

This new wave of influencers builds their Instagram feeds on unrealistic expectations and body negativity.

I remember the first time I bought something that an influencer was promoting. I saved up my allowance to get a subscription to Ipsy, Michelle Phan’s monthly makeup box, because I loved seeing all the looks my favorite beauty gurus created with the products. Overall, it was a fun and fulfilling experience. Their posts left me feeling inspired and anxious to get creative and share my own looks. I never felt left out or less than, and I appreciated Ipsy’s choice to sponsor a diverse range of beauty influencers.

These are all feelings I think branded influencer posts should strive to create for their audiences. 

Unfortunately, though, I think influencers and the brands they work with have been going in the opposite direction lately. Unlike Ipsy and other brands who hopped on the influencer bandwagon early in the game, there are new waves of influencers who are using their voices to sow insecurity and negativity in the hearts (and wallets) of their followers. 

Whether you’re an influencer or an established, big-name company, I think there is a definite line you can cross when it comes to advertising products. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Now more than ever, it’s common to see people, mainly younger millennials and Gen-Zers, holding brands accountable for products put out in bad taste, tone-deaf advertising, and lack of diversity

Personally, I’m glad to see people unafraid to speak up when the brands they buy from take a misstep. It encourages communication, accountability, and helps marketers know how to better reach their target demographics. This rise of accountability culture on social media has naturally led to more scrutiny toward influencers as well, with celebrities like Jameela Jamil leading the charge against toxic marketing practices. 

This new wave of influencers builds their Instagram feeds on unrealistic expectations and body negativity. 

Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of this is influencer-marketed “fit teas” like SkinnyFit, Teami, and FitTea. Branded as weight-loss or detox products, most of these teas contain laxatives, have not been shown to have a significant effect on weight loss, and are not FDA-regulated. 

But influencers and celebrities alike are still accepting brand deals to promote them! I totally understand and can get behind influencers getting paid to advertise makeup, fashion, jewelry, etc—but fit teas and other dieting products that aren’t backed by science can promote unhealthy “solutions” and warped body image. Social media already breeds insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, especially in teens and young adults, so it feels a bit like a slap in the face when you see your favorite influencer contributing to and profiting off of that. 

But skinny teas are seemingly the least of our problems now. According to Vox, there are now influencers who are even promoting new pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices

But how can we, as followers, express our dissatisfaction in a respectful way when it comes to posts like these? 

Nowadays, it feels like with every new scandal we’re slipping deeper and deeper into toxic cancel culture, so how do we speak up to our favorite influencers without getting catty? 

It all starts with communication. Influencers are people too, and sometimes people make mistakes, or they might be ignorant to the unhealthy culture they’re participating in. 

Instead of sending nasty DMs or telling people to unfollow them, write a simple comment on their post explaining how what they’re promoting is unhealthy and uninspiring. If you’re calm and respectful about it, chances are other people will follow your lead. 

Or if you prefer to not join in the conversation, just don’t like or interact with their post—and don’t buy the product, obviously. 

There will always be sellouts and people who put money and influence over good morals, but if enough people call out bad practices out when they see them, they’ll become less common. It worked with Pepsi!

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