Skincare products.
Skincare products.
Image: Alex Konon/

In my late twenties, I started experiencing aggravated acne. And let me tell you that there is nothing I did not try, from products I couldn’t even really afford to homemade remedies that just made things worse and caused me a lot of anxiety. I got a bit of a reprieve when, quite recently, meds prescribed by my dermatologist appeared to actually work. The cystic acne slowly disappeared, but so began a new problem, because as humans, we’re just never satisfied.

Suddenly, I wasn’t happy with having no new breakouts, I wanted my skin to be the best it can be, in spite of the damage caused by my own negligence, and perhaps wishful thinking that my skin problems would go away without me doing the actual work, instead of relying on products sold to me by big brands and the influencers they pay to convince the rest of us of the impossible. Naturally, I was wrong, which is why the much bandied about “de-influencer” trend has all my attention right now.

This “emergence” of a “new” social media influencer who, instead of trying to get you to buy certain products (and pocketing a pretty penny for it), does the exact opposite, reminding us that most of what’s on store shelves is simply designed to increase the profits of already very wealthy brands.

For me, watching videos of people talking about their own experiences of discarding the habit of buying more products hoping they will work is so much more relatable than anything I have seen on social media. But it is so, because more than just being about my own frustration with expensive products that don’t work, it strikes at the core of our current economic reality.

At this time of economic uncertainty where every trip to the grocery store feels like financial suicide, I’m pretty sure we are all looking for ways to curb waste and unnecessary spending, and nothing says “waste and unnecessary spending” to me more than the many bottles of supposedly “miracle” creams, and beautifully branded serums that are sitting in my bathroom, having proven to be useless or simply incompatible with my skin.

The “de-influencer” trend is right on time to remind us that we need to be better educated about the things we buy, taking more time to understand what our needs are and adapting accordingly.

Doctorly, one of my favourite YouTube channels, does just that. The two dermatologists who run the channel tell me exactly what I need, why, what I don’t, and — most importantly — that no skin product that costs more than R400 is worth my time or money. According to them, there are tonnes of cheaper products that perform better, and I don’t need a thousand and one products either.

My routine should be as simple as possible and I need to make sure I wear sunscreen at all times! This all comes with the simple caveat that only a consultation with an IRL dermatologist can get me to a place of understanding exactly what it is that my skin needs, so I spend my money only on that and not something that looks good on some already perfect-skinned influencer with 500k followers. Yes, a trip to the dermatologist costs a lot, but in the long run, it will definitely work out much cheaper, because not only am I addressing the real problem, doing so means I am spending less on products on a monthly basis as a result.

Though “de-influencing” is admittedly just another form of influencing in the sense that it’s all about persuasion, it is somewhat refreshing. We can all do with a return to a minimalist approach in many aspects of our lives, which does not in any way mean eschewing luxury. In fact, it might be the opposite— it means spending better and that requires the right kind of “influence”.  

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