Why I’m No Longer Listening To Influencer Suggestions
“I’ve never seen such incredible results!”
An influencer exclaimed about a moisturizer she’d used on her South Asian skin, melanated like mine. Intrigued, I swiped up on her Instagram story, read its glowing reviews, and quickly clicked “add product to cart.”
Once the moisturizer arrived, I diligently applied it twice a day. I patiently waited as weeks went by without any improvement. As I suffered breakouts, I thought that my skin needed to purge first and then the healing would begin. But nothing ever changed for the better. Where was my glass skin? My dewy cheeks? I eventually gave up trying.
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me. I’d gone through the same cycle over the years: See an admired influencer tout a product or trend, buy or try said-product for myself, then be disappointed by the results. I’ve purchased shoes that ended up being extremely uncomfortable, dresses that fell apart before I received them, and even tried laser hair removal vetted by a public figure that somehow caused more hair growth.
To an extent, that’s to be expected. What works for one can’t work for all. But there is so much disappointment—and shame—in trying out widely beloved products, only to feel like it failed on you. As an Indian woman in a Western culture, I’ve felt like even more of an outsider every time this happens.
But whenever I experience this frustration lately, I think back to the point of influencers.
Influencers, by definition, have something marketable about them to begin with, whether it’s that clear skin, thin bodies and features idolized by white body standards, or a wealthy lifestyle most people only dream of having. And influencer marketing works; it’s now an almost $14 billion industry—because we’re more likely to listen to someone who looks and sounds like us versus Kim Kardashian or Gigi Hadid, right?
Still, influencers aren’t necessarily accessible. The 12-step skincare routine they obsess over, though they don’t have adult acne or hyperpigmentation, will not have the same effects on me. The styles that look beautiful on their size two bodies won’t be nearly as comfortable on my own. Their commitment to not shaving hits differently when they have minimal body hair to begin with. They even have their own way of speaking.
Perhaps it’s easy to assume that I’m following the wrong people, but I imagine many everyday people go through the same experience. It’s virtually impossible not to see this content on social media, when platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are investing more heavily on aesthetics and marketing. Casual users are also encouraged to post like influencers, documenting every detail of their outfit or a restaurant review. And the content we’re fed back furthers those expectations, using targeted influencer ads to tell you, “Yes, you do need those shoes with that outfit—like she has!”
Even when I go out of my way to follow people like me—a la Indian midsize women with slightly wavy hair or glasses—I’m left feeling less than. I would love to be the girl with flowing, wavy locks in a blowout. Yet they probably don’t have to wash their hair everyday like I do. Would these influencers put in the same effort then, especially if they weren’t paid to present themselves in a perfect light?
I, too, want to throw on fashion-forward dresses and skirts, but I don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on each piece like they might (or, rather, they were likely gifted). Sometimes, the influencers I find generally relatable will mention a $5,000 piece of furniture or traveling on a private jet, and I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth.
So I’ve arrived at a conclusion: My lifestyle, priorities, and income are almost never going to align with theirs and those results aren’t attainable or realistic. The so-called life influencers share on Instagram—and whatever they tout along with it—isn’t one I can buy if I wanted to. It doesn’t exist.
Instead of listening to their (paid) suggestions, I’m leaning into what works best for me.
That doesn’t mean I’m unfollowing every influencer, micro to macro, on social media. It’s their livelihood, which I respect, though I’m taking their recommendations with more than a grain of salt. Nor does it mean I’m entirely ignoring every suggestion—crowdsourced reviews are helpful! (Hi, hello, this is part of my everyday work.) But what it does mean is that I’m pausing.
Pausing to consider if what I’m being shown is realistic, useful, and in line with my values and lifestyle. Pausing my engagement with content that makes me feel less than. Pausing the “add to cart” moments I later regret, and reevaluating if items will actually work on this body. My body.
Rather than heading to influencers I’ve never met for recommendations, I’m turning to friends and family for their favorites. I’m even relying on you, reader! Because many of the products and places I’ve come to love are suggested from loved ones themselves. They know firsthand what does align with my life and what will make me feel my best.
That’s something influencers will never quite be able to do.
Henah Velez (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. She holds a Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship and is a proud Rutgers grad. Originally from NJ, Henah’s now in Santa Barbara, CA, where she loves shopping small, hanging with her pets, or traveling. Say hi on Instagram!