Beauty has always encouraged community, whether it's recommending products to friends, religiously reading columns by industry experts, or getting lost in review comment threads on the endless quest for the perfect mascara. Beauty influencers are very much part of this mix: each creating their own community of loyal, product-driven followers, reliably watching every YouTube tutorial, swiping up on every Instagram story, and ultimately buying. They bring in millions, and can help products sell-out in seconds. But is the reign of the beauty influencer coming to an end? The rise of online beauty hubs that cut through influencer noise suggests exactly that.
Increasingly beauty fans are are growing tired of sponsored posts and #ad-marked feeds, instead seeking out unbiased reviews and advice via online peer-to-peer forums. Even OG beauty influencer Shane Dawson has recently slammed influencer culture, announcing he's quitting the industry earlier this week in a now deleted tweet. As Cosmopolitan reports, Dawson labelled beauty influencers "attention seeking, game playing, egocentric, narcissistic, vengeful, two-faced, ticking time bombs".
Andrew James, a blogger from Glasgow who writes under the name Skincare Saviour, acknowledges this frustration with influencers, and understands why people are no longer buying into it. "People are turning away because they are becoming wiser to how things work," James tells us. "The amount of influencers I see these days who are just mouthpieces for brands, who don’t have any opinions other than what the brands tell them to say... It’s all about how positive you can be, every product is amazing, every product is the best, but you only ever see the product once – when the brand pays them. After that, they are done."
One recently launched alternative to what Dawson dubbed the influencer "circus", is My Beauty Brand. Founded by Max Leykind (founder of Eyeko and co-founder of cult '90s nail polish Hard Candy), and Robin Derrick (who launched The Face, and was previously creative director at British Vogue), it's one of the first post-influencer, inclusive brands, putting its Gen Z consumer at the centre.
"Social media used to feel more powerful and supportive, with artists, experts and consumers supporting and engaging with one another," says Derrick. "There has been a change. And with money and competitiveness now polluting this community, consumers are moving away from influencer-led brands and looking for their own supporting community and network, which is why they are turning to peer-to-peer."
Speaking about the appeal of these peer-to-peer groups, Colette Laxton, co-founder of affordable skincare brand, The Inkey List says: "I think consumers are sick of brand bullshit. They want to use each other for real, honest advice and advocacy because if one of your friends says ‘this product is amazing’, and you know they aren’t being paid to say that, they have no bias. That is why people are going peer-to-peer, they want honesty and they want to be able to ask questions."
Ultimately we’re all looking for the same thing: beauty products that will really work. Below are five post-influencer communities that promise to provide just that, for an honest and helpful take on all things beauty.
Reddit is undoubtedly the first port of call for any beauty fan looking for honest reviews and insider gossip. It’s biggest beauty forum, r/MakeupAddiction, has amassed two million members in the 10-years it has been running, and sparked countless beauty subgroups, where members constantly swap advice and unfiltered opinions.
The appeal of Reddit has always been that it provides an accessible platform for those who simply enjoy beauty; a space to share makeup tips, but also to talk about the lack of inclusivity in any given brands products, and calling out issues within the beauty industry.
Two smaller subreddits worthy of your attention are r/MakeupRehab and r/PanPorn. The former is for users trying to cut down on buying new makeup, encouraging you to creatively use every last drop of your existing products. The latter is for makeup enthusiasts to share those products they’ve "hit pan" on – ie. used completely – because there's no better product recommendation than an empty bottle.
2. Ask Mira
Ask Mira is a free-to-download app and self-described "beauty encyclopaedia". Type in your question – eg. What's the best foundation for oily skin? Or, what’s the best glycolic acid? – and Ask Mira scours the internet for product reviews, which can then be easily compared.
Yes, the app uses affiliate links if you choose to buy a product you land on here, but you'll be notified with the disclaimer "Mira earns from qualifying purchases", so it's a clear and honest transaction.
Users also have the opportunity to post their own product reviews, and offer or ask for advice from other users, too.
#AskINKEY is The Inkey List's beauty advice service, available via a live-chat tool on the website, email, Instagram DMs, Twitter and Facebook Messenger, offering round-the-clock access to serve your beauty needs.
“We have a team of digital skincare advisors who have gone through our internal training programme," Laxton explains, so you can be sure that the person answering your queries has the necessary experience. These advisors can call on The Inkey List's wider team, from co-founder Mark Curry, to the formulation and product teams, "making sure we are offering the best advice", Laxton continues.
The focus is on providing a transparent and accessible space, a first point of call that can point you in the right direction – whether that's a dermatologist or a product that's right for you.
Lex Gillies, aka Talonted Lex, is a UK blogger leading the conversation on all things rosacea. She blogs, Instagrams, and Tweets about her skin condition, and has also created a Facebook group called The Rosacea Club – a hub where users can share their experience of the condition, and offer advice and recommendations on what has helped, and what hasn’t.
Many users upload pictures of skin flare-ups or improvements; and there’s a strict code of conduct to maintain the integrity of the space.
This includes no mention of the word ‘cure’, as there is no cure for rosacea, and zero tolerance for referring to products or treatments as ‘clean’, ‘natural’ or ‘made without chemicals’, as these are all unregulated terms. Any sales tactics or pushing of products is banned, and if you break these rules, you're out of the group.
Led by London-based consultant dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, this online discussion forum is every skincare geek’s dream. Its aim is to make dermatology accessible to its 18,000 members, via a mix of expert advice and product recommendations, with no sales tactics or trades allowed.
Topics up for discussion cover a broad spectrum, from establishing the difference between BHAs and AHAs, to the pros and cons of prescription retinoids and understanding SPF ingredients.
The ultimate aim of the club is to provide members' with accurate skincare knowledge, so they can make better-informed choices when it comes to the skincare products and routines that they follow.