How TikTok ‘skinfluencers’ are boosting the underside line of the wonder enterprise

For a decade, Cynthia Knuttioa has turned to social media for advice on how to care for her sensitive skin.

As a teenager, the Edmontonian used tips from people on YouTube and Instagram who suggested things like lemon juice astringent or scrubs made from cinnamon, baking soda, and sugar

But after the pandemic hit this spring, the 23-year-old found solutions that come from a surprising source: the popular TikTok video app.

And Knuttioa is not alone.

More and more Albertans are turning to TikTok for skin care advice they would otherwise only get from a professional. Dermatologists and so-called skinfluencers – people on social media who have become trustworthy voices in all areas of skin care – have seen a faster rise in popularity on TikTok than on other apps like Instagram and YouTube thanks to the app’s unique algorithm.

Knuttioa, who follows popular TikTok influencers like Hyram Yarbro (also known as Skincare By Hyram), said she’s gained confidence in her recommendations thanks to the skincare advice that worked.

“I find Hyram very popular for its transparency,” said Knuttioa of 24-year-old Yarbro, the Honolulu-based influencer who brought his YouTube channel Skincare By Hyram to TikTok, where he has since accumulated more than six million followers.

“It breaks down the ingredients in a very factual way … and communicates the ingredients in a way that makes sense to the everyday consumer,” she said.

“And he’s also very honest that different people will have different reactions to different products. I find that very refreshing and it makes it easier to trust him.”

Influenced by skin care experts on TikTok, more and more people are changing their skin care routines. (Kashmala Fida / CBC)

To maintain their credibility, TikToker like Yarbro and Vi Lai (known as @whatsonvisface on TikTok) will thoroughly test products before offering straightforward, sometimes blunt reviews of the products.

When both Yarbro and Lai were overwhelmed by product samples they received from singer Rihanna’s new skin care line, neither hesitated to pass on their critical reviews.

Increase in sales

Some companies directly attribute a dramatic increase in profits to TikTok’s new generation of influencers.

The Ordinary is an affordable line of skin care products launched in 2016 by Deciem, a beauty and skin care company headquartered in Toronto. There was a massive spike in sales for one of its popular scrubs in February, said Nicola Kilner, co-founder and CEO of Deciem.

Around 52,000 units were sold in the first two weeks of February, followed by 77,000 in the third week, while retailer demand rose more than 1,000 percent, Kilner wrote in an email to CBC.

Dr. Muneeb Shah, who has the Tiktok nickname @dermdoctor, is filming with colleague Dr. Luke Maxfield a video. (Supplied by Dr. Muneeb Shah)

“I think with so many users accessing this platform, it has spread so quickly to individuals around the world,” she said.

“It was incredibly exciting for us to see it reach a whole new audience – and quite honestly, quite humble.”

It was similar with CeraVe, another affordable line of skin care products that has been welcomed multiple times by the Canadian Dermatology Association.

In April, products were as scarce as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, said Jacinthe Lavergne, general manager of CeraVe Canada.

TikTok influencers inspired the jump in sales, she said.

“It was a real wave of love all at once and I never expected it to come so quickly,” said Lavergne.

“It was like word of mouth 2.0.”

Accessible advice

If companies that make skin care products achieve financial success through TikTok’s influencers, it is largely because the platform is designed to see their users’ videos in front of as many eyes as possible.

“Tiktok’s algorithm does a really, really good job of bringing interesting, funny, or useful content to people, regardless of who they’re following,” said Linda Hoang, an Edmonton-based social media strategist, blogger, and TikToker.

On Instagram and YouTube, only viral videos will see an increase in audience beyond followers, Hoang said. With TikTok, the app’s algorithm sends more videos on the same topic whenever a user interacts with a particular video, regardless of the number of views.

In September, CeraVe products were sold out at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Edmonton. The company links the increase in sales to positive reviews on TikTok. (Kashmala Fida / CBC)

She said another explanation for the diffusion of TikTok content is the app’s mastery of sharing on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while continuing to give credit.

“It brings back quite a bit of viewership for the original user on TikTok,” she said.

Dr. Muneeb Shah, a North Carolina dermatologist, downloaded TikTok when the pandemic started and now has more than two million followers. He attributes the increased interest in skin care to the app and COVID-19.

“Historically, people were really made up,” he said. “But since people aren’t going out that much, they focus more on healthy skin.”

Compared to Instagram, where he has a respectable 153,000 followers, according to Shah, TikTok makes it a lot easier to reach the masses.

“On Instagram and Facebook … you end up in these basically echo chambers of similar thoughts,” he said.

“So if you know you like fashion and follow some fashion bloggers, you get a lot of information about fashion, but you don’t really learn anything new. Findability, I think, relatively low on the other platforms.”

Shah noted that influencers like Yarbro and Lai have won the followers’ trust by doing their homework and making sure products they like are approved by dermatologists, including him.

When misinformation is posted, it is suppressed very quickly by skin care professionals and more serious content creators. Shah said this is a good reason for experts like him to be on the platform.

“It is imperative that we meet people and patients where they can get their information,” he said.

“First, to relate to them so they can have confidence in this system when they get to their appointments. Second, to combat misinformation where it begins. And third, just to be a voice of reason, when things get unreasonable. ”

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