Jess Wilby: Cosmo’s right, you can’t always trust beauty bloggers

A couple of days ago it all kicked off on Twitter because Cosmopolitan dared to ask: ‘Beauty Bloggers: Can we trust anything they say?’ Since then we’ve had an anonymous blogger burn book and Lush Cosmetics were accused of fat shaming, so the conversation was somewhat derailed. I do however think it’s important to go back and admit our faults – something our beauty blogger community doesn’t like doing, it seems…

Now I’m not being edgy for the clickbait, I genuinely believe we should take all blogger advice with a pinch of salt. Whilst this may seem like common sense to some, when you’re online looking for advice and desperate for answers you can find yourself taking words of wisdom from even the most questionable corners of the internet.

Cosmo’s argument? “It’s important to remember that most influencers aren’t qualified, rarely speak to expert dermatologists, often don’t pay for products they use and can be paid a fortune to feature them.” Stop me if I’m wrong, but none of this is untrue. Whilst we like to say ‘I would never mislead my readers’, there will always be someone out there willing to say whatever to ensure their bills are paid each month.

“When you’re desperate for answers you can find yourself taking words of wisdom from even the most questionable corners of the internet.”

Forgive me for stating the obvious but your blog is based on your own opinion, not years of expert knowledge. Perhaps a few minutes of research on Google, but we’re certainly not qualified to dole out skincare & dietary tips at the drop of a hat. We’re all guilty of slipping up – our word is not gospel.

Now I’m not going to start naming names, because lord knows I can’t be arsed being called a bully, but I’d like to take an example from another blog that I came across on Pinterest a few months back. Said blogger was preaching the benefits of turmeric and had a big run down of tips and tricks for using it in your beauty routine.

One of these tips was a facemask consisting of just turmeric and coconut oil. A two-ingredient miracle potion apparently. Perhaps the blogger would have thought differently if she had actually tried the recipe herself.

If you’ve ever made a curry from scratch you’ll know that turmeric stains like a bitch. It stains your hands, your clothes, your kitchen utensils, YOUR SOUL. Ok exaggeration, but you get the point. The ratio that this blogger suggested using was much more than the regular turmeric masks you may have tried. I knew it would stain my skin, and low and behold…

I’ve written in sharpie so that you can see I haven’t bumped up the saturation. Just look at the opacity compared to the ink. Imagine if I had put this all over my face! As mentioned, I’m not here to name names, but this is just one example of poor advice being touted by beauty bloggers. Whether it’s lemon juice for sensitive skin, cornstarch bathbombs or using hairspray to set your make-up – there are some weird tips online that people will consider trying, even when you think who would be daft enough to do that?

Research by Canterbury Skin & Laser Clinic found that, from a sample of 1000 people, 23% had experienced a ‘bad reaction’ from advice they had taken online. There’s a case study in the Cosmo article who also admits that her addiction to Pinterest beauty tips almost ruined her skin.

We can’t just sit back and pretend this doesn’t happen because you’re a bit offended by this article:

“But the magazines get paid too!” I hear you say. Yes, but you can’t use this to derail the conversation. Of course print publications in particular need ads to fund their work, so they’re not in the business of slating brands. But when have you ever flicked to the beauty pages to read 500+ words on one specific product, as you would with a blog?

Usually features in a magazine surround an analysis on beauty trends and ingredients, rather than pure product advertorial. The pieces also have comment from voices of authority – such as dermatologists – and more than one personal opinion/experience to add context.

“If we looked at articles like this and used it to better our own content, the blogging community probably would become much more credible than it is now.”

There’s no denying that print publications are under much more scrutiny when compared to the Wild West world of blogging. We may scoff at the idea of ‘journalistic values’, but we have to admit that Lucy Partington at Cosmopolitan most likely adheres to a media ethics code, unlike a lot of bloggers.

Perhaps it’s time that we all took a step back and handled some criticism for once. It’s not always the print vs online fight that we make it out to be. If we looked at articles like this and used it to better our own content, the blogging community probably would become much more credible than it is now.

The cowboy bloggers spreading these terrible tips will be the ones defining the industry until we demand better. For now we’re going to have to eat a slice of humble pie and accept that, until media law and ethics codes catch up to the world of online content, we will be judged by the industry as a whole. If you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush, I suggest you strive for better content.

Jessica Wilby is a fashion and beauty blogger from Manchester, UK. This post originally appeared on her blog