When looking for recommendations on what to buy, popular social media influencers and celebrities are always around to peddle the hottest item of the moment. But some may reconsider their spending habits after looking through TikTok’s “de-influencing” campaign, which shares what viral products are not actually worth buying.
The app’s “deinfluencing” tag with over 50 million views, is a hub to thousands of videos of TikTokers debunking the influencer allure of cult-like internet products, particularly in the beauty realm. From highly coveted Dior makeup products to Olaplex’s shampoos and conditioners, these videos focus on popular products that “de-influencers believe” are simply overhyped. This follows the similar “anti-haul” niche of YouTube that calls out the products creators refuse to buy.
The growing trend is a direct response to the endless deluge of products that beauty and lifestyle influencers insist you simply must have. According to the internet, at the moment, you should own a Stanley Cup drink tumbler, an ice roller for your face, shapewear from Kim Kardahian’s SKIMS line, and some tinned fish in your kitchen cupboard. These are subject to change next month, or next week—depending on trends.
Oftentimes influencer recommendation videos are sponsored by the company behind the products. Influencers can also get paid from affiliate links or codes if viewers buy via the links they share. The arrangement is so successful that the influencer marketing industry reached over $16 billion last year, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.
Celebrities have caught onto their fans willingness to purchase their products, which has fueled a multibillion dollar beauty business where users are willing to spend money on brands like JLO Beauty for Jennifer Lopez’s glow or on SKIMS for Kardashian’s hourglass figure. New products from these lines release fast and often. The Kardashians alone have launched at least 15 products ranging from candles to pajamas to skincare from their personal brands in the last two months alone. That doesn’t include the other non-Kardashian products that are promoted on their pages.
Although it’s clear that followers are willing to spend their money on these recommendations, there’s been a growing conversation about the integrity of the reviews influencers give—and whether they would actually use many of the products themselves. Most recently rising TikTok star Mikayla Nogueira caught backlash from online viewers who accused her of wearing false lashes during a mascara review in a sponsored video.
“We only need so many bronzers and lipsticks,” says Elle Grey, a 25-year-old content creator who is participating in the “de-influencing” trend on her ‘Basic Of Course’ TikTok page, which has 10,000 followers. “A lot of these items specifically within the beauty and fashion industry follow these really quick micro-trends where you likely already have an existing perfectly good substitute for that product.” Grey believes that’s particularly true for of-the-moment products like Charlotte Tilbury makeup, Target throw pillows, and most things on influencers’ Amazon storefronts, where they make commission every time someone buys.
Other influencers often prioritize monetization over authenticity and selectivity in their reviews, says Grey. Grey has gotten offered free products from brands in exchange for an online review in the past, but says she only agrees to share products from brands she’s already used and enjoys—or has tried and genuinely likes. Even then, it’s not the priority of her content. “I love my audience, but I don’t personally know them, so I may not know what’s best for their lifestyle,” she says. “I think you should go to your close network first like friends and ask them for recommendations, rather than random girls on the internet.” Grey recommends going to influencers for other reasons. “I enjoy watching influencers for their life interests and the hobbies that they have, rather than viewing them as a source for shopping inspiration.”
The sheer volume of content many people consume on TikTok exacerbates the trend of influencers pushing more and more new products. The average user is spending over an hour-and-a-half on TikTok daily. Unlike other platforms like YouTube that skew towards longer-form videos, TikTok’s 60-second style ForYouPage gives users substantially more opportunities to encounter sponsored content.
But as much as Gen-Z loves TikTok, many members of the generation also care about sustainability and desire to reduce their consumption and spending patterns. A study conducted by First Insight found that the majority of the generation prefers to buy from sustainable brands and are likely to make purchases based on personal, social, and environmental principles.
Many on the internet are embracing the trend, calling out its helpfulness with overconsumption.
i love the deinfluencing trend going around on tiktok like YES pls tell me that i dont need things!!!! make me SAVE!!!!!
— bea (@missbeabu) January 25, 2023
the deinfluencing trend on tiktok might be one of the only good things to come from that app
— cyber (@cyberlifts) January 24, 2023
Others are pointing out the irony of the trend still using “influencing” methods to “de-influence,” especially when suggesting alternative dupe products as replacement. For some, the “de-influence” videos aren’t enough to sway away from their purchasing habits.
Getting a bunch of “de-influencing” videos on TikTok and have since been influenced to buy two new items in two days so I don’t think it’s working
— Texus Texudo (@PhyllisNef) January 26, 2023
Online creator Grey says she’s gotten responses from viewers questioning whether her “de-influencing” posts will impact her opportunities as an influencer in the future. “I would say quite the opposite,” she says. “I think it makes the value of a true recommendation that comes from the heart so much more powerful, rather than me just pedaling out a salad spinner or the latest lipstick.”