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Why do we trust beauty influencers?

Patricia Tobing
Patricia Tobing

An observer-thinker student who loves literature and food more than people

Jakarta | Tue, May 22, 2018 | 03:04 pm
Why do we trust beauty influencers?

A beauty influencer is generally defined as someone who shares their opinions regarding various beauty products. (Shutterstock/File)

How do you know whether a beauty product works? Ask a friend? Can you trust the salesperson in the department store? How about reading the description on the product box?

The term “beauty influencer” might sound familiar to those active on social media. A beauty influencer is defined as someone who shares their opinions on various beauty products. Consciously or not, these beauty influencers have more or less contributed to shaping our judgment on our choice of beauty products.

Why do we trust beauty influencers in the first place? Why do we listen and read their reviews? Why does it matter?

Until the 18th century, the notion of beauty was dominated by Plato and Aristotle, who saw beauty as something objective. They emphasized beauty as a matter of specific proportions or relations among parts and it was not something that came from the response of the beholder.

Then, the concept of beauty experienced a shift. Beauty was seen in a more subjective state. In a sense, the definition of beauty laid on the set of standards generated by the perceiver in his/her own mind. As David Hume asserted in Of the Standard of Taste in 1757, “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them and each mind perceives a different beauty.”

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Yet, David Hume and Immanuel Kant agreed that something important was lost when beauty was treated solely as a subjective stance. In a sense, the discussion about beauty became pointless since it was merely a manner of approving personal attitudes.

Philosophers during that time apprehended the implausibility to create standards of beauty. However, it was viable to set standards of a critic or the taste quality of a person.

In his essay, Hume described four attributes to refine someone’s taste in becoming the true judge of some kind of beauty. A strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison and cleared of all prejudice. Then, the long-run consensus of such persons with those attributes becomes the practical standard of taste and the means of justifying judgments about beauty.

A closer look at the phenomenon of beauty influencers reveals that most of them possess the four attributes. They started out of their interests and the joy of using beauty products. They tried various types of products and they compared them according to their standards until they finally came up with favorite items.

Finding suitable beauty products can be very difficult. It requires plenty of resources such as time, capital, connections and social skills. On the other hand, most of us don’t want to spend a large sum of money on a powder that will never leave the drawer because it turned out to be ill-suited to our skin. Thus, many people “leave” the job to them who are able and willing to do it. We trust their reviews because we consider them in possession of the previous four attributes. We trust them because they went through a long phase for a decision and we simply don’t have the resources to do it by ourselves.

Yet the question begs to be posed, how do we know they are being honest? And if they do have the attributes, is it a guarantee that their choices will suit us?

Beauty influencers are people from different backgrounds. It is not hard to find influencers that are also doctors, housewives, university students, or even high school students. Each has their own features that make them distinct. This is one of the main reasons why they can be so captivating.

With many beauty influencers offering their own features and backgrounds, we have the freedom to choose who suits us the most. Our choices may boil down to those with similar skin conditions, so we can learn from their experiences.

Many are also in favor to believe reviews by beauty influencers, as they are not hard-selling advertisements. Languages and proofs appear in a simple, friendly and straightforward way, making it easier to comprehend.

Furthermore, many beauty influencers also share their everyday activities through their social media accounts. This can create the illusion of a personal relationship with them, viewing them as 'friends' we don’t regularly see.

Another thing to bear in mind is the influencers' appearance. Most beauty influencers recognize and express their prime features, but they also know how to embrace their imperfections. High-end beauty advertisements can seem as “perfect” images that could create a distance, while influencers offer a much friendlier approach. 

However, it is also important to note sponsorship. There have been cases where influencers shared their views on certain products for fees. Nevertheless, most of them mentioned that they were being paid for a particular product, using the term “paid partnership".

Nowadays, experiences can be easily shared through social media, and there are new ways of receiving information about anything, including beauty products.

There are many possible reasons why we trust reviews by beauty influencers. The most prominent reason is because we don’t have the resources to try all the products and find those that suit us the most. Beauty influencers, with their own trademarks, offer their preferences in a simple, friendly, and easy approach for us to understand. Thus, we trust them to be the judge.

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Patricia Tobing is a second year student in the School of Social and Political Sciences at Gadjah Mada University. She will be attending an exchange program at Leiden University, Netherlands, in August.

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