The Doctor Is In
Female Singapore|September 2020
The Doctor Is In
They might not have the same glossy life, stylish instagram content and rabid following as the likes of michelle phan and huda kattan, but a band of myth-busting, info-wielding scientists are fast raking up the “hearts” on social media particularly during these troubling times. Aileen lalor explores the rise of these alternative beauty influencers – and what it could mean for the industry.
Aileen Lalor

The beauty influencer world can sometimes appear shallow and superficial – pretty faces with not much to say, some might state – but there’s an alternative group fast gaining traction and their style is more white coat than a designer jacket. Identifying themselves more as dermatologists, cosmetic formulators, and educators than selfie-snapping, Tiktokdancing beauty fiends, they boast impressive qualifications, highly specialized knowledge, and an insatiable curiosity even about the technical side of the beauty business – and they want to share it.

Michelle Wong, a Sydney-based PhD chemist and science educator, started blogging almost a decade ago when she realised that there was a dearth of reliable information about beauty products – and a whole lot of misinformation. She says things really started to explode through three to four years ago at the start of the so-called intellectual trend when brands like Deciem came on the scene and began to speak overtly about the ingredients in their products. “The fact that chemical names were front and center in marketing led people to wonder what they were. Because they were so accessibly priced, people became more curious,” Wong (aka @Labmuffin) explains.

There was also the rise of the clean beauty movement with – as Erica Douglas, the US cosmetic chemist known as Sister Scientist on Instagram, puts it – “people wanting to know what they’re putting on and in their bodies”. It didn’t help that information about beauty can often come across as woolly and emotion-based or extremely complex. Enter these influencers who aim to help consumers sort myths from facts so that they can make informed choices about what they buy. Mostly their focus is on education, not selling products or their personal brands. “It feels organic. With traditional influencers, it’s not that they’re trying to trick people, but they are trying to convince people to follow them,” says Dr. Aegean Chan, a US-based dermatologist who doles out skincare tips and truths via humorous memes and vlog style videos on her namesake Instagram account. “We are just interested in sharing knowledge. It seems – I don’t want to say pure – but it does feel like that.

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September 2020