Beware Faux Self-Care Tips Circling Around Instagram

Self-care is a beautiful, wonderful thing to practice. Over the last few years, I have adjusted my lifestyle to incorporate it; I used to spend my time on a bunch of difficult courses and extracurriculars to the point where I was so busy that I felt like I was going to spontaneously combust, and now I am much more aware of my limitations and still take on challenges–but pick just a few things and focus on them instead of trying to spread myself too thin. I now have extra time to dedicate to my mental and emotional wellbeing and I am definitely better for it.

Each day, I get in at least an hour of “Keira Time.” A time that I get to spend alone, doing something that makes me feel good about myself, whether that’s reading, journaling, or painting my nails. This is my form of self-care and it works for me. But if you have a hundred things going on like most college students do, it can be challenging to figure out how to balance self-care with your daily responsibilities.

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Where do we look for inspiration? Online resources are often a place that college students turn to in order to learn new information about everything–including self-care and mental health. This is generally a positive thing; the internet can help us find valuable information about how to be kind to ourselves. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything you read on the internet is true and that some of the “self-care” tips floating around aren’t so helpful.

Instagram, in particular, has a cohort of teenagers promoting “self-care” advice that holds no basis in science. These teens advertise their personal advice on how to stay healthy and cover a range of topics, including weight loss, mental health, and skin care. Money is a huge incentive for them to keep doing so because the most successful ones are making bank through the advertisements on their accounts.

Andi, who wishes to exclude her last name to maintain anonymity, is a 16-year-old who runs a popular account called skincarethreadsis. She explained that she makes so much money that she considers Instagramming to be her job. “I make money from my account as I do promotions where someone pays me via PayPal and then they send me what they want me to post,” she said.

The problem with accounts like this is that some of the tips and tricks that they post about are unhelpful, or even harmful, for your health. One account promised abs to anyone who followed a few basic core exercises each day. The idea that everyone is going to be fit after a few movements is blatantly false; everyone’s body is different, so one exercise isn’t going to give everyone the same results.

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Another account promoted acne-fighting face masks that contain apple cider vinegar, an ingredient that has been known to cause burns. Yes, the teens do usually include a disclaimer of some kind, but it’s quick and lighthearted and does not draw attention to the fact that some of their “helpful advice” may be the opposite of self-care.

Dr. Anjali Mahto of the British Association of Dermatologists views this as a huge problem. “Social media is a double-edged sword,” she says. “Talking about things like mental health is positive; the downside is it can give a voice to some bad ideas.” Dr. Mahto says she’s received some terrible advice from teens who Instagram about wellness and that some of the at-home remedies that they use are actually making their skin worse instead of healing it.

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To sum up: self-care is wonderful, but do your research before trying anything out, because there is some false and dangerous information flying around.

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