If you've ever used the internet, you’ve probably been influenced to buy something. But now “de-influencing” is making people think twice before buying the latest trending products and encouraging a more mindful approach to spending.
De-influencing sees influencers (and many consumers) posting “anti hauls” and telling us what not to buy – which products don’t live up to the hype or justify the price.
#Deinfluencing has over 320m views on TikTok as of early March and its popularity shows no sign of waning. Recent accusations of influencers misleading followers about certain products (see: “mascara gate”), combined with the cost of living crisis, has made people more careful with their cash and more eager to get value from their purchases.
Many “de-influencers” are using the trend to continue pushing products – ones they deem worth the money. Whether that’s a more affordable dupe of a product they’re criticising, or just an alternative they deem more effective.
So, can de-influencing really save you money?
“I’ve saved at least £200 since the start of 2023”
Anna, 21, from York, says she’s saved at least £200 since January by avoiding impulse buying clothes and accessories she’s seen promoted on social media. She first heard about de-influencing on TikTok and was drawn in by the possibility of saving money.
Anna says she’s bought “quite a few” items over the years based on social media reviews and “they’re never quite what you expect”. She says, “It’s bitterly disappointing getting a package and realising the top you bought looks nothing like the picture and then it requires you to return it, often at your own expense.”
Anna regrets buying beauty products that were trending during lockdown, as they now “sit at the back of a drawer, which is a waste of money and product”. And on-trend “clothes which don’t suit [her] body shape” from shops like Zara and Urban Outfitters. “The pieces don’t fit with my capsule wardrobe and I just end up feeling guilty for succumbing to their power,” Anna says.
“I now prefer shopping second hand and buying items I know I’ll like rather than what someone else says”
Anna now buys most of her clothes second hand from Vinted rather than fast fashion brands, focusing on items she already knows she likes and that suit her. “Such as a tiered maxi skirt I’ll love forever, in different colours and prints,” rather than trends she sees on social media.
Anna has unfollowed creators who mislead consumers and recommend products because they make an affiliate commission. She also makes herself less susceptible to being influenced by adding items to a wish list to help her reduce “impulse and unnecessary purchases”, reading reviews before purchasing (under hashtags for the product), and looking for the item when it’s on sale.
“If I really like an item and it has a larger price tag, I’ll make a Pot for it on Monzo. My current ones are for an interrailing trip and Camp America” she says. “This gives me time to deliberate and if I’m not a fan of the idea after a while, repurpose the money for something else.”
Anna’s also a fan of the 30 day savings rule to reduce impulse spending. “If you see something you really like, pop it in your calendar and wait 30 days. If you still really like it and can afford it, treat yourself!”
Anna says: “Social media creates the narrative products and clothes can change your life and will bring happiness. I don’t always, but I actively try not to buy into that as it creates an unrealistic and unsustainable cycle of consumerism.”
“If you can live a month without it then you don’t need it”
Jayde, 28, from Preston, also heard about de-influencing on TikTok and was attracted by the opportunity to save money and benefit the environment. Previously, she’d buy items using Apple Pay with one click of a button.
These include poor-quality headphones, Pink Honey brow gel (“that didn’t seem to do what it did for influencers”), a heatless hair curler that doesn’t work on thick hair and a vegetable chopper that only worked briefly.
Now, Jayde is less inclined to impulse buy. “If an item says #ad, I’ll look for honest reviews. I’ve definitely bought less stuff doing this and if a product has less than four stars I won’t buy it.”
Jayde estimates she’s saved £60-£100 since last October by reading reviews, engaging less with videos that are selling items and ultimately stopping impulsive purchases.
She’s also become better at working out if she needs the product or if Tiktok has convinced her she needs it. “If you can live a month without it then you don’t need it,” is a saying she lives by.
“Don’t get roped into trends that make you believe a certain product is the next best thing. I’m not saying don’t treat yourself, just make sure you’re checking reviews and getting what you want,” Jayde says.
“Now I have money left over which goes into one of my Pots towards a nice holiday instead”
As someone who always felt the need to “keep up with trends” and “purchase all the ‘in’ things’, Ruby, 26, from Manchester, also welcomes de-influencing. “I’d waste money each month to try the newest viral product, only for it to do the same job as the good products I already have,” she says.
Ruby had already decided to stop online shopping last year and now de-influencing has helped her save around £500 since September, which she would’ve spent on clothes or makeup she didn’t need. “I’d rinse my pay cheque each month, but now I have money left over which goes into one of my Pots towards a nice holiday instead.”
De-influencing has encouraged Ruby to buy staples and just use what works for her. “I saw a video about how a certain shampoo and conditioner I use was bad for me, but up until then I thought it was amazing. So I invested in Olaplex, which was much pricier. After using it I saw no notable differences and just went back to my originals.
“It’s important to use what works for you and not listen to influencers who have been paid to say that something is amazing,” she adds.
Ruby was also being influenced by trends not targeted at people like her, rather than what suited her. She says: “A lot of trends online are aimed at very slim influencers and it would make me feel bad when a certain item of clothing didn’t suit me at all, like low rise jeans, for example.”
“We should spend disposable income on experiences, rather than products which will lose popularity the week after purchase”
Given the cost of living crisis, Ruby believes de-influencing is even more important. “It’s great to move away from making people feel bad about not having something tangible. I think we should look at spending disposable income on experiences such as holidays, days out, concerts etcetera with friends and family, rather than products which will lose popularity the week after purchase.”
Marc, 33, from Airdrie, Scotland, recently stopped himself from buying a ”lip balm-looking applicator that people were rubbing on their skin and it was drawing out blackheads”. “I knew it was clearly not anywhere near as effective as the daft videos showed,” he says. “I stopped myself at the checkout, realising I was being silly.”
Marc admits: “It nearly caught me in a moment of curiosity with a desire for instant gratification of buying something online. I imagine these things get most people this way.”
“The best de-influencing comes from people who discuss all sides and are able to evidence they don't benefit one way or another”
A keen golfer, he cites Rick Shiels and Peter Finch on YouTube as examples of content creators who he believes “do honest reviews and are open about their relationships with brands if they have them.”
Be aware if an influencer is pushing a product they’re promoting. Mark says: “The best de-influencing comes from people who discuss all sides and are able to evidence they don't benefit one way or another.”