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Why are all my favorite bloggers joining this MLM?
Over the past year or so, a bunch of bloggers and Instagrammers, no matter what they write about, keep trying to sell their followers makeup and skincare through a multilevel marketing company called Beautycounter.
Fashion blogger Beth Chappo sells it. So does healthy living blogger Kath Younger and fitness blogger Gina Harney and food blogger Cassy Garcia. This week, the company hosted a retreat in Ojai, California, where it became apparent how many Instagram influencers and bloggers are now selling it.
I began to wonder what this was all about. Is this like the MLMs that have turned all the young women I went to high school with into frenzied sellers, but for the cool kids?
Beautycounter, founded in 2013 by former fashion exec Gregg Renfrew, touts itself as a makeup and skincare brand that is “leading a movement to a future where all beauty is clean beauty.” The company promises to avoid more than 1,500 “questionable ingredients” in its formulas and encourages its customers to join in its fight for more regulation of the US cosmetics industry.
In many ways, Beautycounter has branded itself as the new Avon for the socially conscious and health-conscious woman who wants to make a little money on the side. Renfrew told the Los Angeles Times in 2013 that she wanted to update the direct selling (aka MLM) model.
That all sounds great, but at the end of the day, Beautycounter is still a direct sales business, and the FTC has been warning consumers against these types of companies for decades. Beautycounter consultants have to pay to play ($98 for a starter kit) and become a part of a downline — just like in any other MLM.
Beautycounter consultants, like one of my favorite bloggers, Teri Hutcheon of A Foodie Stays Fit, argue that even though Beautycounter is an MLM, it is not predatory. (The company, Chappo, and Garcia didn’t return requests for comment.) On her blog, she notes that there are no monthly minimum purchases or sales required for consultants. You can also buy products directly from the company without going through a consultant. I’ve even seen the products at TJ Maxx.
I wonder what this trend says about the blogger economy. Many old-school bloggers have been able to maintain their readership and communities for a decade or more, making the transition to Instagram, newsletters, and podcasts rather seamlessly. Still, many of the bloggers I follow have way fewer followers than the many newer, usually teenage influencers making big sponcon bucks. But now, even that space is flooded, with more Insta influencers, micro-influencers, and wannabes than ever before, all trying to make it. I’d imagine it’s harder than ever to monetize influencing.
In fact, Younger, who has blogged for more than a decade, confirmed to me that she started selling Beautycounter with the hopes of adding an “additional revenue stream” to her website. She added “the products aligned perfectly with my real food message” and she has “had nothing but a great experience.” Harney told me she joined Beautycounter because she loves the products and the company has “a strong mission I'm excited to stand behind.”
Will more and more bloggers and influencers turn to MLMs and other side hustles as the well dries up? I think it’s a possibility. I respect the hustle, but it does feel a bit icky to me that these women are trying to turn the loyal follower base they have built into customers for an allegedly predatory business model.
I don’t need my influencers selling me skincare — trust me, I get enough of that from my old classmates on Facebook.
Megan Skalla answers my questions about her perfectly Instagrammable big day.
Megan Skalla is the third of four sisters in the Skalla sister influencer empire. Her older sister, Rachel Parcell of the blog Pink Peonies, has a million Instagram followers and a clothing line at Nordstrom. Her other older sister, Emily Jackson, just launched a workout line called IVL after her blog, Ivory Lane. Megan and her little sister, Amy, are also influencers and run an online store called Lazy Day.
After breaking off a previous engagement earlier this year, Megan surprised her fans by announcing she was engaged to Zach Hunsaker in August. Her wedding two weeks ago was Instagrammed to the masses on all four of the sisters’ accounts. Many fans spent the day watching all of their stories to check out the fashion and decor.
Wedding planning can be stressful for us nonfluencers, so I wanted to ask Megan via Instagram DM what it was like having her big day under the Instagram microscope.
What’s one thing about your wedding Instagram didn’t get to see?
Our actual wedding ceremony. It was held in the Salt Lake Temple of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was so beautiful, special and something we will always remember as the most important event of our whole day. Because it is very sacred, there were no pictures or videos taken in the ceremony.
What was the weirdest and/or coolest part of having people watch your wedding on Instagram?
I honestly didn’t think much of the amount of people watching my wedding through social media! I was so caught up in the little moments that happen throughout the day with Zach and our loved ones! I was having the time of my life and didn’t care what anyone else thought!
So what do you think about Beautycounter? Are you into it, or nah? Any more questions for Megan? Respond to this newsletter and let me know.
Until next time (at least I’m not selling you something, right?),
Want more? Here are other stories we were following this week.
The journalist as influencer: how we sell ourselves on social media: This piece by Allegra Hobbs for the Guardian is what caused Lauren Duca’s latest Twitter rant.
Online influencers tell you what to buy, advertisers wonder who’s listening: Even the Wall Street Journal is covering influencers now! Hey, Ma, we made it.
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