The Internet and E-commerce sites are a real jungle. Especially when it comes to skincare and beauty products, attention is a must. That’s why I, and many like me, try to spot fake reviews online before buying.
Statistics indicate that more than 90% of consumers read reviews before purchasing a product. And over 60% rely on them to buy.
Companies know this, and the situation is not the best. On 20 January 2022, the European Commission published a study on this subject: Out of 144 of the 223 websites checked, the authorities could NOT confirm that these companies did enough to ensure the reviews weren’t fake.
SO, WHICH REVIEWS CAN YOU TRUST?
Or rather, can you trust online reviews? And which ones?
Being skeptical, I don’t trust the first person who tells me to buy their product. The world is full of charlatans. So I divided the reviews into categories:
- Reviews on the manufacturer’s website.
- Reviews of Amazon or E-commerce sites for beauty products.
- Reviews of Bloggers who have tried the product (sponsored or not).
So who can we trust? It depends, but everyone knows that many cosmetic companies would say and do anything to sell, and the reviews on their site may have been paid for or manipulated. In a nutshell, they are FALSE.
Furthermore, these are illegal actions, as per the new Omnibus Directive for consumer protection entered into force in May 2022:
Specifically, the Omnibus Directive provides as follows:
“ information indicating whether and how the trader ensures that the published reviews come from consumers who have actually purchased or used a product are considered relevant.“.
HOW TO SPOT A FALSE REVIEW
For Amazon, E-commerce sites, and manufacturers.
- HOW IS THE REVIEW WRITTEN?
A simple “Great product! I’ll buy it again for sure!” smells like a paid fake review. It is better to check out personal ones, where the consumer explains their skin type, pros, cons, etc. But be wary of those TOO articulate and impersonal. I understand if it was a laptop review, but a skin care product has a personal component that shines through in a genuine review.
- NUMBER OF REVIEWS:
A high number is a great sign! If I see less than ten reviews, I don’t even read them. In Italy, we have a saying: “A swallow does not make spring.” If there aren’t enough reviews, just search for the product name online and see what people on other sites say to get an idea of the true and false ones.
- NEGATIVE REVIEWS:
Are there any negative reviews too? The suspicion that they are false is high if the answer is no. Especially if there are more than 5/10 of them. It is impossible for a cream or a product, in general, to be effective for everyone! Some may not like the scent or other details. I prefer products that have negative reviews too. When there are a lot of reviews, it is normal. There are even (illegal) ways to delete negative reviews, so beware. If, on the other hand, they are more negative than positive, it is quite different.
- LOOK AT THE DATES:
When reviews are genuine, they usually aren’t all done in a month or two. I’ve seen several sites that have quite a few reviews for just 2-3 months and then strangely only a couple before and after. Maybe not so good. Bad sign!
- VERIFIED PURCHASES:
The Omnibus directive does not oblige e-commerce to guarantee verified reviews (where the buyer puts the review after making the purchase, as on Amazon, for example). Beware if the wording is not there and other suspicious signs corroborate the fakeness.
- CHECK THE GRAMMAR:
Not only are fake reviews usually short, but they also often use ungrammatical phrases. Companies hire low-cost, non-native speakers to write reviews.
- IDENTICAL REVIEWS:
When a review is short (and false), you may find more than one with the same wording, like in the first point. If you see that the phrases “Fantastic product! I’ll buy it again for sure!” many times or there are versions where only one word changes (“exceptional, incredible, etc.), the review is 99% false, and not only that, you understand that the seller has paid for them and therefore do not buy anything regardless.
- USER PROFILE:
Check carefully if the site allows adding a reviewer’s profile. They have written many reviews and are usually only positive for little-known companies. Do they have a profile picture? Or the other way around, if a product has a lot of negative reviews and then comes the perfect review from a user who has no reviews or too many good reviews? I wouldn’t trust that one that much!
BLOGGER & YOUTUBERS REVIEWS
Can you trust them?
You may think that I’m biased since I have a blog! 🙂 The reasoning is flawless, if not because I don’t risk ruining my reputation but, most importantly, my skin for a few more euros or a free product. So my answer is: It DEPENDS on the professional integrity of the blogger.
Example: In 2016 a company (however serious) of compression stockings, offered me 5000 euros for a collaboration as a brand ambassador. This site did not exist yet, I only had the travel site. I said no to 5000 euros because: 1) The product was not related to travel. Ok for long flights, but ambassador? No. 2) I didn’t need it and I wasn’t going to be genuine.
A colleague of mine accepted. The conclusions are up to you 🙂
Free article or not:
I am slightly biased if the product is expensive, but I still read the review. I trust it if the person shows how it is used and explains in detail why it is effective and on which skin types, citing pros and cons (based on science).
I also look at the overall tone of the site. Does it look professional? Do they have valid, informative articles too? Then lucky them to have the opportunity to test the product.
Articles with affiliate links:
I am less biased but make the same considerations as in the above point. The review must be accurate and, where possible, supported by scientific data (or at least a before and after).
I also use affiliate links if they are available (everyone does). Don’t know what they are? If you click on a link on my site to buy the product, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
It’s a nice and free way to thank the blogger for taking the time to inform you and to allow them to carry out their work with professionalism and precision.
There are high fixed costs to having a professional blog; if it’s a full-time job, you also pay taxes (and not a little amount, at least not in Italy). For those who are not trying to be clever, of course. This also denotes the professionalism of the blogger. Check for a VAT number, usually in the site’s footer.
Important note: Not all reviews have affiliate links (at least not on my site). I’ll put the link if a product is valid, even if I don’t make a cent.
I bought products through affiliate links from colleagues many times. If they have helped me with a helpful review, I am pleased to thank them for being able to take advantage of their advice again in the future (also because I know the work behind it).
This is to tell you not to be wary if there are affiliate links. Evaluate the review. If you are not convinced, do not buy.
NOTES ON ONLINE REVIEWS (GENUINE AND FALSE):
If bloggers / Youtubers talk about beauty products they haven’t personally tried and put an affiliate link, DON’T TRUST THEM. It means they create content just to make money, not giving a damn about who follows them.
It’s one thing to see a cute dress and suggest it with an affiliate link, but when it comes to skin-friendly products, that’s unethical, in my opinion.
Accuracy of the contents:
I distrust many articles from famous online magazines where, in a 500-word post, they tell me, “X products are GREAT for cellulite!” without comparing them, giving me scientific references or pros and cons.
The companies of the products usually pay for those posts mentioned for the sole purpose of putting the affiliate link. The reporter usually hasn’t tried anything at all (of course).
If a normal blog uses this approach that I call “generic/shallow review,” I pass.
Rather, I trust Mrs. “Maria”, an honest housewife passionate about blogging (and to make ends meet), who has been testing cellulite creams for years, and explains in detail what effects they have had on her skin and what she believes works best. Putting photos, where possible, or adding concrete data.
A skin product review cannot be too general. Of course, you don’t need to write a dissertation for a mascara, but the basics must be covered. So, treat your skin well and trust only valid and honest reviews without being tempted by online magazines or sites with fake reviews.
CHECK IF THE REVIEWS ARE FAKE WITH THIS TOOL:
It is called Fakespot (no affiliate link, see? 🙂 ). Through an artificial intelligence (AI) system, it can analyze the reviews to find several of the problems I mentioned in the previous points. I believe we humans are still a bit ahead, but this is a good starting point if you don’t have too much time to waste with those who want to screw you!
Ready to go shopping? Here are my (honest) reviews, divided by categories. I hope to help you in purchasing the right products for your skin!
What about you? Do you have other tools to spot which reviews are fake and which ones you can trust? Let me know in the comments!