Back in 2016, I couldn’t go on Instagram without seeing an ad for SugarBearHair vitamin gummies. These gummies were highly endorsed by many celebrities including the Kardashians, actress Vanessa Hudgens, model Emily Ratajkowski, and others. The claim was that these vitamins were amazing, delicious, and great at promoting hair growth.
Even now I will still see an ad come across my page every once in a while. I never considered actually buying these vitamins because of how gimmicky they are. However, I decided to do a little research as to the claims behind these vitamins and how to use the SIFT method to analyze ads and information we see online that we might be suspicious about.
When SugarBearHair first took off, I just remember this one specific ad post from Kim Kardashian circulating all over Instagram. In the caption she doesn’t mention the benefits of taking these vitamins, she only mentions how “delish” they are which is a pretty shallow claim. Especially when as an influencer, you are supposedly advertising this company’s product and the benefits.
However, this doesn’t matter to her followers because all they care about is that their favorite celebrity posted, and they are going to like and comment regardless of what the content of the post is. Most likely influencing them to purchase whatever it is that she is endorsing because they want to be just like her. To SugarBearHair’s credit, using this type is certainly not cheap, but it is effective. My concern lies with how effective it is and the dangerous nature behind promoting health products to large groups of people with little to no scientific evidence to back it up.
The first step in the SIFT process to evaluate information is to “Stop,” really taking a pause and thoroughly taking in what is being presented to you and not just passively scrolling past is very important. In this case, it seems too good to be true that taking a little gummy vitamin every day will significantly cause changes in your hair growth cycle, and on top of that, it is yummy to eat too.
This brings us to the next step which is, “investigating the source.” So, when I typed in SugarBearHair into Google, it showed me a lot of results including a link to their website. On their website at the bottom, they do have a disclaimer that says none of the previous statements they make in the product description are “evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” This should be a red flag for some people because the FDA is in charge of making sure any food product that the country consumes is safe and this company does not have that seal of approval.
After that, I took to the next step of SIFT which is to try to “find more coverage” of the product and I was met with a slew of blog review articles, mixed with some news articles. There was one article that stood out to me because it was posted by a CBS news organization in Charlottesville, but was actually just a link to a girl’s personal review of the product on YouTube with no additional information. This could be confusing to news consumers because it is parading as news, but it is fact a sponsored ad by the company to promote the product.
The last step of the SIFT method is to “trace claims, quotes, and media of the original content.” After a bit of digging, I found a New York Times article by Sapna Maheshwari in 2016 that goes deeper into whether posts of the Kardashians sharing products are really just ads or if they do love the products they endorse. She writes, “TruthinAdvertising.org, a nonprofit that fights deceptive advertising, asserted that dozens of Instagram posts from the [Kardashian] sisters violated guidelines from the F.T.C. that say it should be “clear and conspicuous” to consumers if a person endorsing a product “has been paid or given something of value.” Further in her article, she writes how this prompted the lawyers of the Kardashians to reach out to TruthAdvertising.org to help them be more transparent about their advertising posts.
It’s vital for influencers and celebrities to make sure they are properly disclosing advertisements on their social media posts properly and thankfully there have been updates since 2016. Now when you scroll through social sites, you will immediately see a paid advertisement banner or some kind of prompt that lets people know that what you are seeing is just an ad and is not to be mistaken for news.
With that being said, even with the updates to current advertising disclosure, I think the people who do support businesses that involve any aspect of health or wellness need to take into consideration what they are selling to people. I believe it is really the responsibility of the individual influencer to be picky about who they choose to endorse and to really try out and love the products before selling to a large audience. That is why I make sure I follow people and influencers who I trust to give me quality recommendations based on them reviewing a product for a lengthy period of time and giving the pros and cons to potential consumers of that product. I hope this blog post helps anyone who comes across an ad that they are skeptical about by using the SIFT method before possibly falling for any shallow marketing or gimmicks.