By Marybeth Bock

Social media today is swarming with health and beauty advice. And along with that advice comes ample opportunities for us to purchase products that claim to fix all of our problems.

As most women in our culture know, our media are constantly sending us messages that we are in desperate need of all kind of things like shinier hair, smoother skin, plumper lips, less cellulite, and always happy moods – just to name a few of our “flaws”.

Teenagers are a particularly easy target of this advertising, due to normal adolescent insecurities and the intense pressure that so many feel to fit in.

Social media influencers, those with enough followers to make money from their posts, are some of the worst offenders when to comes to selling health and beauty products to their millions of fans. This is now a billion-dollar industry in our country.

Many of these so-called wellness and lifestyle “experts” post stories and pictures sharing their past struggles and vulnerability to draw people in and increase their likes and shares. But the vast majority of them have no medical credentials, and many are offering quick-fix purchases like detox products, juice cleanses, specialized water, and magical vitamins and supplements that they claim have made them happier and healthier – and usually skinnier as well.

“Instafamous” celebrities easily build up trust among their followers and may be spreading harmful health misinformation. Even if not harmful,a lot of these items that people are selling don’t have any positive effect on someone’s health, but they definitely have a negative effect on their cashflow.

So how do you know if what you are tempted to buy online from an influencer is actually worth spending your money on?

First of all, think critically about what the product is claiming to do. If there were any kind of medically safe pill or herbal supplement that caused people to lose twenty pounds in ten days or be completely happy every day, we’d all know about it. Remember that those Before and After photos online can easily be edited and filtered, and user reviews are regularly written by people paid to endorse a product.

Secondly, dig deeper to see what the seller’s credentials are. Do they have extensive experience or legitimate degrees in the field related to the health or beauty product they are selling, such as nutrition, mental health or dermatology? Is there any peer-reviewed research to back up their claims?

If you are unsure about anything, before spending your money, seek out a trusted adult who can help you find this important information.