If you’ve been around the internet in the past decade, you will have seen the popularity of beauty influencers. These are people who use platforms like YouTube and Instagram to show off products, techniques, and trends in the hair and makeup industry. They are extremely popular and are among the highest earning people in social media. The beauty category has amplified trends like the Curly Girl Method (embracing naturally curly hair) and invented phrases like “on fleek” (her eyebrows are on fleek).
Today, I want to look at one trend these influencers have taken from to the masses: cruelty free products.
When we think about social media influencers, their impact is assumed to be directed toward the viewers or consumers of their content. Brands love them because they’ll show real life applications of products and give tips on techniques. Without having to do a review video, a technique video shows a product’s strengths. The big names will get paid for this promotion; the vast majority are doing it for free.
Cruelty free products already existed when YouTube and Instagram came into the beauty space, but they were niche and not well known. If a person went into their local drug store to buy mascara, they would be met with the big brands that were a safe and easy purchase. Sure, it would be great to buy makeup that wasn’t tested on animals, but most people weren’t willing to pay the extra price for a product they weren’t sure would work for them.
Enter the beauty influencer.
Makeup artists (professional and amateur) started to make videos and take photos using these niche products. Importantly, if you watch a beauty tutorial video, they’ll often mention that all of their products are cruelty free. Some will talk about old products in their collections that will be replaced by cruelty free versions once they have been fully used. Minimalists on YouTube show us how they purge their makeup drawers by getting rid of anything that’s not cruelty free because it doesn’t align with their values. In a not-so-subtle way, they’re making us question our own values.
They’re also showing us that these products are as good as – if not better than – the ones that are tested on animals. They give us permission to vote with our dollars and choose the cruelty free option. And that’s exactly what people have done.
In the beauty industry, if you want big influencers to rave about your products, you have to be cruelty free. So, the big names have started to pay attention and make changes. It’s no longer a fringe policy for small producers; it’s an expectation from consumers. Of course, there will always be people who want the lowest priced products and whose values don’t align with cruelty free brands. But more than ever, the choice is to buy non-cruelty free rather than the other way around.
Beauty isn’t the only industry where consumers are driving the push toward values-based products. Certainly, healthcare services are also being influenced by this shift. The traditional model of care in private practice values patient volume over quality care. It relies on the ability to break down a health problem into small components in a very technical approach. This ensures that the physiotherapist has the expertise and the individual seeking care has a dependency.
In this model, people have to return to the clinic often and for long periods of time. They may have “homework” or a “home exercise program” but are only given enough knowledge to be independent for a few days or a week. Is this based on scientific evidence? Not at all. It’s based on profitability.
Just like the beauty industry, when this was the norm (only a few years ago), most people didn’t question it. The small clinics offering different models of care were a risk and unproven to work. Sure, they may have provided holistic (whole-person), evidence based care, but the chances of you knowing someone who went there were small.
Enter the influencers.
A few years ago, I saw a shift happening. People who saw me for physiotherapy were shocked to hear that I’d spend a whole hour with them, listen to the context around their health issues, and work hard to see them as little as possible! Not only did I empower them with the tools to go weeks without an appointment, but I would aim to get to discharge efficiently. Remember: in physiotherapy, a discharge means that you’ve reached your functional goals.
These pioneering individuals who took a chance on me found that their health improved in a sustainable way. They couldn’t wait to tell everyone in their social circles that physiotherapy didn’t have to be costly and frustrating. And when someone on Facebook or Instagram asked about health issues, they were glad for the opportunity to share my name.
Nowadays, this approach is not unique. There are many physiotherapists who have chosen to provide better care for their patients and we have all proven that we can have viable businesses. Instead of requiring each person to attend many appointments, we rely on the quality of our care to speak for itself and spread among the community. Nowadays, people have a choice and can vote with their dollars. The influencers in physiotherapy weren’t professional YouTubers; they were everyday people who saw that things could be done differently.
Where will physiotherapy go next?
Institutions are slow to change and healthcare is no exception. Although people are demanding better care, longer appointments, and sustainable health improvements, the old way of doing things persists. Even though there are increasing numbers of physiotherapists choosing the new model of care, the big names haven’t budged. They’re still successful in part because the patient is only one influencer out of many.
Did you know that I can’t get a contract from the Workers’ Compensation Board because I only see one person at a time? I also don’t have an in-clinic gym, therapeutic modalities (machines), and some very specific assessment tools. The compensation from WCB can only be feasible if a physiotherapist gives each individual 15 minutes of their time and uses all of these required items to facilitate multitasking. The same is true for the compensation from Alberta Health for postoperative or low income physiotherapy coverage. But those contracts are no longer available, so it’s a bit of a moot point.
Did you know that surgeons and specialists continue to refer people to the big clinics for sub par care? This is not to say that there aren’t phenomenal physiotherapists at these clinics; just that they aren’t given the time and space to do great things. Physicians and specialists are influencers, too, and wouldn’t it be great if they referred to a model of care that’s better for their patients? Some already do; others are slower to adopt their patients’ preferences.
Lastly, if we look at the physiotherapy profession’s official advocate, it is also slow to turn around. The leadership and private practice divisions of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association are beginning to provide resources for those who are working under the new model. But at the top of these organizations are people who have been very successful and have had long careers in the old way of doing things.
When I was putting together a plan for my clinic, I was told by many successful physiotherapists that my model would not be sustainable. Apparently, by providing quality care I would not turn a profit. It’s a great idea for the people who see you in the first months of your business, they said. But if you lose money and have to take a job at another clinic, you’ll only be helping a handful of people.
Instead, what I have is a thriving clinical practice that has touched the lives of hundreds of people. Other clinicians and I are embracing the type of care that our patients want – and demand.
It’s time for the people at the top to start paying attention. Because in the coming years, just like cruelty free makeup, the old way will no longer be acceptable. If we’re to survive as a profession, we need to wake up and change.
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