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CLARE JOHNSTON: From face-bras to cellulite busters promoted on social media, I’ve fallen for them all

Clare Johnston wearing a 'facebra' and images of social media on phones

Last night was the first in the last four when I got anything close to a good sleep.

That’s because I have spent the last few days absolutely wired on a ‘wellness drink’ I spotted on social media.

It’s from American brand ActivatedYou, founded by actress Maggie Q who is never off my Facebook and Instagram feeds promoting it.

I was certainly activated by this drink, I can tell you.

The problem was I couldn’t deactivate.

I spent £45 on this particular pot of powder and though I deserve to be judged for that, in my defence I was recovering from Covid and felt I could use a boost.

When the tub arrived it looked pretty sizeable – until I opened it to find it was less than half full and I had paid an awful lot of money for some unpleasant-looking green powder that keeps me awake half the night.

I’m not saying there isn’t a benefit to be had from its many varied prebiotic and probiotic ingredients, but it’s turned out to be an expensive waste of money for me.

Another expensive waste of money.

That’s because I’m a sucker for a social media ad.

A wellness drink in powder form bought from a social media advert
The contents of this tub of wellness drink powder fell a little short of expectation

I would be all the more annoyed with myself for making a bad spending choice, AGAIN, thanks to what’s put in front of me on Facebook and Instagram, had it not been for the fact I now make a point of ordering some products advertised on those platforms so I can review them and give consumers an impartial opinion.

From face-bras to cellulite busters; I’ve fallen for them all

There have been a couple that have been worth it along the way, but most have been an utter letdown.

Take the face bra for example.

Yes, that’s a bra – for your face.

It’s also sold as a ‘double chin reducer’, ‘face slimming bandage’ or a ‘chin mask’. Take your pick.

They are all essentially a fabric strap that you place under your chin, hook over your ears and secure with velcro patches on the top of your head to make you look as ridiculous as you’ll feel.

A cure for cellulite: the holy grail of social media marketeers. Pictured posteriors don’t belong to Clare.

They promise to take 1cm of fat from your chin in one use.

Ultimately, you sweat when you wear it and so there is a bit of a temporary lift, but it felt completely impractical to me and landed in the bin within a few weeks of purchase.

Or how about those fabulously-stylish clothes you see being advertised at incredible, and often seemingly discounted prices?

Sure it’s an unknown brand, but the clothes look great on the model and it appears to be a bargain, right?

From my experience, if it seems too good to be true it very likely is.

Looked great in the picture, but not so good in reality

I ordered several tops based on product shots featured in a social media ad.

The clothes were ridiculously cheap but I thought I was being a savvy buyer – after all, I assumed they’d at least be the same garments as pictured.

When they finally arrived from China three weeks later, they were clearly not the same clothes as advertised at all, just poor imitations.

UK consumer rights don’t exactly extend to China, but I bought them on my credit card so I took pictures of what was advertised versus what I received and sent them to my card provider along with a request for a refund which they honoured.

A pink top bought from a social media advert
Not the same: the photo on the left shows the top as advertised, while the one on the right shows what was delivered.

Watch out too for overpriced household and beauty devices that are often mass produced in cheap-labour factories overseas where they change the labels but sell the items through different distributors who will charge whatever they can get away with.

I’ve seen anti-cellulite devices and fake ‘gold’ T bar face massagers which are sold at wildly different prices by a variety of sellers yet are clearly the same product.

Spy before you buy

Before you hit ‘buy now’, it pays to do a quick search on the business you’re ordering from.

Are people leaving positive reviews about them on independent forums?

Have a little browse around and see if the same product or something very similar – particularly if we’re talking about beauty and household items – is available somewhere else for less.

In other words, don’t do as I have done for too long and make an impulse purchase based on a few images that pop up on social media.

A lot of the time the sellers will make you jump through hoops to return the product, including paying for postage, but it’s worth a try.

And if you’ve paid by credit card then talk to your card provider as there’s a chance they’ll take it up with the seller in question and refund your money.

We don’t trust them, but they know how to manipulate us

Polling suggests only one in 10 of us in the UK place any trust in ads we see on social media compared with those in traditional media such as print, TV and radio.

Yet social media marketeers know how to sell us an intoxicating dream, casting a spell that results in us all-too-readily parting with our hard-earned cash, and kicking ourselves afterwards.

Of course there are a lot of businesses legitimately selling good products online and on social media.

But there are also those who are just trying to make a fast buck and we have to know how to tell the difference.

That way next time, we’ll be ready for them.

CLARE JOHNSTON: Want to lose weight and keep it off? Don’t go on a diet

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