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Here’s the tea on Insta’s crash dieting culture and the marketing that supports it.

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Let’s be clear: I’m supportive of women in business, women who are entrepreneurs, content marketers, #digitalnomads, women with a side hustle, women who make it work.

I’m also fiercely protective of women’s health.

This week, actress Jameela Jamil took a Twitter-stand against celebs such as Cardi B and Iggy Azalea who endorse detox teas and quick weight loss solutions on Instagram. Her point: Marketing these products to mainly young women not only endangers their health but damages their self image. Worse yet, it upholds an unnatural beauty standard established by the cisgender, heterosexual, and white majority.

To support Jamela’s case, here are the facts:

A common ingredient in “detox tea” is senna, an all-natural laxative. While occasionally helpful for constipation, taking senna too long causes vomiting, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. Overuse is common among those with eating disorders and can cause long-term damage to your liver, kidneys, and colon.

Jamela isn’t the first person to speak out against detox teas and celeb endorsements. Professionals, such as Dr. James Brown from Aston University and Dr. Lauretta Ihonor from University College of London have been vocal about the abuse of detox tea.

Not only are they dangerous, but they don’t “work.” They solely shed water weight. This can be damaging to self-image, as many hold themselves accountable against society’s unrealistic beauty standards. Queue the many scholarly articles about selfies, self-image, and self-esteem.

Worse yet, detox tea is only one example of “weight loss solutions” being promoted as part of the all-consuming beauty empire on Instagram. Celebs such as the Kardashians post frequently about appetite-suppressing lollipops and waist cinchers.

Frustrated yet? Good, because these unchecked, subliminal marketing tactics are not okay.

As a consumer or business owner, consider why products not approved by the FDA need celebrity endorsements and can’t be sold via the Shopping for Instagram feature. Turns out, it’s all in the Terms and Conditions (See: Commerce Policies). Included in Prohibited to Promote Content on Facebook and Instagram: certain healthcare products, unsafe supplements, illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs, and finally, fraudulent or misleading promotions. Obviously, detox tea falls into more than one of these categories.

To side-step the Prohibited Content standards, business owners hire a celebrity or influencer to advertise their product in posts and avoid the marketplace all together. Anyone can click a “Link in bio,” amirite? Facebook doesn’t clarify if its commerce policies apply to influencers.

But wait: The FTC still monitors Instagram influencers. How do they not put a stop to this? Read this guideline, highlighted by Adespresso, and weep: “Endorsers must disclose relationships between themselves and the marketer or brand if it’s sponsored content. You’ll often see ‘This was a sponsored post, but the opinions are entirely my own,’ or ‘#sponsoredpost’ appear on content.”

In other words, if the opinions belong to the influencer and don’t present themselves as tried-and-true facts about the product, they’re a-okay.

The most we can hope for: FTC’s slap-on-the-wrist reminder sent directly after one of Kim Kardashian’s weight loss promotions on Instagram.

This is the harsh reality marketers, content creators, businesses, and users need to recognize when creating Instagram ad campaigns and promotions. Our work can affect lives negatively and support a system of injustice.

The good news: You can market responsibly and boycott influencers who don’t.

Marketers: To better support women, and be responsible as a business, we urge you to use the secure marketplace designed by Instagram, including the extra effective Shopping in Stories feature, which allows you to demonstrate the product with readily accessible links attached and promote web traffic and sales at the same time. You can tag up to five products per image or video. Not to mention that stories attract more than 200 million users.

In fact, Insta is upping the game almost daily now: Its three newest shopping features include a shopping tag for your business page, user-ability to shop straight from video posts, and a collection tab for users to bookmark your tagged merch.

Our advice: Create a sustainable social media strategy and aesthetic on #IG before scouting influencers. Influencers can lend a popular and powerful voice for your brand, but be sure to vet them and scan their feeds for previously endorsed products.

We recognize that holistic medicine, especially in Colorado, may require an inventive social strategy with more influencers than Insta-marketplace maneuvering. We work with authentic, alternative brands that always pair strategy with wholesome influencer representation.

Users: To keep yourself safe on Instagram, don’t engage with celeb endorsements for weight loss solutions. Love Cardi B and back her career by purchasing her music, even purchasing her promoted and non-health-related products. But recognize that pedaling dangerous detox tea to a young consumer fanbase is not only irresponsible, it’s negligent. When it comes to losing weight, always refer to your doctor or nutritionist.

K.T. is a full-time freelance writer, former educator, and part-time Chihuahua enthusiast. After finishing her degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, she studied creative writing at Colorado State University. While completing her master’s degree, she taught Composition and Rhetoric for three years and was a literary editor at Colorado Review. At, she uses her writing skills, education, and can-do attitude to assist clients in accomplishing their social media marketing endeavors.

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