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Influence Peddler: Gelcream, the Anti-Influencer Beauty Instagram

The account's founder, Yana Sheptovetskaya, on why the page is ad-free and how she's approaching Instagram like a magazine.

Yana Sheptovetskaya isn’t interested in your Instagram #sponcon.

The former fashion editor — AnOther Magazine, Dazed and Confused — turned photographer isn’t against all ads. She just doesn’t want to see them on her Instagram feed. That’s why she unfollowed influencers who frequently post sponsored content on their pages. It’s also why she doesn’t post ads on her popular beauty Instagram, @gelcream.

Launched in May 2016, Gelcream is the anti-influencer beauty account that’s amassed more than 80,000 followers, including influencers and beauty brands alike. Sheptovetskaya said she started the page out of boredom. Originally from Moscow, she had just relocated to San Francisco with her husband and was looking for work and trying out American beauty products in the meantime. Inspired by Instagram-savvy brands such as Glossier, she decided to start her own beauty account and named it after a product she had seen while online shopping.

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The Gelcream account consists of iPhone images of Sheptovetskaya’s hand — an odd choice as makeup and skin-care accounts typically feature someone’s face — holding a beauty product. She reviews the product in the caption field, including both the price and a rating from one to five.

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Sheptovetskaya doesn’t have a set posting schedule for Gelcream, nor does she post frequently. She only shares products she feels strongly about — either positively or negatively — and reviews products she’s bought or been sent, though sending her product doesn’t guarantee a review.

“I have a disclaimer in my e-mail for brands that if you’re sending me something, it’s at your own risk,” she said. “Probably, I won’t post about it. If I will, I will say an honest opinion, so please don’t be upset. It’s all very emotional. When I’m ready, I say it how I would say it to my friends.”

True to her point, Gelcream’s reviews are candid, impartial and, most importantly, unpaid. But contrary to what one might think, not all followers of the account are fans. One particularly negative review of Kim Kardashian’s Body fragrance struck the nerve of Ouai founder and Kardashian’s close friend Jen Atkin in May.

“You are a miserable human being,” Atkin wrote in one comment. “Please stop being so negative and start supporting women who have helped make it possible for you to make a living on Instagram.

“You have no idea how hard she [Kardashian] works on this brand. They employ hundreds of people and don’t just s–t out products like legacy brands. You need to do research,” she wrote in another.

Atkin’s comments got picked up within the online beauty community, and Gelcream’s followers took to Sheptovetskaya’s defense. Sheptovetskaya said though it wasn’t Atkin’s first time on Gelcream’s page, she wasn’t anticipating the harsh comments she received.

“It was very rude. She reviewed herself by those comments,” Sheptovetskaya said. “The way people responded, I was like, ‘I don’t even have to say anything now because I would never write this so beautifully as they did.'”

She ultimately viewed the incident as part of the point of Gelcream: to think more holistically about beauty products and the companies that make them.

She hasn’t yet been able to monetize the account, save for a limited supply of merchandise she created in celebration of its two-year anniversary in May, and she doesn’t use affiliate links. Separately, she works with brands as a photographer and consultant. She also works for jewelry brand J. Hannah.

Recently, Gelcream has been focusing more on educational content. After Shiseido revealed it would relaunch its color offerings, Sheptovetskaya posted a series of Instagram Stories on the history of Shiseido, how to pronounce it, what it means and some of the company’s marketing campaigns from the Twenties and Thirties. The response, she said, was “amazing,” and she’s planning similar educational content around ingredients, as well.

She’s planning to expand Gelcream beyond the beauty space and wants to review more than just beauty products. She’s hoping to “move away” from the Instagram beauty community and has started to think of the handle as a magazine, citing British publication Gentlewoman as inspiration.

“Nowadays, you don’t have to have a printed magazine. That’s old school,” she said. “Instagram is my web site and my web site is gonna be my printed magazine. All the content you’d want to go back to is going to go on the web site. What magazines have on their web sites is my Instagram page — smaller articles, quick content, something you’ll forget.”

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