Could Korean beauty app Picky become Instagram for skincare lovers?

Posted by Chloe James in Trends

3 years ago

In a world where every social media platform is slowly evolving into one multi-functional stress of an app, let me introduce you to Picky. Founded in South Korea in March 2020, Picky zeroes in on one of the internet’s favourite topics – skincare. Combining all the expertise of skinfluencers with the practicality of a product database, it’s been marketed as the “welcoming community” to guide you on your “personal skincare journey”.

It’s incredibly niche, but comes at exactly the right time. The past year has been huge for skincare. While demand for makeup plummeted, skincare sales are estimated to have reached an all-time high of £1.19 billion in 2020. Multi-step, science-driven routines are the new normal, thanks to the skinfluencers taking over TikTok and Instagram.

The only issue is finding the right ones. While there are plenty of reliable, knowledgeable skinfluencers out there, there’s also a lot of misinformation. Neither platforms provide an easy way of filtering a feed to consist exclusively of one topic and temporarily omit the content of friends, family and other genres of creator. Instagram itself recognises this shortcoming. That’s why back in November it quietly added a new dropdown message encouraging users to “try a new account” and manually curate different feeds for different purposes.

But Picky is more than just convenient – it’s the best of TikTok and Instagram’s skin communities, minus the bias of sponsorships. After signing up, you answer a short questionnaire on your skin. Picky then uses this information to provide a directory of products sorted by what does or doesn’t suit your skin type. The homepage provides endless reviews, trending discussions as varied as “carcinogen-free SPFS” and “breast milk skincare”, and routines shared by other users. You can even craft your own routines, comparing products to see which do or don’t work well together, and rack up points for trying new products that can later be used to enter giveaways or attend live events. It’s educational, supportive and totally addictive.

Picky isn’t the first app to try to build a social network around one topic. In 2019, Nigella Lawson launched Foodim – an Instagram-esque app dedicated entirely to mobile food photography – to little fanfare. Similarly, fashion hub 21 Buttons has spent years trying to branch out from being a place where influencers link out their outfits to becoming a fully-fledged fashion social network.

However, none of these areas had a gap that needs to be filled like skincare. Its meteoric rise over the past year has positioned amateur-experts such as Hyram Yarbro and James Welsh at the top. Their advice is largely accurate, but their popularity means their opinions are taken as gospel and regurgitated as a “one size fits all” approach to skincare. Skinfluencers are ultimately there for entertainment, so everything is either amazing (The Ordinary) or terrible (St Ives), with little room left for personal interpretation. Their followers are almost too loyal to these opinions. There are full-on wars between those who do like popular brands and those who don’t (Canadian creator Juston, AKA My Skin is Glass, recently detailed the amount of hate he received when he dared to suggest there were better alternatives to The Ordinary) and there’s an entire genre of skincare content where you simply mock the product choices of others.

This is where Picky comes in. Providing skincare’s passionate audiences with a judgement-free space to just geek out over ingredient lists isn’t going to replace Instagram or TikTok anytime soon, but it’s a welcome escape. Plus, it’s just nice to have a social media app where the biggest drama is whether you can really mix retinol with glycolic acid (and yes, there is an audience for that).

By Chloe James, fashion and beauty editor of CORQ.