Bonnie Gillies is a 32-year-old makeup artist, beauty journalist, and high-profile skincare influencer who runs a blog and Instagram account under the name Oz Beauty Expert.
Gillies' Instagram account @ozbeautyexpert has over 54,000 followers.
Many of her followers reach out to her for advice on her Instagram posts, with questions such as "What would you suggest for adult, hormonal break outs?" and "Would you recommend Sebium for acne-prone skin?"
Gillies' followers also ask where products that she promotes are available to buy once they appear on Instagram or her blog.
"I think there has always been a big interest in skin care but now with more information, online consumers are more informed and they find it easier to connect with brands and other skincare lovers," she told BuzzFeed News.
"That's the beauty of the online community — it's easy to get unbiased reviews and opinions."
Skincare communities have flourished on social media in recent years, with Instagram influencers and skincare companies attracting followers who share a passion for devoting time and money to their complexions.
Companies such as Mecca Cosmetica (321,000 Instagram followers), The Abnormal Beauty Company (367,000 Instagram followers), and Glossier's Into the Gloss (669,000 Instagram followers) all provide reviews and updates for skincare fanatics.
Gillies has a comprehensive daily skincare routine that involves an $80 moisturiser, an $86 exfoliant, an $89 cleanser, and a $300 serum.
She says she sees the difference these products make to her skin and only recommends products that she trusts.
"I love seeing it work with my pigmentation and I swear by good exfoliation with a cosmeceutical enzyme exfoliant weekly," she said.
Gillies says that she only agrees to promote brands and products she genuinely loves and trusts.
She is currently an ambassador for Olay and Bioderma and says she approached each brand for the opportunity after using them in her makeup kit.
The skincare products that Gillies promotes fall under the banner of 'cosmeceuticals': cosmetics with active ingredients that purport to have medicinal effects on skin.
Cosmeceutical ranges include seemingly endless variations of lotions, oils, moisturisers, serums, face masks, toners, exfoliants, and cleansers.
There are a number of claims attached to cosmeceuticals including skin ageing prevention, fine line and wrinkle reduction, boosting of collagen production in the skin to improve elasticity, pigmentation smoothing, and sun damage repair.
High-end cosmeceutical companies such as L'Oreal, Shiseido, Avon, SK-II, Ella Baché, and La Mer have revolutionised the beauty industry by focusing on the production of high-quality – and frequently pricey – skincare.
Matt Woodcox is a skincare influencer who believes that his routines have drastically improved the appearance of his skin.
The 29-year-old blogger from Texas has attracted a following of over 38,000 people on Instagram for his account @dirtyboysgetclean.
Woodcox is recognised for posting photos of bathroom cupboards packed to the brim with skincare products and extravagant flat-lays of bottles and pots on lush, pink surfaces.
He first became interested in skincare in 2010 after a bad reaction to a chemical peel led to a long bout of acne that he found extremely difficult to manage.
Woodcox discovered a line of skincare at the multinational beauty giant Sephora that helped clear his acne after "a lot of money and time wasted on harsh products", he told BuzzFeed News.
Woodcox has since amassed hundreds of moisturisers, oils, face masks, toners, and cleansers.
Woodcox said he spends a "couple of hundred dollars a month" on skincare alone.
Woodcox believes that his skincare routine, which focuses on hydrating his skin and using cleansing masks, is effective in keeping his skin clear and his acne under control.
"I think the key is understanding your skin and its needs — from there you can find effective skincare tailored to your needs."
So, do these cosmeceutical products actually work?
Dr Bryce Feltis, a senior industry fellow in biomedical science and cell biology at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) told BuzzFeed News that it's a controversial area of research, and that it is difficult to pin down the true efficacy of skincare products.
"You can make claims that sound like they might be strong health claims, but if you really look at the wording, they kind of do dance around quite a bit," he said.
"I guess one of the issues as consumers that we all have is that companies are allowed to infer all sorts of interesting things, as long as they're not explicitly stating anything. So that's kind of the game...It's all about these small little fudges so that claims can be made."
Common active ingredients in skincare products include compounds and vitamins such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid), hydroquinone, retinol (a vitamin A derivative), hyaluronic acid, L-ascorbic acid (a form of Vitamin C), and copper peptide.
In addition to these active ingredients, skincare products also contain combinations of emulsifiers, water, preservatives, thickeners, and emollients (ingredients such as beeswax or petroleum jelly that prevent moisture loss).
Feltis says that there are reasons to be apprehensive about the efficacy of skincare products claiming that they can alter the skin by controlling signs of ageing, smoothing the appearance of skin, preventing fine lines and wrinkles, or correcting pigmentation.
"They [skincare companies] might have a little bit of data that a particular product might have some effect...but it's probably not going to be a lot of controlled clinical trial-style subject data because that sort of thing is actually really, really expensive to do," said Feltis.
"In the skincare space, it's unusual for a company to go into that sort of investment, especially considering that a lot of these things won't show a great deal of difference when you do that study anyway."
One 2015 placebo-controlled study undertaken by multinational beauty marketing company Amway did look at the efficacy of a topical retinol solution (at a concentration of 0.1% that is seen in many skincare formulas) in reducing wrinkles and found extremely positive results.
The study used 41 female participants who applied the retinol solution for 12 weeks and found that wrinkles were reduced by 38.74% in the eye area and 63.74% in the cheek area.
The study demonstrated the efficacy of the retinol solution with before and after photos that showed a dramatic reduction in fine lines on a participant's face.
The authors concluded "this study demonstrates that topical application of retinol significantly affects cellular and molecular properties of both the epidermis and dermis, as revealed by noninvasive imaging".
However, Feltis notes that this is a big claim when the statistical results only showed "borderline significance," he said. So "even though the pictures seem to show some big differences, the stats say that the difference was only just large enough to be not due to chance."
Dr Louise Smith, an adjunct research fellow in biomaterials and cell biology from the University of South Australia, told BuzzFeed Australia that it is important to recognise that active ingredients in cosmeceuticals are not easily absorbed by the living layers of the skin.
"The main problem everyone has getting a therapeutic through the skin is that its primary function is as a barrier," said Smith.
Smith says that the only skin cells that are alive and proliferating are at the base of the epidermis where topical products do not reach.
"It's a bit like the sponge cake below the icing, if the sponge cake collapses then no matter how good the icing is, the collapsed cake will show through," she said.
Feltis says that even if active ingredients have been shown to be effective in altering skin composition in laboratory settings, they are likely to be too diluted to show the same effects in over-the-counter products.
He says that if formulations showed great efficacy, they would not be available as unrestricted consumer products.
"Obviously if you've got something that actually has really, really strong effects on the body, then it actually becomes a pharmaceutical, right? You're not going to have something that's so potent that it's going to fundamentally alter the skin and just put it out there and just let people have it. It's going to be a disaster."
Blogger Gillies, however, maintains that cosmeceuticals have proven beneficial.
"The products I swear by, work," she said. "I don't think any product actually rids you of wrinkles but there are definitely some products which do help!"
Feltis believes that for the moment, the only scientifically-proven method of protecting the youthful appearance of skin is by avoiding sun damage.
"That photo-ageing process is real and it's a build-up of continuous damage to the collagen in the skin," said Feltis.
"So, obviously by far the biggest thing you can do is to protect your skin from UV because that's the thing that's really going to cause accelerated ageing."