How Gelcream Became a Beauty Product Review Genius
by Ella Cerón
The age of Instagram can make it easy to forget that makeup and skincare reviews didn’t always come with photographic evidence of how a product “works.” Nowadays, we have high-definition selfies and before-and-after swipe-throughs that detail every pore, blemish, and shimmer. Back then, we simply had product reviews, the comment modules at the bottom of product pages that let us into the lives of the brave people who tried lotions and potions before we did. And prior to that? All we had were the assurances of whatever department store employee we trusted most. But what if there was a middle ground, an aesthetically-pleasing resource that stripped away the glitz of a cut-crease and gave would-be buyers an honest rundown of what they really want to know? That’s where the Instagram account Gelcream comes into play.
On Gelcream’s page, you’ll find any number of beauty products, from nail polish to serum to foundation to the best cleanser to wash it all off at the end of the day. Each product receives its own dedicated Instagram grid post, away from the organized chaos of shelfies or makeup bags, complete with an unpaid, straightforward review (“I can’t say it changed my appearance but it is a solid product,” one recently read). Each tube, pot, and bullet is accompanied by a single hand — typically the only prop found on Gelcream’s page. Perhaps an aesthetically-pleasing leaf lingers in the background. Birth control pills once made an appearance, but beauty products get the most love.
This beautifully-curated, cult-favorite account is the brainchild of Yana Sheptovetskaya, a former fashion editor who launched the page as a creative outlet for herself in 2016. As she tells Vibes, the project was one of ten different Instagram accounts she had devoted to different interests. “I am a true Virgo, I love organizing and sorting things,” she explains. “Usually photos featuring a lot of products make me anxious; I start to think that I need it all or I want to throw at least half away. I always try to do things how I would like to see them; I like things that are minimalistic and simple, thoughtful and high-quality.”
Sheptoveskaya shoots her stripped-down product review pictures with an iPhone, and later edits in VSCO; she says she began holding the vials and bottles simply because she likes hands. “It was not my strategy to remove my face from the account but I do believe that it doesn’t matter how you look,” she says of her images. “I think beauty is a feeling and my reviews are quite emotional. I managed to create a trustworthy relationship with my audience via my photos and words.”
Beyond beauty reviews, Sheptoveskaya regularly updates her 105,000+ followers with the comings and goings of her everyday life, too. “I took the last two months off Instagram because I wanted to focus on myself, reenergize, read, research and refocus,” she explains. “I think my readers are fully aware there is a real person behind the account, with her own worries, problems and happy moments — I don’t hide those aspects of my life.”
As the account grows, so too do the opportunities for larger collaborations; Gelcream has teamed up with British Vogue, Into the Gloss, and Blue Apron, among others. Sheptoveskaya admits that while these shoots often take a special kind of care, she puts the same effort into her own projects. “Occasionally I shoot special stories for Gelcream, too,” she points out. In one, she raided her office for products lurking in drawers; another series featuring travel-ready products backlit by airplane windows went viral.
“I was surprised when that happened,” she now admits. “It is actually very awkward to photograph products like that, especially when your neighbors are watching.”
Through her relentless testing, she has learned what does and doesn’t work for her skin and her lifestyle, but she doesn’t believe that her word should be bond for everyone else. “Stick with what works for you and keep it minimal,” she urges when asked what advice she has for people trying to find products they like. “Do your research and learn how ingredients work; don’t just buy things because you saw a pretty photo of it or someone said it’s great. See a professional if you have skin problems and try to enjoy every minute of your day, focus on yourself, your life and happiness – skin will follow if you are happy and healthy.”
As for how to create an eye-catching Instagram of your own? Sheptoveskaya says that comes down to good, hard work. “It’s easy to get lost while looking around,” she says of the current digital landscape. “Focus on what you are and what you like, keep things original, and have fun.”
“Most importantly,” she urges, “don’t stop. Consistency is the key,” whether that’s for creative endeavors or landing a skincare routine that finally helps your skin clear up for good.