Online reviews are the new word of mouth in today's digital age. They shape how we shop, where we eat, where we lodge and how we dress. In terms of the beauty and spa industries, reviews help us form our decisions regarding which skin care products to purchase and where to go to get our favorite spa procedures.

Moreover, if you are a spa, medical spa or salon owner, then positive and negative reviews can make or break your business. And because these reviews play such a critical role in our businesses and our everyday lives it begs the question: Are reviews reliable or the new fake news?

According to, a major skin can brand has admitted to creating fake positive reviews of their products on a regular basis. Sadly, they only came clean about it after an email from a former employee was leaked on Reddit.

Sunday Riley, the brand behind such products as Luna Sleeping Night Oil and Good Genes, has confessed to encouraging employees to post several reviews of some of their most popular products. Not only did the company push them to create reviews but also admitted to coaching them on how to do it while hiding their IP addresses so reviews could not be traced back to them.

If that's not unscrupulous enough, it also illustrated to employees how to write a "relatable" review so the write-up would appear more authentic.

Sunday Riley spoke out and blamed negative reviews posted by competitors and claimed they felt a need to do this because it's crucial "to swing opinion" about their products.

Is this just an isolated incident in the beauty world or the new normal? Perhaps with a critical eye we will be able to spot fake reviews in the future.

Hayley Schueneman recently reported in her article, titled, "How to Spot a Fake Beauty Review," on The Cut that there are several tell-tale signs of fake beauty reviews online and she spells-out exactly what to look for.

She says to be wary of reviews that are full of "beauty buzzwords and jargon." Because if reviews are not written in common, well-known language, then they are likely fake and created by an employee or owner of a company. Moreover, reviews containing many repetitive terms is another red flag.

For instance, if a mascara review were to mention the words mascara, lashes, thickening, lash, longest lash, etc., then you know that the author is using these words purposefully to boost the SEO for a particular product and make it extremely visible on a Google search, for example.

Another SEO boosting trick, according to Schueneman, is to create a review that is lengthy: 100 to 150 words, to be exact. Reviews in this word count range should raise eyebrows because they tend to reiterate the same sentences two to three times in a slightly different way to, once again, optimize search results online.

Also, be suspicious of reviews that aim to invalidate a specific claim. Be warned, that a company often knows about the inherent problems or complaints involving their products and will produce reviews that are crafted to even the playing field.

The other major questions to consider when reading reviews of beauty products online are: What was the integrity of the product reviewed? Was the product used according to the instructions and guidelines for proper dosage? And, what motive does the reviewer have for leaving a review?

As we know, thousands of products turn up for sale online that are expired, in outdated packaging and may have been purchased and returned by various vendors. This leaves us looking at a review that is based on a damaged, ineffective or ineffective formulation. It's not say that the product or product line as a whole is bad but perhaps the reviewer had a negative experience with a product that was defective and should not have been for sale in the first place.

Competitors of a brand are also known for buying up large quantities of their rival's products and leaving horrible reviews just to thwart competition. It's a dirty little game that some companies are willing to play — and may even allocate a budget. Most reviews, as long as they are proceeded by a "verified purchase" are allowed to stay online under a product's listing, whether they are valid or not.

It's no wonder that consumers are confused about reviews online. In the end, it's our job, as spa professionals to make sure that our clients' skin care purchases occur in our spa after a treatment and/or a thorough skin analysis.

When clients walk out the door empty-handed and are left to their own devices to research a skin care regimen based on online reviews or information from biased sources, they will not have positive outcomes. We should encourage them to work synergistically with our spa staff members to create high-performance, professionally tailored protocols of skin care products on a consistent basis.

In the age of fake news, don't forget about beauty reviews as well! Have honest discussions with your spa clients about which products they are using at home and where they procure them. Share the dangers of buying professional beauty products online that should always be sold within a clinical or spa setting.

Online reviews are not always what they seem and it is our job to help our clients make the most informed decisions about their skin care needs.