What is your role in the organisation you are leading?

I work as a Brand Manager in Olival, Croatian cosmetics company with tradition longer than 27 years. My business scope is somewhat specific. I am lucky to be able to express my interest in a wide spectrum of tasks, and to work in more than a few domains I’m personally interested in, from content creation for social media and blog, everyday customer care to PR, influencer marketing strategy development and coordination, different projects focused on corporate social responsibility, as well as taking a part in R&D team.

How would you describe the mission and expertise of your organisation in the field of media literacy/ critical thinking/ fact checking/ countering disinformation?

With the growth of social media, especially Instagram, TikTok and Facebook groups, everything became even more simplified and more accessible to the audience – knowledge and fake information simultaneously. Learning, fact-checking and realizing right from wrong became harder in the cosmetics field, too. Therefore, our biggest mission is the thorough education of our customers on many different levels. We try to educate through the themes and information we present on our blog, FAQ web section and social media, but also in direct, 1 on 1 communication with clients, where we always try to offer in-depth answers that will provide a much deeper understanding of the matter and stop disinformation that are, unfortunately, very common and sometimes, very harmful.

What are the main resources developed by your organization you’d be willing to share?

As we are a company based in EU, we are obliged to follow and comply defined and strict regulations on cosmetic products. I would say that the core resource for cosmetics in Europe is Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on cosmetic products. This document ensures that every cosmetic product designed, formulated and made in Europe is safe in its final form for the final buyer and user.

Which are, in your opinion, the three biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation in your country?

When I observe the current situation skincare-wise, I can see that some myths successfully perpetuate in the discourse although they were explained and deconstructed more than few times on different sources and occasions. For example, topics like sun protection are processed in different perspectives of cosmetic brands, doctors that are public figures, and different “niche” skincare influencers. They all emphasize the importance and proven safety of wearing sunscreen, but still some people doubt the safety of UV filters or their influence on vitamin D synthesis.  To conclude, it’s still hard for people to fact-check and to believe brands (that are following an array of different regulations) on these kinds of topics more than simply anonymous Internet users or “the person next door” with anegdotal experience. To put it more simply, it seems that people don’t have the trust, interest and will to know better.

Could you name three solutions that you implemented or else want to recommend as an advice how to counter disinformation, strengthen societies’ critical thinking skills and build civil resilience to disinformation?

We are trying to put a stronger focus on everyday education through our social media account on different topics like active ingredients, their use, combining and such. We like to use different fun formats and simplify the communication, even gamify the learning path through Instagram story quizzes, which makes the experience more casual and relaxed. Also, we use our website, especially the FAQ section and blog, as a place for everyone to easily find the answers about our products and the most important or trendy topics related to personal care.

What are the top three events or dates you have witnessed this year that have caused an intensification of disinformation activities?

I didn’t notice such events or dates, but I feel that in our field of cosmetics, the intensification of disinformation happened during the pandemic, with the rise of social media usage and webshops, especially in 2020.

In your opinion, which future three dates/events are likely to bring about the intensification of disinformation activities in 2021?

Hopefully, the intensification period is over. I’m optimistically looking at things.

Have you been relying on any fact-checking tools? If yes, please describe them or share the links.

I like to read Croatian Faktograf.hr, but as a professional with a university degree in Journalism, I learned to “dig deeper” starting from the browser’s first page. Tools and sites depend on the topics I’m trying to learn more on.

Would you like to highlight any of the disinformation cases you have witnessed/discovered/debunked?

In our field of work that is cosmetics, fortunately, we witness debunked myths almost every day of the week. We debunk them for every person that shows interest. I’ll try to make a context with one simple example. Some users firmly believe that in skincare vitamin C can’t be used with niacinamide (vitamin B3). Our job is to explain the differences between derivates – ascorbic acid needs a product pH of around 3.5 to be (more) stable and provide effects to the skin and niacinamide works in a much less acidic pH. When used together, the acidic pH of the media (product) can cause hydrolysis of niacinamide and the effect of flushing (face redness). Derivates of vitamin C like SAP (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) demand the same product pH just like niacinamide, so they can be safely used together without any countereffects to the skin.

In your opinion, who are the best performing actors – in your country, as well as in the EU – playing crucial roles in the field of media literacy today and why?

As mentioned before, Faktograf.hr is one good example of Croatian initiatives for better media literacy. I would like to emphasize one interesting thing – Facebook pages dedicated to fighting against clickbait and fake news, led by private persons or citizen groups that are also popular in Croatia. On the more global ground, media literacy is still a very fragile thing, wounded by events and phenomena like US presidential elections, COVID-19, QAnon rise, anti-vaxxer movement, etc. It’s a complex problem and we all have to take a part in the solution, through our personal and business life.


Interview published in July, 2021.

Sara Jerman

Brand Manager at Olival Cosmetics
Enthusiastic, workaholic, strategic.