YouTube Beauty Community

From SI410
Revision as of 13:45, 28 April 2019 by Laurzie (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

The YouTube Beauty Community is an online community of individuals who create and consume beauty-related videos on YouTube. Using the self-proclaimed title, “beauty gurus,” these individuals upload videos of make-up tutorials, product reviews, hair-styling tutorials, and skin-care routines. Additionally, some branch beyond beauty to discuss general life topics such as nutrition, fitness, and fashion. Some beauty-gurus like Michelle Phan have risen to national and even international prominence. As a result of YouTube success, gurus commercialize their personality into a full-time profession, creating their own merchandise, makeup lines, collaborating with brands, and offering makeup services.

Michelle Phan, the original beauty guru


The beauty community started as a very small subset of YouTube in 2006. Since then, the community has grown exponentially and now has its own category, 'How to & Style,' on YouTube. YouTube members may subscribe or "click that bell" to their favorite gurus as a way of easily keeping up-to-date on the latest beauty trends. Some gurus upload videos daily, while others upload weekly or once a month. In the early days, professionalism also varied, some gurus shot their videos using a phone in an informal setting (e.g. bedroom floor, kitchen table, couch,) while others shoot videos with the help of professional film and editing staff. However, the top beauty gurus as of 2019 all shoot with studio lighting, HD cameras, and very expensive setups.

First-Generation Gurus

In the early 2010s, the YouTube beauty community had just risen to prominence. YouTube was a unique platform as it allowed for makeup artists and amateurs to teach their skills to the rest of the world. Popular first-generation gurus included bubzbeauty, bebexo, Andrea's Choice and Kandee Johnson. At the time, they were all were known for their informative reviews, makeup skills, and friendly personalities. The content was very much information-driven, trying to allow the consumer to make the most informed choice on makeup products in order to spare their viewers from wasting their money on products that didn't work. Looks tended to be simple, allowing the everyday woman to copy them.

The most popular first-generation beauty guru was Michelle Phan, with over 1.6 million subscribers (She currently has over 8 million followers on her channel). Following her rise to fame from YouTube, Phan became a Lancôme representative, did makeup for 2010's Fashion Week, and appeared in multiple media articles including Seventeen, Vogue, and Forbes.[1] Phan also founded several companies: FAWN Inc. (For All Women Network), Ipsy, IQQU, and Em Cosmetics, along with her personal jewelry line, Ever Eden. Although FAWN, IQQU, and Ever Eden ultimately failed, IPSY revolutionized the beauty industry. As one of the first major "beauty box," or sample subscription service, IPSY allowed makeup lovers to try out new makeup by sending subscribers 5-7 new samples each month from a variety of makeup and skincare lines, all in a cute little makeup bag. Following the rise of IPSY, subscription boxes of all kinds rose in popularity, from beauty subscriptions such as IPSY to clothes, Japanese snack, natural products, and other boxes.

Phan eventually left her YouTube channel. Her last beauty video was posted on July 25, 2016. After almost a year of silence, her most recent video from 2017 is simply an explanation of why she left YouTube. Phan explained that she had been accused of being a sell-out after the launch of her makeup line, Em Cosmetics. Furthermore, Phan's demographics had been the everyday woman and not someone who could afford a giant, $75 dollar palette that looked like it came in cheap packaging. To fans, it was clear that Phan's relationship with her fans as a sweet, kind makeup teacher and friend had been shattered. They viewed her as a money-grabbing phony, who cared more for using her name to sell overpriced products than for her fans.

Changes from the first-generation dynamic were incredibly fast-paced. Big companies quickly realized the value of influencer marketing. As these gurus cultivated Parasocial Relationships with their followers, they were more trustworthy, and thus more effective advertising machines. As sponsors with their increasingly-lavish PR-products, brand-sponsored trips and outrageous sums of money demanded beauty gurus give sparkling reviews, the authenticity of influencers began to break down. Some became disillusioned and left YouTube altogether. Others collapsed under the pressure and became more infomercial channels than informative ones. These changes ushered in the second generation of beauty gurus.

Second-Generation Gurus

The next batch of beauty gurus to rise ironically embodied the various characteristics that Phan was criticized for. These gurus have far more outrageous personalities. They leverage parasocial relationships more than the first generation, filming vlogs, getting ready with me, and other video types that put their personality over their makeup review and tutorial creating abilities. As a result of this, their channels tend to feature their actual names, rather than some online username.

Their looks are more outrageous too - false eyelashes, heavy contouring, and graphic eyeliner were now the norm, compared to the early days of Michelle Phan and her everyday makeup.

Notable examples of popular second-generation gurus are James Charles, Jeffree Star, and Nikkie Tutorials. In fact, many YouTubers of the second-generation are holdouts from the first. For example, Bethany Mota (formerly Macbarbie07) and Promise Phan remained prominent from the first to the second generation, however, they did have to adopt some on new features of the second generation in order to maintain relevance.

Increased social awareness of colorism

The increased performance of social awareness is something that has also emerged in the second generation. Spearheaded by black beauty gurus such as Alissa Ashley, Jackie Aina, and Nyma Tang, their demand for makeup products that match their skin tone has revolutionized the makeup industry from both a guru and company standpoint. Today, many brands use their wide shade range as a selling point, and even gurus not affected by colorism have spoken out against brands without inclusive shade ranges. Companies also regularly appeal to gurus and consumers with their inclusive shade ranges. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna revolutionized the beauty industry with its launch of 40 foundation shades, which was unheard of for an initial launch prior to the beauty-guru led push for more inclusivity.

Video Types

In the beauty community, there are a number of themes commonly visited in videos. They favored information over materialism - in depth reviews, thorough tutorials, and fun, affordable home remedies were popular themes. Beauty gurus also cultivated parasocial relationships through tag videos, although most of their content was beauty-centric.

Older Video Types


Popular YouTube Beauty Guru Bethany Mota (as Macbarbie07) showing her purchases in a haul video.

A haul video shows the most recent beauty-related purchases of a guru from a shopping trip. Products range from drugstore quality to boutique standard, and can include makeup, clothing, accessories, and food. The video-bloggers (vloggers) hold up their purchase close to the camera as they describe the details of each item along with their personal review. Haul videos can be made sporadically after an exciting purchase, or often times on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly. The concept of haul videos is well known, even to the point of parodies [2], in the United States, but this phenomenon has recently spread internationally, and is especially popular with British teens. Many haulers strive to reach as many viewers as possible, and occasionally their videos become so popular that beauty companies begin to send them free products to expose to their follower base. [3]

Hauls have become widely recognized and increasingly marketable, with more than 159,000 posted as of 2010. Retail companies support the influence of these videos; they consider them to be free promotion. Companies such as JCPenney and Forever 21 have hosted haul video contests where entry videos show how they would style the company’s clothes and create fashionable ensembles. Judged by the company, other peers, or a panel of stylists, winners of these contests can win thousands of dollars.[4]

Product Reviews

A product review video is similar to a haul video, in the the guru describes a set of relatively recent purchases. In a product review however, the purchase is reviewed after the guru has used the product for a period of time in order to give a personal account of the function of the product. Typically, a guru will discuss particularly good and bad features of the product. At the end of the video, the guru will highlight the products they recommend to their viewers, including hyperlinks to purchase the product in the description bar of the video.

Tag Videos

Tag videos vary across different themes, but center around a set of staple questions the guru answers in a video. The guru then spreads the tag video by selecting a number of friends to make a video and complete the same tag. The most popular tag in the beauty community is “What’s in my purse?” in which gurus display the contents of their bags and give tips as to what items to carry or how to organize their bag. Other tags include “Monthly Favorites” where gurus display their most used and favorite products of the month as well as “Products I Regret Buying” in which gurus showcase products they regret purchasing as a method of informing their subscribers of low quality products.

Make-up Tutorials

Make-up tutorials are videos in which the beauty gurus teaches the viewer how to apply makeup to achieve a particular look. For example, a natural-look make-up tutorial would teach you how to use different make-up products and techniques to create a neutral, natural look. In a makeup tutorial, the guru goes through the entire process of creating a look from start to finish. While they are teaching, the beauty guru would usually inform the audiences what brand of make-up and accessories that they are using. They may also provide links and store locations of where the users can obtain these products. Topics of make-up tutorials vary a lot, typical ones include smoky-eye tutorial, clubbing make-up tutorial, Halloween make-up tutorial and more. Some of the other popular ones out there include tutorials that teach you how to do make up in 5 minutes or make up tutorials that are specifically designed for a season or holiday.

Home Remedies

Home remedies are videos in which the beauty gurus suggest solutions to solve different health problems using commodities that can easily be found at your house. These videos are very similar to the D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) videos. Some of the most popular ones include home remedies for acne, acne-scars, hair-growth, dark-circles, dry-lips, blackheads and etc. In these videos, the beauty gurus would usually start off with stating what the health problem is and why it exists. They then continue to talk about what common items can be used to treat those problems. Some of the popular common items that the beauty gurus suggest viewers to use include fruits, yogurt, sugar, milk, honey and other common goods that can be easily found in your household.

Newer Video Types

These emerged gradually. They tend to be more materialistic and less informative. They also focus on the viewer's parasocial relationship with the guru's personality more than the guru's makeup talent. Note that these new video types have emerged out of the industry and that their emergence does not indicate the complete eradication of old videos.

PR Unboxing

Makeup companies send gurus free products in exchange for the potential of featuring these products on their channels. In the past, PR unboxings featured 1 brand's new products, and the guru dedicatedly trying each product and attempting to give a thorough review. Recently, as changes in the algorithm have made it profitable for YouTubers in general to make longer videos, gurus have responded with 20-30 minute PR unboxings across multiple brands. While PR unboxings are a good way to allow gurus' followers to see new products before they are released to the general public, they contain little to no information on the performance of the products themselves. As a result of this viewers gain more information about the products' superficial packaging than they do about how the product will impact them.

First Impressions

Similar to the PR unboxing; features gurus trying products for the first time. While these contain more useful information about product performance than first impressions do, they are nontheless less helpful than a full, in-depth review.


Chatty Get Ready With Me

Catchy Clickbate Videos

The child of the tag video. However, rather than practical questions like "What's in my purse?", these videos go to impractical extremes: "A hundred layers of makeup" is an example of one.

Ethical Concerns


Before a FTC ruling in 2010, beauty gurus and bloggers did not have to disclose to their viewers that they were being compensated for a product review or being sent free products by a company. While this had made beauty gurus more transparent with their viewers, now, their viewers cannot tell the authenticity of these beauty gurus and how whether they actually enjoy the products or services they're sponsoring. Advertising prevails the beauty community on YouTube and in many ways reduces the content of these videos to be like infomercials. [5] It's difficult for viewers to trust whether a beauty guru is speaking highly of a product because they're receiving money to sponsor these products or if they genuinely like and use that product. Ads for the sponsored product also play before the video in order to push the brand even more onto the user. [6] To mitigate some of the backlash from watchers when seeing sponsorships, some YouTubers will say that a "friend" sent them the sponsored product, increasing the distrust the viewer has in the YouTuber. [7] According to Shannon Vallor, social media or entertainment platforms are threatening the value of authenticity and honesty, namely by giving the ability to misrepresent one’s personal interests, moods or experiences. When it is difficult for viewers to tell if beauty gurus truly enjoy the products they are showing or if they are getting paid to say they enjoy it, it is difficult for viewers to think they are being honest. Honesty includes putting one’s authentic self forward, even if it provokes the risk of being disliked or being misunderstood.[8]

FTC Compliance

Today, under FTC law “bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.” If a blogger is caught not disclosing this information they will face a fine of $11,000.[9] The new FTC rule attempted to increase the level of transparency between the vloggers and their viewers as a way to decrease deceptive and unfair practices. However, due to little enforcement, the beauty community is still very ambiguous about their product affiliations. Level of compliance can range from gurus clearly stating their ties with the company such as what they were given, and if they are being paid or may leave a simple sentence such as “I am being paid for this review. All thoughts are my own.”


Distrust between viewers and the beauty community has expanded to the companies as well, especially after an incident with beauty guru Teresa Ulrich (juicytuesday) and online retailer


In April of 2010, Ulrich gave a review of clothes she was sent for free by the company. Although the company asked her for only positive reviews, Ulrich gave an honest review stating, “My loyalty is to my subscribers… this [dress] is very awkward. It’s bad. I would wash my car with this.” Within twelve hours and 5,000 views, a HotMiamiStyles representative emailed Ulrich asking her to take her video down due to a drastic decrease in sales. This decrease in sales caused the company to fire two employees who “have babies to feed.”[10] Ulrich argued that her video alone could not cause such a drastic decrease in that short amount of time. Subscribers were thankful and appreciated Ulrich’s video proclaiming their general distrust of the company due to the only raving reviews from all the other videos.

See Also


  1. "About - Michelle Phan".
  2. "Jessie's Haul Videos: a PARODY by UCB Comedy"
  3. Stocks, J. (August 31, 2011)."Showing Fashion Hauls Thousands Strangers Online Shopaholics Young as TWELVE." Daily Mail.
  4. Schaefer, S. (August 19, 2011). "Translating Tech-Savvy Students’ Opinions into Valuable Marketing". MBS Textbook Exchange.
  5. White, Olivia. "The Rise of Beauty Gurus on YouTube: Has Sponsorship Destroyed Authenticity?" 17 January 2016. [1]
  6. White, Olivia. "The Rise of Beauty Gurus on YouTube: Has Sponsorship Destroyed Authenticity?" 17 January 2016. [2]
  7. White, Olivia. "The Rise of Beauty Gurus on YouTube: Has Sponsorship Destroyed Authenticity?" 17 January 2016. [3]
  8. Vallor, Shannon. "Social Networking Technologies and the Virtues" 11 August 2009.
  9. Ostrow, Adam. (October 5, 2009). "FTC to Fine Bloggers up to $11,000 for Not Disclosing Payments". Mashable.
  10. juicytuesday. "The truth behind 'HOTMIAMISTYLES'". Youtube.

(back to index)