Online communities like Makeup Alley, the
Makeup Addiction subreddit, and Beautylish popped up and became places where women could frankly discuss and review products. And anyone with internet access could go to their local drugstore, buy a new Maybelline collection, review it online, and call themselves a beauty blogger. Michelle Phan
inspired a generation of young women — and now, increasingly, young men — to become self-taught makeup artists on YouTube.
This more democratic review process meant that women started getting suspicious of beauty stories in magazines, where advertisers’ products are often featured prominently and models are usually young and white (though model casting has become a bit more diverse in recent years). Seeing how a lipstick looks on someone who has a similar skin tone or facial features makes it much easier to purchase that lipstick online without trying it first.
Then came Instagram, which arguably took everything up a notch. Makeup is a visual medium and Instagram gave people the platform to showcase this perfectly. It also gave small, indie makeup brands a place to flourish. ColourPop, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, and Anastasia Beverly Hills got hundreds of thousands of followers before magazines and mainstream websites ever knew they existed. Instagram personalities sold the shit out of these sold-online-only brands, just by wearing them and talking about them.
Mainstream brands like MAC, which never worked with Instagram influencers much, have gone all-in on Instagram now. Instagrammer Jaclyn Hill put Becca Cosmetics on the map after a highlighter collaboration with the brand, and Too Faced causes a social media frenzy with every cutesy food-themed palette it releases. Coincidence that Esteé Lauder just acquired these two brands? Nope.
People make fun of Instagram makeup for its tackiness and the fact that, at first glance, everyone looks the same: “Instagram eyebrows,” contouring, strobing, matte lipstick. But I’ve spent a lot of time this past year at events like Generation Beauty and Beautycon, and attendees have told me over and over that they love Instagrammers because they’re all so different. They find young women and men who look like them, who have their same hair type or skin tone, and they trust them to take their beauty advice.
Following beauty online is also just fun. I love that we live in a time where people are willing to be on a waiting list for seven months for a rainbow highlighter we all saw online once — with no need to try it on first. —Cheryl Wischhover, senior beauty reporter