Oh, the internet… How can I begin to quantify your impression on our world? It’s too easy just to say the internet has altered and affected just about every aspect of our lives.
When it comes to the vast world of beauty, the internet elevated the number of voices that could be heard. Suddenly, more and more kinds of people could tell us what to think about beauty and makeup, what to use, and who to look like. The industry became more competitive, and perhaps even more democratic. The beauty landscape we have today is nowhere near the way it looked a generation ago, and that is largely due to the internet, if not completely.
You used to buy your makeup at the department store, with an array that today would seem oppressively limiting. Or you went to the drugstore for cheap and often low quality goods. Nothing like the shockingly well-priced items you can find today, that keep your wallet and makeup collection happy. Also out of the picture were the wild colors or inventive formulas we can sometimes take for granted today.
Not only did exposure on the internet open up a world of different style, it also led to more diversity in makeup which especially empowers buyers and producers of color. The internet raised our exposure to makeup and allowed for more to take part in the consumption and creation of beauty products, and has left us with a dizzying array of choices. Seeing everything that is available to us today made me want to reflect on the changes the beauty industry has undergone since the rise of the internet and social media.
Keep reading for just a few examples of how the internet has led to the beauty landscape we know today.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…
Think about all the places you can buy makeup now. Is it even possible? Brands from the smallest Etsy shop to large but under-the-radar international brands found success in the online beauty world, where they could compete with mainstream brands for the first time. All of these new brands popping up can be great, for example some of my favorite brands like Colourpop and Glossier started quite small and would not be made possible without the internet. Both are extremely well connected to the social media world in which they were born. But the noise can be deafening. There is always more to see, some fear that you are missing out on the next best product. If you can overlook superficial FOMO, plentiful options are a delightful effect.
The expansion of the internet on the beauty world has international implications as well. Think of two huge beauty trends right now: K-Beauty and skincare, and the elusive French Girl look. Now, you can find products by Tony Moly and Laroche Posay in your local CVS that used to be out of reach and probably off our radars just a few years ago. Social media has allowed international brands and styles to reach an audience in the US and beyond that used to be much more exclusive.
Looking skin deep at the internet’s effect on beauty, I notice how access to information has transformed the way we look. In terms of makeup, the range of looks is just unlike what we saw before. We simply have way more choices! Self-expression and inspiration is endless on apps like Instagram, where before makeup ideas were borrowed from celebrities, fashion magazines, and runway shows. Basically, a limited array that was reflected in the limited options in stores. I think another element of social media strength is that it affects style itself, not just the way we consume.
The Power of the YouTuber
The world of makeup on the internet is vast and lucrative: countless beauty YouTubers with many millions of subscribers watch them rate and review products often with extreme judgement. Brands now have an audience that will leap down their throat, so no more phoning it in like they could have in the past. You don’t even have to be a YouTube mogul; many times before I buy a beauty product online I’ll do a quick search about it on YouTube to check out a reaction video if I can, and usually I’ll find an assortment of very small channels. Everyone is invited to the conversation, big or small. And in able to survive and thrive, makeup brands took notice.
Take a walk around Sephora and see what kind of collaborations are taking front and center. No, it’s not with celebrities. It’s those with beauty YouTubers that will be recognized, and idolized, by many Sephora customers. Take Benefit’s collaboration with many top YouTubers like Jeffree Star and Laura Lee, Chloe Morello for Ciaté, or Amrezy for ABH. Even drugstore brands are taking notice. Remember James Charles’ role as the first Coverboy? Beauty YouTubers represent the wants and needs of customers, who, given their platforms, are able to reach millions and millions of other consumers. This power is recognized and acknowledged by beauty brands, who listen in a new way to the people buying their products. Now, social media sites like Instagram in particular have joined YouTube in terms of accessing beauty. You don’t even need a fancy camera for filming videos to become a beauty and makeup influencer. There are endless makeup pages on Instagram to suit any inclination, from product reviews from aestheticians to traditional artists creating masterpieces on their eyelids. I find that this is the first leg of the democratization of the beauty industry. For makeup’s modern history, trends were initiated and led by whatever women and girls would find in one of the few magazines on stands. Today’s sometimes frantic energy encourages competition, which in turn has the ability to open up the beauty world to more people.
Beauty Is For Everyone
Accessibility and accountability: two significant aspects of our lives, which are now being considered by the beauty industry more than ever. The one-color-fits-all world is in the past. It is monumental that brands are now expected to produce makeup that suits skin tones that actually represent what the world of beauty enthusiasts looks like. Women of color have been able to use social media and the internet in general as a tool make brands give them the respect and acknowledgement they deserve. A milestone was Rihanna releasing Fenty Beauty’s 40 inclusive shades, and now you find this “Fenty effect” in brands from the drugstore to the luxury aisle. Now, more women than ever before are able to see what works for them online, from swatches to YouTubers whose skin tone they share, and they can see it in stores too. If women are supposed to hold their self-worth in line with their perception of their own beauty, it is crucial that you are able to see yourself as a welcome and equal part of that world.
The internet has allowed the people to hold brands to higher expectations. Now practically anyone with wifi is able to take part in the idea of beauty, whether they want to inspire a new trend, critique the industry, discuss products, or start a company of their own. By providing endless platforms to come together and discuss something like makeup, that humans have been using for hundreds of years, the internet helps us make noise in what used to be a one-voice world.