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My Imaginary Friends: The Beauty YouTuber Economy

My Imaginary Friends The Beauty YouTuber Economy The Hairpin


I also spent most of the first 20 years of my life lying around reading fashion magazines, and I devote significant time once a week to painting a new design on my fingernails. I can get down with a beauty regime that is about creativity, delight, self-invention, and self-care—not one that’s about obligation.

In a way that philosophy is embodied by these YouTube “beauty junkies,” who seem genuinely interested in products for products’ sake. Beauty YouTube is a huge and powerful corner of the site—there are a legion of these self-made beauty gurus, and the top dogs like Bethany Mota and Zoella have millions of subscribers. Theirs is a highly developed YouTube genre, with their videos falling in a number of predictable categories.

Many do tutorials of different makeup looks, often with an abashed caveat that they are not trained professionals. They do haul videos, in which they show what they bought on recent shopping trips. Most do a monthly, gushy roundup of their favorite products. There are “empties” videos, in which they talk about products they’ve used up; “what’s in my bag” videos; skin care routine videos; lookbooks showing that season’s outfits; and product reviews.

If these do not sound like they could possibly be interesting, trust me—they’re not. Many of the videos are long, pushing the fifteen-minute mark, extended spiels on thirty dollar cleansing waters or forty-five dollar Christian Dior lip balm. Beauty YouTube is less traditionally entertaining than it is narcotic, something you can tune in and out. Each video is made up of long, precise descriptions the women provide of the color, texture, consistency, feel, and smell of each product they discuss. “It smells like hot chocolate,” popular beauty vlogger Tati said of a lip gloss on a recent haul of new drugstore products, “but not hot chocolate that’s already made. It smells like a packet of hot chocolate.”

The descriptions are so exact that they are hypnotizing, but this minute attention is also countered by the hyperactive energy that is a prerequisite for beauty YouTube personalities. 

Stashed in: Young Americans, Beauty, YouTube!, hmmm...

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Like infomercials?

and they're making money while they drone on and on and on...

More entertaining than infomercials because they're not as slick.

And yes, they make a lot of money. Young people want to watch other young people they can relate to.

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