Vloggers: How Social Media is Shifting the Makeup Industry

8:45:00 AM

Recently, I've been thinking quite a lot about the vlogging trend that's currently consuming our social media feeds and it's made me wonder how much impact is social media having on makeup professionals. 

A study orchestrated by Research and Markets revealed that 'the global cosmetic market was 460 billion USD in 2014 and is estimated to reach 675 billion USD by 2020.' (Businesswire.com) That's a shockingly large amount of money, and when it came to establishing the main catalysts of this worldwide incline in cosmetics spending, many researchers identified 'social media' as the primary driving force. Which is completely valid cause think about it, when it comes to exhibiting products and generating buyer interest, most brands are now utilising their social networking platforms quite extensively. Just consider the concept behind 'reposts', which basically encourages makeup buyers to produce brand-endorsed content (like a mini makeup tutorial video or get you to spend hours creating a makeup look in your bedroom using the brand's products) in hopes that they'll notice your hard work and exchange it for free publicity on their official social media accounts. I mean it's pretty genius; you're having millions, literally millions of women and men showcase your products' capabilities and market them without you having to spend a cent. 

This particular marketing scheme has now led to the introduction of makeup vlogging — a trend where beauty enthusiasts film themselves creating a variation of beauty looks on their own bodies, publishing and sharing these videos on platforms like Instagram or Youtube, which, I'd like to add, is super-handy for those who are either inexperienced or uninformed on how to achieve and perfect specific makeup looks, styles and techniques. However, overtime what I've noticed (as well as many others in the beauty industry) is that the current makeup vlogging rage has resulted in a distorted perception on makeup artistry, and essentially what the occupation 'makeup artist' truly means. 

To just put this article into motion, let me start off by giving you a few online definitions of the term 'makeup artist': 

  • 'A makeup artist is someone who uses cosmetic techniques and processes to create beauty upon the human body. In its simplest form, it enhances a person's appearance, bringing out colour and features and hiding or smoothing out flaws, using cosmetic products.' (Thebeautyschoolsdirectory.com
  • 'A make-up artist is a professional artist that uses mediums applied to the skin to transform or enhance the appearance of a person.' (Sokanu.com
  • 'A make-up artist ensures that models, performers and presenters have suitable make-up and hairstyles before they appear in front of cameras or an audience.' (Prospects.ac.uk

Notice how each definition highlights the idea of producing makeup work on another person or model and not on 'oneself.' With the growing interest towards makeup vloggers (who style and showcase beautiful makeup looks on themselves), I've noticed in the past that a few of them actually classify and advertise themselves as 'makeup artists' whether in their online biographies or on social media. However, if we observe their craft in the professional sense, are they really makeup artists? 

Last year, I came across an article by Malia Miglino where she put forward this exact question, stating: 

'Just because you make videos of yourself putting on makeup does not necessarily mean you can show up on a set and do the same thing professionals do. Applying makeup to other people is different than putting it on yourself.' (Msinthebiz.com

And to some extent I do agree with her. Without the education I received in makeup, I'd probably be clueless on how to approach the many dilemmas most artists face when doing makeup. Consider pigmentation, redness and uneven skin tone, how would you deal with that? How is dry skin prepped differently to oily or combination skin? What if you don't have the right foundation on hand (this is often a common occurrence), which ones would you mix to create the perfect one — keeping in mind how shades differ according to their distinct undertones. Basically what I'm trying to say is that there's a lot more to makeup than just foundation matching. And if you don't have an adequate amount of knowledge on how to tackle...pretty much every kind of skin type and tone (besides your own or others that are similar to your own), isn't that just defying the crux of makeup artistry as a profession and what it means to be a makeup artist?

So is it wrong for some vloggers to brand themselves as 'makeup artists'? Is this wrongfully discrediting those who: 
1. Have spent thousands of rands to acquire the skill professionally and to have a certified diploma in their pocket or, 
2. When finances are low, have alternatively and, in some cases, concurrently sacrificed months to spend endless hours on production sets, hustling at retail stores, fashion weeks and assisting other artists at photoshoots in aim to accumulate a great amount of experience under gruelling time constraints in order to earn (emphasis on ‘earn’) the 'title of a makeup artist.' 

This issue is actually reminiscent of past discussions, particularly one around photography, when owning a professional camera became a trend amongst youngsters; with many publicising blogs with personal photography, labelling themselves as photographers for the sole reason that they had a professional camera in hand. This demonstrated a rather ignorant mind-set that ‘if I own a professional camera, my images are therefore professional’ — a slightly offensive outlook for qualified, experienced (non-amateur) photographers as this not only diminishes their craft and the many months and years spent assisting professional photographers or testing to advance their talents, but it also undermines the technicalities, knowledge and immense expenditures that come with commercial photography. 

Truthfully there’s no hoo-ha around the makeup artistry vs. makeup vlogging matter — people are aware of it but don't discuss it openly. Why? Well I think in the past, makeup artistry was often an overlooked career field, it wasn't taken seriously (it's only recently that people are recognising the influence makeup has globally, particularly through social media). Also, this specific conversation is rarely raised because vlogging is a relatively new practice — especially in South Africa. 

So one question I'd like to raise is, do qualifications even matter in the makeup industry anymore? And will social media recognition soon prevail or be deemed more valuable than professional experience? Let's consider Kendall Jenner for a second — different industry domains I know — but she's someone who's attracted some serious flak lately as many people are arguing that a lot of her success simply rides down to her online recognition. Even Calvin Klein touched on this issue recently, telling People Magazine that nowadays 'models are paid for how many followers they have. They’re booked not because they represent the essence of the designer, which is what I tried to do — they’re booked because of how many followers they have online. I don’t think long-term that is going to work. I don’t think that’s a great formula for success for the product you’re trying to sell.' (Dlisted.com)

Overall, I just think this is a really interesting topic and a debate that should be brought to the forefront and addressed. And I really hope in the future it generates a much broader discussion on the many ways social media is shifting the fashion and beauty industry as a whole.

*Still above was photographed by Gemma Mary Shepherd / Urbangem.co.za.
*Products featured in the still above are from L'Oreal, NYX, Maybelline and Lancôme.

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  1. I definitely think this is a valid argument - I know I've had it myself with regards to the photographer vs person with a camera discussion (to this day, no matter where my photos end up, I don't don the title because I haven't earned it). It's especially important seeing as I'm branching into the beauty and make up vlogging domain and I know I've seen many vloggers who've distinctively said they're not make up artists and have no intention to be. That authenticity matters because I know from even doing my friends' make up for events, doing make up on other people is incredibly hard! And it's really okay if that's not who you are - just don't don the title. But for some of the work I've seen, I feel like make up vlogger/enthusiast isn't an accurate enough title because some of the work is truly art, so it's weird to know where the line stands. I personally believe in the ability to do another person's make up if you don the MUA title and you shouldn't use it otherwise. Well thought out piece, thank you for it!