The face behind ‘Instagram makeup’ (Year 2)

2nd year feature with a brief of for The Sunday Times Style

The face behind ‘Instagram makeup’

Find out how the online beauty community is affecting its followers.

In the same month Meghan Markle publicly shamed social media and its impact on young people’s mental health, it was reported by Statista that Instagram claims nearly 500 million daily users of the app with the like button being tapped 4.2 billion times per day. The app, and other social media platforms alike, has become a daily part of our lives and left many of us unable to remember what life was like before we could watch the Kardashians post their Halloween pictures, see what #ootd your friend is wearing or lose yourself in an array of makeup hack videos. Social media has become a breeding ground for the beauty community which now accounts for millions of women (the ‘make up tutorial’ tag on Instagram currently has 13.7 million posts). With a never-ending supply of images and videos of makeup application and trends, Instagram has given birth to the rise of the face of this generation; Instagram make up. The look itself is defined by heavy application of skills to perfect the face. What would a make-up bag be without a contour stick? With so much research and concern into the effect of social media in general, what effect is the cult following of online beauty having on everyday women?

The online beauty community that spans homepage to homepage of women all over the world can be blamed for the conquering of our shopping habits by the beauty industry, and the long list of charges to that so miraculously appear on our monthly bank statements. The make-up and self-grooming industry have boomed in recent years and with a constant conveyer belt of new products for us to try in #spon posts, it’s clear to see where the relationship with social media lies. It’s no coincidence that while beauty content on YouTube was only at 13 million videos in 2013, the UK beauty industry was valued at 13 million, yet flashforward 5 years and countless likes later, beauty content is at 169 billion and the market value has risen to 15306 million.   

On the mainstream popularity of makeup, Navaz Batliwalla, blogger at DisneyRollerGirl and cofounder of beauty collective The Beauty Conversation, says “the extreme make-up looks of the last 5 years - contour, Instagram brows, extreme lashes - have come from social media too. The fact that Instagram influencers have become celebrities means that these extreme looks have filtered down to the mainstream, even though they look quite scary in real life. That means that women who previously maybe didn’t wear extreme make-up have been swayed to ‘up their game’ in order to be fashionable. It’s great for make-up brands, perhaps not so great for the consumer’s bank account.” The change in sales and offered products by brands rely greatly on what the beauty pages decide is the next big thing before the big bosses at every make up brand hop onto the ever-moving band wagon. Judith Clemente, digital marketer at upcoming makeup brand 3INA, says “Usually what becomes viral on social media has a consequence on our sales in ecommerce and in store. Social media definitely has a big influence in our results,” Vital evidence of this comes in the form of trusty highlighter which in the days of B.C (before contour) was a rarity, only seemingly now in this Instagram era do brands offer us ways to glow in all different forms. But what does this mean for those affected, those that follow these pages and those that are exposed to the Instagram makeup?  

Before the days of Instagram hacks and tutorials, makeup was an enhancement and coloured mascara was as out there as the everyday women went. Now however, baking means something more than a cake and heavy makeup changes our bone structure in Kim K style contour. We’re no stranger to a daily 10- step makeup routine and in a self-conducted survey, 100% of women agreed they more commonly wear full faces of makeup because of social media. Batliwalla describes the change being that “women consume so much more make-up, they seem to be more experimental and the speed of change is a lot faster. There is a certain type of peer pressure in social media; you’re doing it for the likes so the more extreme your transformation, the better.”. Instagram has seemingly dictated the change in women’s makeup routines and set the new standard of beauty; BA Makeup and Hair for Fashion student Larissa Cox explains that “there’s a lot more imagined pressure-especially for younger girls to have a certain type of makeup. I think as the online ‘beauty community’ has evolved over the past few years so has the type of makeup people wear and ask for. It’s heavier, it’s cookie cutter, there’s a style going round currently where a lot of influenced women ideally want what’s popular on social media I.e. glossy lips, half cut crease, it’s even gone as far as particular shaped facial features/complexion/ eye colour are strived for.”  

Is this phenomenon of heavy-handed makeup and desire for a full face of makeup as complex as it seems? Perhaps we just know more about make up. Knowledge is key and with millions of tutorials online from self-proclaimed ‘beauty gurus’, knowledge is easy to come by. Beauty gurus teach skills to the masses with their cult followings eager to learn how to wing an eyeline or Kylie Jenner style line a lip and their teachings are evident from the 100% of asked woman that say they know more about make up because of Instagram and YouTube videos. Make-up artist Ellie Yates says that we now have “access to a vast amount of makeup artists who are constantly pushing the boundaries and documenting it.”. In a time when social media seems to be the be all and end all, a blind eye cannot be turned to the impact of ‘Instagram makeup’- it seems to be more than just fun and games  

Referring back to Meghan Markle’s statement it now seems to resonate more. Social media is a buzz word in research and how it affects its users seems to be that of a hot topic but so little insights have been made into the tips and tricks of ‘how to fake a nose job’ and ‘how to cover acne’ being handed to us wrapped up in quirky 30 second videos behind non-copyrighted music on our much loved explore pages. The beauty community and its obsessional offer of perfection tell us something about ourselves and how we should be, which we seem to soak up like a ‘beauty blender’ itself. But just how unhealthy is the constant search for the next big trend and next best product to transform our face? Cox explains that it’s down to women “wanting this flawless and filtered look that they see on ‘instafamous’ women that isn’t attainable. It’s damaging as there isn’t always upfront honesty on why their makeup looks like that and women can’t seem to achieve that for themselves. I work in makeup retail and see girls as young as 10 asking me to colour correct their freckles away with a red lipstick.”  

The smoke and mirrors come to play in the magic world of makeup, with cult classics even being named the likes of ‘magic foundation’, when everyday woman can’t achieve in their morning routine the same look the Instagram sensations achieve in a 30 second video. Yates adds that “‘instamakeup’ is creating a false ideal for the average women. These makeup looks are not created in the traditional 20/30 minutes, they require a huge amount of time, effort and retouching 80% of the time. “The revolutionary videos and images plastered on our phone screens show only the highlight reel and hide from us the reality behind the heavy handed, full face of perfection. In a world where women are expected so much, it seems that Instagram makeup is just another unrealistic expectation for women, this time disguised as a big sister or friend willing to give you a hand. 

As the search for the next transformation trend continues, the impact of Instagram makeup is plaguing a generation of women and as we double tap into more and more expectations of ourselves we fail to realise the impact it really has. The online beauty community is costing more than just money and with millions upon millions of followers- these gurus are leading armies. But to battle what exactly? Themselves perhaps.

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