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Anyone who is as makeup-obsessed as I am has probably invested a lot of time into watching beauty gurus.  

Back in the day, the beauty guru to watch was Michelle Phan. When I was in middle school, I would binge-watch her videos before I even knew binge watching was a thing. She was creative, talented… therapeutic, even. And, she really balanced business with community. There were other big names, but nothing like her following. She was THE GIRL to watch.

And then, in 2016, she disappeared, and it created a vacuum in the community. Who was gonna take her place? Who was gonna become the “It” girl of YouTube?

There were a lot of people itching to fill that vacuum. And they are all the same. How you may ask? Lemme give you a few reasons:

They all promote unrealistic beauty standards.

I’m not gonna shame anyone who gets cosmetic surgery to make themselves feel happy. What I will shame, however, is the oversaturation of beauty gurus who spend exorbitant amounts of money to change parts of their body. Makeup is transformative but impermanent, and that’s what I love so much about it.

As individuals, it’s great for them; as a community of influencers, it’s not great for their viewers. I just wish that some of the top gurus embraced their natural beauty more.

I’m having trouble phrasing this. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for wanting to change a part of themselves to raise their self-esteem. I just think that as someone who is already unconfident about my looks (which is why I wear so much makeup), watching people who can afford to turn their already beautiful lips into even more beautiful lips makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me for not having that. I can’t imagine how a younger teen could feel watching these people. I guess it’s something that gurus can’t fix, but it’s worth mentioning.

What I really wanna focus on is skin. I have bad acne, and nothing pisses me off more than watching someone with porcelain skin try a full coverage foundation. Full coverage of what?

BUT HERE’S THE CATCH: BEAUTY GURUS DON’T HAVE PORCELAIN SKIN. Wayne Goss (a guru, yes, but one of the better ones) has an amazing video showing what good lighting and potentially a blurring filter can make your skin look like. Watch it.

Gurus have the same skin as the rest of us. Why hide it?

They all use the same products and promote the same “social media brands”.

“Tarte Shape Tape Concealer” may just be the last words I hear before I die. These words haunt me like the ghosts of my pet gerbils (RIP). Every guru swears by it (Tati, J*, MannyMUA, Laura Lee, Jaclyn, James Charles, Thomas Halbert, etc.). To be honest, after I saw my friend wearing it I finally went out and bought it myself, and it’s really quite good (paint for your face), but it’s annoying to listen to gurus consistently rave about it.

I also hate promotion for brands like Morphe, or Sigma, or Ofra. A lot of the people promoting these brands have coupon codes and are commissioned by these brands. By law, gurus must CLEARLY disclose when they make commission or have affiliate links to specific brands, but a lot don’t do it right. The worst part with companies like Morphe is that they come from an unreputable background. Morphe was once a private label brand. They are distributors. Don’t know what that means? What this video about it. But!!! Gurus still promote that shit! They use their $3 brushes with their $70 bronzers and expect you to believe it’s the brush that makes the makeup look great (the brushes suck), which gets me to my next point.

They all use very expensive items, or a large amount of makeup items.

There is nothing more aggravating than watching a guru test out a new primer by putting it on and then using a $100 foundation from La Mer on top of it. If the foundation looks flawless, is it because of the primer, or because of the amazing foundation? There’s a confounding variable.

That would be like if the guys from Top Gear put their star in a Ferrari (not the reasonably priced car) and told them to race their track. No matter how shitty the star might be at driving, they’re still gonna get a good time because they’re driving an uber fast speed machine.

Something I’ve seen only a little is a guru doing half their face with their preferred primer and foundation and half their face with the new primer and the preferred foundation.

Also, what makes me angry is that the average person (or the demographic of a lot of gurus, which is younger girls) is not gonna spend $225 on La prairie foundation ($7.50 a mL!). I wish more of them were… realistic. One “token drugstore item” will not make you relatable.

By testing out all of these new products, gurus give their users very serious FOMO. We want to buy all of this new stuff (that a lot of gurus get for free). We want to have all the new things. And then suddenly, we can’t stop buying the new things. How many sparkly warm eyeshadows do I need? How many bright highlighters? By promoting so much product, gurus make their consumers impulse buy to the point of actual makeup addiction (needing anything and everything as quickly as possible).

They all form a clique.

There is a set of Mean Girls on YouTube. Like… they actually fit those archetypes. Think I’m kidding? Then, imagine Jeffree Star as Regina George, and see if it’s hard to guess who Gretchen Weiners could be (MannyMUA). Then, try your best to guess who Karen Smith is (Laura Lee). Cady Heron (Tati)? And who are the Janis Ian’s (ex-friends of J* – Jaclyn, Nikkie, Jackie, Kat)? Mean Girls is satire. It’s unfortunate that life imitates art.

They haven’t actually replaced what was lost.

The main problem with gurus now is that they aren’t doing a tutorial. They do reviews (in which they do a pseudo-tutorial first impressions type deal using a new product), and unboxings, and weird challenges. Michelle Phan used the same products most of the time. It was guiding people through the process of creating a look using products she knew worked. It was teaching technique. Most gurus now read like… infomercials.

So… I think that’s the problem, then. YouTube is a business more than it’s a community now. It’s about selling and shilling, promoting and commissioning. I admire the hustle, but why does it seem that the hustle has become the focus and the community has taken a backseat?

And when will Michelle Phan come back and show these gurus how to do it right?

Image Credit: Feature,1,2,3


People call me Suz.
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