There is something truly mesmerising about YouTube videos. The beauty and fashion community in particular is populated by the kinds of beautiful, awesome women my teenage self imagined might make the best of friends. I can spend hours – days even – just browsing around and getting lost in the content. (It makes some of the best background music for my painting and knitting.)
It’s inspirational. It’s aspirational.
I’m someone who bloomed pretty late (if “blooming” is even the word for it) and I didn’t really develop an interest in beauty and cosmetics until I was in my twenties – therefore, a bit too old for the “beginner” advice out there. So I turned to YouTube for guidance and support.
It started off well – I learned about why I should use moisturiser and SPF, for example – and I even started my own beauty blog. I was getting *read* beauty advice from *real* women – consumers like myself who just wanted to talk about their favourite products. I discovered some amazing things off YouTube.
But somewhere along the way, things changed.
It wasn’t just that I was hoarding stuff that, quite frankly, I didn’t need – there’s been enough ink spilled on that matter – but also, a lot of the stuff that I was getting… just wasn’t doing it for me. And I could not understand why.
These days, I’ve diversified my watchlist a bit. I’ve moved away from the Gleam Futures family and started watching people with smaller channels; older YouTubers; people who are or have been employed in the beauty industry, either on the manufacturing side or the marketing side; people with some background in chemistry or just people with loads of experience in cosmetics who actually know what they’re talking about. And I discovered that, while my favourite YouTubers are great entertainers and content-makers, they aren’t exactly knowledgeable when it comes to product recommendations.
Here are some things that I wish I’d known:
It takes more than a couple of weeks to see results from skincare.
Makeup has an expiration date.
Some people take money to do sponsored content – which is fine – but they weren’t always upfront about it.
Some people just don’t bloody do their research beyond the press release – thus side-stepping issues like animal cruelty, exploitative employment practices, and pinkwashing.
I am far from the most socially conscious person in the world. Sometimes I am at an emotional breaking point, I need to pull back, or else burn out. Sometimes my wallet just can’t handle the sheer cost of ethical buying, in addition to daily expenses like petrol money and food. Sometimes I just want to live my life painlessly without criticism from all the imaginary others in my head, telling me I should be a better person (thank you, anxiety.)
But I confess, there is a lot of cringing I do now, too.
I cringe when I see Asos hauls, because I have read about what is going on at their shipping centres.
I cringe when I see sponsored videos on skincare, knowing full well that this blogger wouldn’t actually be using this as part of a long-term routine.
I cringe whenever I’m told I need something in my life when both I and the person telling me this know, there is no conceivable way for me to use up ANOTHER neutral eyeshadow palette by the time it goes bad, and then I have to run the gauntlet of eye infection versus feeling like I wasted my money.
I cringe when brands “team up” with bloggers, not because I hate the products that come out of it – I don’t buy them – but because it promotes more of the same “buy, buy, buy” mentality that drives unethical manufacturing practices.
I cringe when bloggers say that this is their true opinion and they really believe in the brands they advocate for – because even when it’s true, I still don’t feel like I can trust them. “These people may act friendly,” I think, “but they don’t know me, and yet they speak to me as if they do.” It’s one thing to have ads at the start of your channel – by all means, monetise your video, earn some money – at least I know what it is and what to expect from it. But then you’re supposed to watch someone who is “just like you”…. and it is quickly apparent that this is not the case.
I love YouTube and I hate it. I love it because it helps fill the silence and keeps me afloat when I’m feeling down. But I also hate it, because it’s quickly turning into a marketing tool, and I’m sick of having products shoved down my throat. It’s good that I took up knitting recently – it keeps me from scrolling around websites.