The beauty vlogging industry has flourished since the early innocent days when I eagerly awaited YouTube makeup tutorials. It was fascinating, and it still is, but four years on and I’m less inclined to take up beauty recommendations from vloggers who have achieved global fame.
Beauty vloggers regularly appear in corporate campaigns for beauty products nowadays, whereas in its infancy beauty vlogs were completely independent of any commercial advertising. Part of the appeal was that you were getting real opinions from people who weren’t being paid by the industry to promote products, but more and more now do we see viewers being left behind at the gates of London Fashion Week when Rimmell invites a vlogger along as a VIP guess.
Those vloggers who have reached something like two million viewers, are now celebrities in their own right; they have PR teams, they get spotted in the street and their nods to products are highly sought after by big beauty and fashion houses. And why not? After all, they’ve forged a career out of producing creative videos which they film and edit themselves. Vloggers have made social networking a vocation in itself, but the question is whether the commercial success of vlogging and the increasing fame of its pioneer, may have distanced the once open and intimate bond between vlogger and viewer. Nowadays a popular vlogger may be so busy with other commitments she is unable be vlog for several weeks and viewers, including myself, are left anxiously refreshing the page for updates; the thing is that her vlogging has spurred her onto new promotions and adventures and she now must keep a lid on campaign projects, book deals and makeup line releases. Transparency between vlogger and viewer becomes inevitably less, and you can’t help but feel sort of cheated when you thought you were a fly on every vlogger’s wall.
There is something weirdly compelling about watching a vlogger make a cup of tea in the morning, exfoliate, and then take her dogs out for a walk, but beauty vloggers now discuss almost anything lifestyle related in their videos, and I feel slightly overwhelmed by the huge fixation on material wealth and cosmetic branding. The vlogger doesn’t just stop at eulogising her favourite makeup products, but her favourite shower gel, her favourite tea or even her favourite dental floss. These products may genuinely capture the interest of some beauty fanatics, but listening to somebody talk about their preferred hand soap for fifteen minutes may just be pushing viewer’s interest.
I always understood the beauty vlogging niche to be about finding great beauty products which were dupes for more expensive products but a quarter of the price. I think it’s fair to say that as the level of fame has gone up, so has the sophistication of the products being featured in vlogs—there are a fewer videos about bargain hunting in Superdrug, and more videos about sunglasses shopping in Chanel. I really like the concept of vlogging. I think it’s innovative and I applaud all the hardworking vloggers who devoted their teenage years to filming themselves applying makeup against the backdrop of boy band posters and fairy lights. I just wonder how much of the fame might permanently alter the relationship between vlogger and viewer which was once spontaneous and chatty, into something more targeted and marketed.