by Bethan Cole
“How to” beauty videos are now targeting savvy sophisticates looking for exacting advice from industry experts.
If the Noughties were the decade of the blogger explosion in beauty, the teens are shaping up to be the decade of the “vlogger”. This rather ugly portmanteau word deconstructs as “video blogger” – and, ugly or not, make-up, hair and skincare videos are proliferating on the internet: their number (in the millions) is growing so fast there are no exact figures for them. In the past decade they have become some of the most watched YouTube content globally. What’s more, they’re evolving from their teenybopper origins to become appropriate in content for time-poor, cash-rich professional women; when Lisa Eldridge (second picture) did a vlog post last year with a model in her sixties (check out her Glowing, Youthful Make-up Look for Mature Skin video, which features lots of useful advice, including keeping the corners of the eyes clear of make-up to prevent dragging them down, and circling the roots of the top lashes with an eyeliner brush for definition without a hard line), it made the front page of Mail Online and she was asked to appear on the Today programme. Caroline Hirons, meanwhile, is making a name for herself as the older woman’s skincare guru of choice; the 45-year-old has a well‑earned reputation for helping women in their forties overcome problem skin.
If, as Marshall McLuhan observed, “the medium is the message”, then these beauty videos are the friendly, personable, easy-to-access and distinctly human face of the “how to”. If you want to learn how to create SS15’s Tom Ford smoky eye, you don’t need to look at a magazine these days – you check out an online video. So as well as helping teenagers and twentysomethings wanting to know how to cover up a spot or learn their first make-up moves, there is information for serious sophisticates to up their game, create more polished make-up and hair and discover the latest trends. If you want the low-down on the recent Korean cult beauty offerings you go to Eldridge’s vlog on the topic to rummage through her “haul” of the best Korean products (all available online). Similarly, if you want to master this year’s devilishly difficult and complicated face contouring techniques, you can do so from the comfort of your sofa.
With very little media coverage until 2014, the breakout stars in this beauty vlogging world have attained a groundswell of grassroots popularity that has had publishing, beauty and even fashion companies clamouring for a piece of the action. Tanya Burr gets between 7m and 14m views per month, Pixiwoo (sisters Sam and Nic Chapman) get 4m views per month and Fleur de Force (aka Fleur Bell) gets 3m to 5m views per month. In fact, the stats are so staggering no one should dismiss the vlogger phenomenon as irrelevant to their age and stage. According to a Pixability study on YouTube, in 2013 more than 700m beauty-related videos were viewed every month (this was up from around 300m in 2010) and the figures are still growing. Research by Invodo and The E-tailing Group found that 70 per cent of shoppers now make video part of their shopping experience and 40 per cent of shoppers agree that brand or product videos influence their purchasing decisions.
But why the boom in beauty vlogging on YouTube now? M2M research on behalf of Clinique reported that it fulfils four needs: women’s desire to learn new make-up techniques, to keep in touch with trends, to get information about new products and their efficacy, and to be generally inspired. “The beauty industry is undergoing a major transformation,” says David Souffan, deputy general manager of global communications for Lancôme. “More and more consumers are active on social spaces, seeking platforms and experiences that offer beauty tips and advice from brands, but also from other users to whom they can relate, such as the vloggers.’’
It was partly for these reasons that Lancôme recently appointed Lisa Eldridge to be its new creative director. Eldridge, 40, who’s been vlogging since 2010, has amassed a not inconsiderable 1m subscribers on YouTube and 2.5m monthly visitors to her website, making her a very hot property indeed in the digital sphere. Having said that, she is not your usual vlogger, having had 20 years of experience as a professional make-up artist at the very top of the industry for countless A-list celebrities, reams of editorial for Vogue and previous influential positions as creative director of both Shiseido and Boots No 7. “I started looking at the internet and blogging and just thinking how powerful it was seeing videos by people like Lauren Luke. I was thinking if this goes the way I think it’s going, female consumers are talking to each other and it’s revolutionary.” Spurred on by the thousands of visitors and messages she got on her website when doing the television show 10 Years Younger, she “decided to do videos because there was no one of my calibre doing it”. There’s plenty of content on her site for mature women, and it’s all very upscale – for example, she shoots in a studio, not in her bedroom surrounded by fairy lights and cuddling a puppy. Nor does she feature questionable “reality celebrity” get-the‑looks: it’s all very classy, referencing beauty icons such as Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Marilyn Monroe. She’s also quite exacting about basics and techniques, from choosing the right foundation (try her How to Shop for the Perfect Foundation video, which advises going into stores and getting samples before you buy, looking at the shade in daylight and leaving the foundation to settle for 10 minutes, after which the silicone evaporates and it becomes a very different product) to applying blusher in exactly the right place for your shape of face (and let’s face it, everyone needs to refresh the basics from time to time). For the more adventurous, she offers complex party make-up techniques such as adding feathers to eyelashes (or try her Party Looks tutorial on creating old Hollywood glamour inspired by Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth, using vintage-y golds for the eyes to make the lids sparkle without looking crepey, with tips on how to correct your blusher if you’ve put too much on, without starting again).
While Eldridge didn’t make her videos for profit (she turned off the monetisation and advertising options on her YouTube channel and refused money from brands to plug products), many other vloggers are joining the new breed of online entrepreneur. Tanya Burr, 25, has a range of make-up (from £5.49), which, when launched on Feelunique.com, created record traffic for the site. Pixiwoo, which has a slightly older demographic, has a range of make-up brushes, Real Techniques (from £5.99), which are the No 1 selling range in the UK and the fastest-growing brush brand in the US. “The reason why people are really gravitating toward these vloggers is that they are not just a one-trick pony,” said Lisa Green, head of industry, branded apparel and fashion at Google, to WWD in January. “They’re almost lifestyle brands in themselves.”
Viewers invest a lot of trust in these vloggers because of their generally objective view of the marketplace and unbiased opinion on products (even with her Lancôme contract, Lisa Eldridge won’t be changing the wide selection of products she endorses on her vlog). However, brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown, Clinique and Lancôme are fighting back with their own slick YouTube channels. The advantage of watching one of their videos, as opposed to one by a vlogger, is the super-professional production and the fact that most enlist very experienced and talented make-up artists to appear – no amateurs in their bedrooms here. And, crucially, there’s much more for women of all ages; the brands know that the women with serious money to spend are older, so their content is targeted accordingly. Laura Dance, Clinique’s head of digital, says “Clinique was a pioneer of having a YouTube channel; we’ve been doing it for approximately five years now and we’ve built nearly 4,000 subscribers. Obviously, watching our videos is more private than a department store consultation. It’s like having a friendly make-up artist in your home.” Bobbi Brown, who started her YouTube channel in 2006, is another strong advocate: “Videos are extremely important in empowering women to look and feel their very best. Women want to know how to best use our products when they get home, which is why videos can garner up to 100,000 views within weeks .”
One such vlogger is Hirons. With 50,000 YouTube subscribers and 1.8m visitors to her blog, it’s no wonder Clinique asked her to feature in a video for their Smart Custom Serum (£48 for 30ml), which has attracted nearly three quarters of a million views. “Skincare is my USP,” says Hirons, a qualified facialist, beauty brand manager and retail consultant who’s worked for Chantecaille, Space NK and Aveda. “Acne is the second most searched word on the internet after porn” she tells me. Hirons herself started vlogging after she found herself, aged 40, suffering from adult acne. She cured it through diet (she found she had a shellfish allergy) and very careful research (trying and testing) into what skincare suited her – which she turned into her blog and vlog. “My intention was to offer an opinion,” she explains, “that you don’t have to use everything from the same range, for example.” Her YouTube video Caroline meets Dr Sam on Female Hormonal Acne has lots of advice, such as paring skincare back to basics when you have a breakout – use a gentle non-foaming cleanser, a toner and moisturiser, ideally by French pharmacy brands, which contain active ingredients and fewer chemicals. She also recommends the best products to use as a base that are light and won’t further aggravate the skin. The vlog has had over 25,000 views.
Hirons other point of difference is that she is 45 and attracts a lot of older viewers. “My demographic is predominantly 28 to 45,” she says. According to Pixability, the older woman is set to be the biggest growth area for beauty vlogging in future. Ruth Crilly (first picture) is a thirtysomething model (her vlog is called A Model Recommends) who also appeals to the older demographic – and, with a first-class literature degree and masters in creative writing, she offers intelligent content too. “I think my age does help,” she observes. “There are plenty of teens and girls in their early twenties blogging and vlogging, but not so many past 30. It’s a huge demographic with not so much out there in the way of straightforward, age-appropriate content.” “The mature female audience is incredibly important to us,” agrees Bobbi Brown. “Our goal is to produce content featuring make-up lessons and tips that cater to women of all ages, with a quality and tone that sophisticated women appreciate.”
As well as increasingly catering for older women, Clinique’s Dance and Warde believe there is a huge untapped male audience out there too. “Fifty-five per cent of my readers and viewers about acne are male,” says Hirons. And the length of videos is also getting longer. “People will engage with 20-minute-long films if there’s a well-known blogger or celebrity involved,” says Dance. The popularity of beauty vloggers is clearly a trend that is set to grow and appeal to an ever‑widening demographic.