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The life of a YouTube beauty guru looks so glamorous, polished and attainable. Jetting around the world, your own personal makeup and filming studio, social media literally being your job and of course, loads of spare cash to spend on whatever is in fashion at the time that will no doubt, be shared in a haul video to your loyal viewers. Of course, we only see what they choose we can see. Recently, Federal Trade Commission regulations have been getting tighter for social media in the United States – FTC advertising regulations aren’t new, according to Bloomberg, but they are now being more strictly enforced as many social media stars aren’t adhering to them. Is there something going on behind the scenes?
Although YouTube is their vehicle towards fame and fortune, it is not their primary source of income. AdSense, clicks, views and the length of time their viewers spend watching their videos does give them a lot of income – but the main money that allows their excessive lifestyles to be sustained is from sponsored content and affiliate links. Online brands that have little following but a lot of money can sponsor a beauty guru to mention their products in their videos, tweets, snaps or Instagram posts, and can be assured that millions of fans will see their favourite YouTuber praising products that they conveniently have a 20% discount code for, but only through a specific link listed in the decscription box. Currently the FTC is regulating YouTube videos and Instagram, but advertising on Snapchat is still in a grey area given that the content that is put up only lasts for 24 hours.
But personal endorsements aren’t new – they’ve been around as long as advertising has been. Both Beyoncé and Michael Jackson were partnered with Pepsi and created adverts for the company as well as promoted them on their tours, so why is promoting makeup on YouTube considered different? Well, for one, even a lot of young children all know that advertisements on TV or playing in a sidebar have people that are paid to promote a particular product. However, watching YouTube videos of a beauty vlogger is a relaxed, authentic atmosphere, it feels like you are sitting down and talking with your beauty obsessed friend when suddenly she pulls out a random face mask from a no-name brand and spends about eight minutes of your thirty minute conversation talking about it. That can allow the sneakiest type of advertising to infiltrate your brain – you NEED this palette, your collection isn’t complete without this entire set of brushes from an unknown brand, your skin will thank you if you buy this, and use my discount code… You get the gist. When they don’t state that they are sponsored, compensated or paid to promote these products, it’s advertising when you’re in a vulnerable state. That’s what FTC regulations are trying to crack down upon – even the Kardashians have to comply.
Another point to make is that a common audience for beauty gurus is often young, impressionable teenagers. In my own experience, when I was sixteen, I always watched YouTube makeup tutorials wondering what products they used to get their skin so smooth and poreless, almost like an android, as my own skin was like a mountain range of acne. I tried so many pore-filling, smoothing and other similar skincare products to try and get the uncanny valley look. Of course I knew the photos on Instagram were photoshopped, but it never occurred to me until recently that blurring filters could be used on videos. Literally every person has pores, zits and bumps on their skin and being young, rich and famous does not exempt you from this fact of life. I think if I had been younger than sixteen and less prone to critical thinking, this could have seriously done some damage to my self esteem. YouTube is extremely popular among children under the age of ten as well, so there’s a chance many of them can grow up thinking their skin is ugly because it isn’t unnaturally blurred by bright lights and filters.
If this isn’t seeming sketchy to you, I do have another example. There was a bit of an uproar during October when the cosmetics company Tarte invited many famous beauty YouTubers to come to Bora Bora, all expenses paid and free products from their new line that launched just after the trip ended. The stipulation for the vloggers was to post about the products on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. If that were me, I wouldn’t say anything bad at all about those products so that I would get to go on more trips with that brand. It created a lot of distrust between viewers, brands and content creators. The line that launched after the trip was met with large-scale disappointment towards mediocre products at a high price tag, it was obvious to the consumers now where the money that was meant for Research & Development and Quality Control had gone.
So if we look at what I’ve compiled here, it seems that beauty gurus do have a history of dishonesty around what they promote. My advice is to take everything they say with a large pinch of salt, even myself if you’d count me as a beauty guru.
Do you still trust beauty gurus? Are there some you don’t trust and some you do? Let me know on Twitter or down below!