BEAUTY IN A POST-SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD.
ARE GEN Z MOVING AWAY FROM MAKE UP?
Female Gen Z – teens specifically – are wearing less and less makeup. Focus has shifted from full-coverage, Instagram-inspired makeup looks to intelligent ingredient skincare products. This can all be linked to YouTube’s beauty influencers and their anti-haul videos. A great wave of minimising beauty collections has begun, and the feminist take on #SELFCARE along with anti-consumerism culture is at the centre of it.
HIGHLIGHTS + DATA
- Gen Z are well-educated in makeup applications and skincare ingredients. More so than millennials at that age
- 680,000 results for anti-haul videos on YouTube
- Kimberly Clark’s original 2017 anti-haul video has had over 120,000 views
- Female Gen Zs spend more on beauty products than clothes
- Skincare is viewed as a #SELFCARE feminist act
- Sales of seasonal beauty products are declining
In a beauty world where ingredient information is readily accessible, and educated consumers are connecting with brands more so than ever, it makes sense that the content put out by the industry’s influencers and YouTube stars starts to change. Online, more and more ‘Anti-Haul’ videos are being published [REF 1]. Anti-hauls are exactly what you would expect: a video in which the creator talks about what makeup or skincare products they won’t be buying, in opposition to the millions of videos where influencers discuss the ones they just bought. This type of content encourages the minimalisation of collections.
These videos might be connected to the fact that Gen Z’s are especially interested in environmental ethics and sustainability, and expect their brands to be too [REF 2]: how can seasonal purchases of the same product, marketed in a different packaging be something that beauty consumers, especially those with a penchant for cultural consciousness still be a thing, and not a thing of the past?
As well as anti-haul content, we also see influencers and celebrities and the like posting more ‘no-makeup’ pictures on Instagram. So much so, beauty publications now do round ups of ‘The Best No-Makeup Selfies’ [REF 3]. Did the rise of the #NOMAKEUPSELFIE have an effect on the industry, one that led to a more natural-beauty focused consumer who would rather make calculated purchases on products that will improve their skin’s overall complexion, than on a multitude of products to cover it and possibly cause it to break out due to the numerous amounts of different chemicals changing daily?
Then there’s the argument that no-makeup makeup and the increasing time spent on skincare routines are a feminist act of #SELFCARE. Has this, and all of the above, caused the Gen Z, and teens specifically to move away from the contour-is-life type of makeup routines that Instagram originally heralded.
“I love shopping – I’m a consumer, not going to lie that I’m not – and I get drawn into things,” states Cat Hufton-Schiorlin, a beauty industry insider and journalist [REF 4]. “When the latest NARS palette came out, I bought it knowing that it’s all creamy blushes and they don’t work on my skin type. But I still bought it, because I got sucked into the marketing of it, and I got annoyed at myself.” What Hufton-Schiorlin points out is that even someone who’s well connected to the industry, and works for a living writing in an educated fashion about products for brands can still be influenced. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t steer clear of bloggers just wanting to make money by posting about any and every new product in the market: “Sally Hughes for example, she’s not a blogger, she’s an industry expert. And there’s still an appetite for that kind of review, because people want those kinds of intelligent posts. Although Hughes is quite rare because she doesn’t do paid ads. If YouTubers go down that root they’ll still be room for them. But this paid #AD – people are getting weary of it. There needs to be a level of authenticity.” And it’s this authenticity that have people searching for the 680,000 results of a quick anti-haul video search.
Content creators, in their quest to be more relatable, are shunning PR lists and asking to be sent only three shades of a foundation to test, instead of the usual 30 [REF 5]. The craze initially started by Kimberly Clark in 2017 with a video that, since then, has had over 120,000 views, and can be said to be a direct response to the ‘buy now, buy now, mentally of beauty capitalism [REF 6]. And much like Hufton-Schiorlin and her NARS purchase, most of these videos mention at least one eyeshadow or contour palette. So, it’s no surprise then, that brands such as Too Faced, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Kat von D – known for their seasonal releases of the beauty product – come up time and time again in these specific vlogs.
Going hand in hand with this lauded authenticity is Gen Z’s focus on sustainability. The younger generation don’t see sustainability as optional, nor a trend, it’s a way of life [REF 2], and therefore, they simply steer clear from, or are wearier of buying into products from brands such as these. Hufton-Schiorlin agrees and thinks this is the reason the over-saturated influencer market will die out: “young people especially, are more concerned about the environment and sustainability, so they seem in poor taste. And also, skincare is so good now. People just want things that actually work. You don’t need so many products,” [REF 4].
This new educated consumer, especially the teenage variety, is extremely clued-up on skincare – what works, what doesn’t and especially, what is not worth the investment [REF 7]. For millennials, teenage beauty was all body glitter, patchy concealer stolen from their mother’s makeup bag, and Lancôme Juicy Tubes. In complete contrast, the teens of today spend more money on brands like Fenty and Charlotte Tilbury, and are very well-versed in perfectly placing highlighter and flawlessly blended eye makeup [REF 8]. So naturally, the younger generation also knows how to get a glowing blemish-free complexion – something millennials did not [REF 9]. They spend hours watching vlogs of reviews and scour the internet for ingredients to make sure they know everything about what they are buying – which usually sees them head to a store to test first, as opposed to the bulk-buying online the way they do with clothes. Lara Dabbur, Retail Area Sales Manager for Faces Beauty agrees, and believes this is why new skincare brands are popping up left, right and centre: “all of the top houses are now buying skincare brands – from LVMH to L’Oreal – and the reaction has been astonishing. People now understand skin, know skin, and are more likely to throw away their face wipes in exchange for a 2-step cleansing routine. Education through social media has been key in this,” [REF 10].
This readily-available information has led to more calculated purchases, and evidently brighter and clear complexions as we have seen the #NOMAKEUPSELFIE hashtag rise to fame. Celebrities such as Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup altogether; even on red carpets much to some’s shock horror. But her skincare routine? Not cheap [REF 11]. It seems as though this shift towards skincare and natural beauty goes hand in hand with beauty’s online anti-consumerism anti-haul movement. Which is why, as Dabbur mentioned, top beauty houses are buying skincare brands [REF 12] and more makeup brands are launching skincare products [REF 13]. If sales for throw-away makeup is dropping and videos of well-respected beauty influencers shunning products are being watched as much as vlogs on how to perfect contour, of course this is the direction the industry is moving in. “You see less and less contour now, and more and more of that natural soft, glowy finish,” reiterates Dabbur [REF 10].
3. NO MAKEUP-MAKEUP
Will our obsession with makeup ever dwindle completely? In New York, the world’s first Makeup Museum is about to open [REF 14], so this doesn’t seem to be the case. Although, our relationship with it has certainly changed. Long gone are the big bushy brows and we’ve waved goodbye to full-coverage foundation [REF 15], and it seems trends themselves are out too: one Los Angeles-based makeup artist Adam Breuchaud told Marie Claire: “trends are fun, but the best makeup always is a result of genuine and confident self-expression,” [REF 16]. This no-makeup makeup movement is one that mirrors fashion’s body positivity or inclusivity movements. It’s connected to feminism in a way that suggests females on the whole feel freer and more inclined to leave the house without makeup on more than ever before: “I would never have left the house without makeup on a few years ago, but I do it more and more now,” states Hufton-Schiorlin [REF 4].
You can argue that if women are minimising their routines, they’ll have more time to focus on the day ahead, as well as release them from the centuries-old mandate that they enhance their appearance with layers and layers of makeup in order to adhere to feminine norms and the male gaze [REF 17]. This less-is-more approach to beauty can also be connected to social media’s #SELFCARE movement [REF 18]: by focusing more on products that work to brighter complexions and clear the skin of blemishes, we work towards a more confident happier self. What’s also interesting, is that this can have an effect on mental health. For the same reasons Instagram itself has begun to remove the likes on people’s profiles [REF 19], seeing selfies of women with no-makeup makeup or no makeup at all, tends to reduce any negative impact of viewing idealised images of attractive others [REF 20]. What we’re also seeing more of is women lifting each other up – social media has also become a space where woman are encouraging each other in the online makeup community [REF 17].
INSIGHTS + OPPORTUNITIES
So in response to the anti-haul videos and no-makeup makeup, seasonal product sales are declining. “I have seen a significant decrease in a) the size of these collections by brands – due to the lower sales achieved the previous campaign and b) a decrease in the interest,” says Dabbur. [REF 10]. The Gen Z may be shunning makeup they do not need, although they are gravitating towards those labelled as vegan or cruelty free [REF 7].
Teenagers are also more interested in achieving a glowing complexion, than buying full-coverage foundation to cover their acne [REF 9], and they are more likely to post pictures to social media showing the product progression without any concealer to cover it. However, this is not to say they aren’t spending. The females of the teenage persuasion are spending an awful lot, more so than they do on fashion [REF 21]. And so what brands need to realise is that to attract these consumers – ones who are more educated than ever before – they need to adhere to their values and cultural ethics. Long gone are the days of using a topical and beautiful model or celebrity to re-market the same eyeshadow palette.
Where we’re at with beauty right now, all seems to centre around or be related to feminism or acts of #SELFCARE [REF 22]. Whether that means spending copious amounts of money on a few, but well-performing skincare products; minimising makeup collections to opt for those few items that work for their skin tone, brows or lashes specifically; or leaving the house without any makeup on at all. The anti-haul videos that we see walk the line in between, and demonstrate that calculated and informed purchases are key. It’s time to say bye bye lipsticks in every shade of red.
- “YouTubers Fight Consumerism With Anti-Hauls” Allure [April 21st, 2017]
- “Gen Z: Building New Beauty,” WGSN Beauty + Insight Blog [March 28th, 2019]
- “The Best Celebrity No-Makeup Selfies Ever” Glamour [August 17th, 2019]
- Interview with Cat Hufton-Schiorlin conducted by the author
- “How ‘Anti-Excess’ Content Is Saving Beauty YouTube” Dazed Media [October 8th, 2019]
- “Why are beauty influencers now encouraging millennials to buy less make-up?” The Telegraph [June, 13th, 2017]
- “The Key to Selling Makeup to Gen Z: Meet Them IRL” Business of Fashion [April 23rd, 2019]
- “I Swapped My Millennial Make-Up for a Gen Z Beauty Routine” Vice Media [September 3rd, 2019]
- “Future-proofing’: Inside the rise of Gen-Z skin-care brands” Glossy [Auhust 23rd, 2019]
- Interview with Lara Dabbur conducted by the author
- “Alicia Keys’ No-Makeup Routine Actually Costs $455” Refinery29 [February 11th, 2019]
- “How Coty plans to grow Kylie Cosmetics” Vogue Business [November 18th 2017]
- “Victoria Beckham Just Launched A Groundbreaking Skincare Product” Refinery29 [November 19th, 2019]
- “The World’s First Makeup Museum Is Opening In New York City Next Year” Hybebae [November 20th, 2019]
- “Makeup Trends Everyone Ditched In 2019” The List [October 12th, 2019]
- “Top Makeup Trends of 2019” Marie Claire [January 23rd, 2019]
- “How Feminism Plays Into The Opposing Makeup Trends We’re Seeing Everywhere Right Now” Fashionista [March 23rd, 2019]
- “The Rise of the Minimalist Skincare Routine” Vice Media [May 6th, 2019]
- “Instagram Starts Test To Hide Number of Likes Posts Receive for Users in 7 Countries” Time [July 18th, 2019]
- “The Surprising Impact of No-Makeup Selfies” Psychology Today [April 9th, 2019]
- “Gen Z Females Spend More on Beauty Than Apparel” WWD [April 10th, 2018]
- “Radical Self-Care: Meet the feminist academics who love K-beauty” Slate [January 7th 2016]