Makeup bloggers turn against consumerism

Something odd is happening in makeup-vlogger country: a wave of searing criticism of overpriced and useless cosmetics, and of consumerism itself. The Outline's Mehreen Kasana reports that "anti-haul" videos have gained a special status in the community.

Most anti-haul videos are somewhere between 12 to 20 minutes long, and typically focus on beauty products. The host details a list of things they don't plan to buy and the reasons why not while detailing the often exorbitant prices. There are anti-hauls about Kylie Cosmetics, Sephora, Colourpop, Maybelline, and other brands. These videos have gained a special status in the makeup community on YouTube where cosmetics-focused videos — whether in tutorials or reviews — are always pointing at products. In anti-hauls, these items are critically evaluated outside the bubble of hype that gets inflated around products on YouTube. The verdict? You don't need most of the stuff marketed to you. …

This may be a generational thing. Retail industry research shows that millennials would rather pay for experiences than for stuff, suggesting materialism is out of style. These videos empathize with today's overworked and underpaid consumer. They speak to the condition of being overwhelmed by options, having little to no financial comfort, and being visually harassed by high prices.

Thing is, beauty product reviews on the web are the fakest part of the internet, a pastel mountain of bullshit driven by a relentless stream of cosmetics care packages from PR people and undisclosed affiliate marketing. It's practically impossible to find out if anything's good by googling it.

Cosmetics vlogging works so well, maybe, because it is (consciously or otherwise) a reaction against this. You have to show yourself and look your audience in the eye.

But what happens when marketeers catch up and move in? The rot sets in again. Perhaps this trend is everyone realizing that the bond of trust, between them and the audience, is wearing thin in a place money is still being made. If so, this is just a signalling fad that portends a brutal winnowing of the herd.

(cf. Gadget blogging, where my snarkiness is a way to distance my editorial voice from that of the press release I am laundering as news.)