Beauty and the (Instagram) Brows

A couple of years ago, I saw a picture of some really cool pink and purple nail art and I wanted to try it out for myself. Luckily for me, there was a link to a video tutorial underneath the picture and for the next couple of minutes, I let Jenny Fox’s soothing voice guide me into taking a piece of plastic wrap and smearing nail polish on my nails. That was my first introduction to the online beauty world in 2012. Since my discovery until now four years later, the Internet and the power of social media have transformed the beauty industry into what it is today.

The cosmetics (or beauty) industry has been steadily increasing worldwide in all of its


The industry is going nowhere but up.

subcategories, including skincare, makeup, and perfume. The United States happens to be the largest cosmetics market in the world, with the typical American woman spending at least $144 on beauty products per year. In 2015, total revenue of the cosmetic industry equaled over $60 billion dollars and is estimated to increase by approximately over $2 billion in this year to a grand total of $62.5 billion dollars by the end on 2016. This number only stands to grow even higher as online beauty retailers gain more popularity. Online sales of cosmetic products equaled over $17 billion dollars in 2013, and have only increased throughout the years.

Some of that revenue is definitely due to beauty brands’ efforts on social media. Several of the top beauty brands, like Esteé Lauder, Anastasia Beverly Hills, and Make Up For Ever, have a large social media presence, including accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. But it’s on Instagram and YouTube where brands get the most bang for their buck, mostly because they are the two best places to put original, image-based content. It’s also worth mentioning that color cosmetics – meaning makeup (lipstick, eyeshadow, etc.) – are most successful on social media rather than skin or hair care, so most of what I’m writing about refers to color cosmetics.

Instagram has become a one-stop shop in the beauty community. You can get inspiration from curated makeup accounts, learn about new trends like contouring and strobing,


Sigma Beauty’s IG homepage

follow makeup artists or beauty “gurus” who can teach you how to apply makeup in different ways, and find out when a popular shade of liquid lipstick from an online-only makeup brand is back in stock. With 31% of Millennials (who are heavy cosmetics buyers) considering Instagram as “very important” in their purchasing decision, brands that have utilized the medium sustain staggeringly positive results. The expected monetary value (EMV) of beauty brand using Instagram (EMV is the total of the weighted payoffs associated with a decision, the weights reflecting the probabilities of the alternative events that produce the possible payoff) increased by 904% in 2015 from 2014, compared to blogs, whose EMV only increased by 26%. For instance, the brand Sigma Beauty typically posts four to five images on Instagram each day. Those four or five images lead to about 24,000 clicks onto their website, where a consumer will spend up to 12 minutes and 25 seconds, compared to the 3 minutes and 12 seconds of consumers who weren’t directed from Instagram.

YouTube has become the place for beauty influencers to shine. As I mentioned in my last post, an influencer is a person with a large social media presence who can “influence” their large following with his or her content. The Howto & Style section of YouTube is


Jaclyn Hill at a launch of Champagne Pop

awash with beauty influencers and their makeup tutorials, hauls, and routine-style “Get Ready with Me” videos. As of year-end 2015, beauty videos have been watched 45.3 billion times, with those views going mostly to makeup related videos (51% of beauty related uploads that year). 123 million people subscribe to a beauty channel like Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota, two of the most popular beauty vloggers with 1.16 billion and 682 million total views on their videos, respectively (as of 2015). Brands typically work with these influencers by sending free merchandise that a vlogger may or may not use (or even like) on camera, or through a sponsored video. Vloggers with deeper relationships with brands can curate a makeup collection or even create a product, which typically sells insanely well. Jaclyn Hill’s product with Becca Cosmetics, a highlighting powder called Champagne Pop, is the biggest single-day seller on to date, and garnered $20 million in sales in just the second half of 2015.

So what’s next? The advent (and success) of online-only makeup brands like ColourPop and Dose of Colors might eat away at the sales of brick-and-mortar stores and become viable sources of competition. (Even though #, pronounced “hashtag”, in New York’s Soho has brought some of these brands into a brick-and -mortar store.) Hair care and skincare (especially with photo-friendly face masks) could unseat makeup as the most popular subject. The number of videos on men’s grooming and mature beauty could increase. The luster of an influencer’s following may dim as brands begin to produce their own content, especially on YouTube and Snapchat. Whatever happens, if it involves social media, it’ll surely be a success.


  1. Great post! I strongly believe bloggers are huge for cosmetic companies and are a game-changer. I would also add Pinterest as a very important social network for this business as 70% of users are women and most of them like Pinterest for the ability it gives users to directly purchase the items they see. Sephora is investing a lot in Pinterest for that reason.

  2. Interesting topic! I also realized that fashion and make up bloggers are moving to snapchat. Using instagram and snapchat allows them to be “life” for the audience. Snapchat gives them the opportunity to show, not only the product, but also how it’s used and how it feels. It’s amazing how different platforms can complement other platforms weaknesses.

  3. Great post! It is interesting that a lot of the cosmetics brands are late to the social game when makeup artists and other bloggers have been posting about makeup probably since Instagram first launched. I think these social influencers are important to the brands though. They have a dedicated following and project a certain personality and lifestyle that brands can leverage to promote their products. I think the influencers will continue to be important because they are so relatable and can build trust and a sense of community among their followers in a way that a faceless brand might struggle to do.

  4. Great post! Beauty products are definitely one sector taking advantage of SM effectively!

  5. Great job! Because of YouTube, I’ve learned to contour and curl my hair with a straightener. I also love using Instagram to check out trends -especially color trends. I agree with Estelle that Pinterest must also be a big social channel for the beauty industry since it’s a largely female audience.

    It’s rather amazing how some regular individuals have become celebrities thanks to this trend. Makes me wish I had thought of that years ago!

  6. You included a lot of great statistics in your blog showing you have really done your research on digital in the beauty industry! @bcdanielledalt‘s post also showed some of the power Instagram has in influencing purchasing decisions more than other platforms. When it comes to beauty, visual images are the best way to convince consumers to buy products, which is obviously Instagram’s strength.

    Without influencers in the beauty industry, it would be very difficult to determine which products to purchase. For example, a few weeks ago I was trying to decide if L’Oreal’s makeup setting spray actually extended the wear of makeup throughout the day. I turned to beauty gurus on YouTube that reviewed the product and persuaded me to try it out. However, I also wonder about the authenticity of these influencers sometimes. Since many of them are paid to try products or are given the products for free, I wonder if followers on social media are ever skeptical of a product review for this reason.

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