VIDEO Back in April 2001, I wrote a Guardian article about home shopping networks. These days, I have a new fascination, no doubt originating in the same part of my brain that latched onto QVC: YouTube's beauty gurus. I never did pick up any samurai swords from Shop at Home's knife guy, but I can now do winged eyeliner like never before.
Filming themselves at their kitchen tables and bedroom vanities, the gurus (YT-speak for "expert") upload opinions on everything from high-end mascara to dollar-store lip gloss. There are "Tag" videos, which get passed around from guru to guru ("Top 10 MAC Eye Shadows"), popular perennials (giveaway videos score high), and "haul" videos, which detail shopping-trip spoils.
Haul videos have earned mainstream media attention, with a recent New York Times story detailing how some women are making mad cash thanks to YouTube's revenue-sharing partner program. The ultimate success story? Probably Lauren Luke, a.k.a. panacea81, a bubbly Brit who parlayed her YouTube fame into her own makeup line.
While not all gurus make money off YouTube, many have received free products from companies eager to tap into each channel's unique audience. Late last year, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that "bloggers or other 'word-of-mouth' marketers" must disclose their material connections with a company when endorsing its products. You'll notice many YouTube beauty vids now have FTC disclaimers ("I got this for free ...") accompanied by guru disclaimers ("... but this is my HONEST opinion!") tucked into the video description box.
But them's semantics. Most gurus, paid and otherwise, also provide tutorials of hair and makeup looks using favorite products. If you're stressed about appearing professional at a job interview, or sexy on a date, YT gurus have got you covered. And they review everything: if you've been waffling over whether to drop $23 on a Nars eye shadow, fear not. Someone on YouTube has already bought it, tested it, and deemed it worthy (or not). The best gurus have the kind of charisma that can transfix thousands of viewers — even when the subject at hand is a 15-minute discussion of nail polish.
YouTuber: Lisa Freemont Street (www.youtube.com/user/LisaFreemontStreet )
What you'll find on her channel: classy vintage hair and makeup techniques inspired by Old Hollywood and pin-up girls.
Her favorite kind of video to make: "My series called 'Diamonds and Dames' consists of requested looks by my viewers, based on their favorite hairstyles [from] classic films. These are the most fun for me because they require the most research. I have to figure out what setting was used to create the style or how to tailor the look to my own hair texture or length. I also include music from the year the film was released, to lend some extra credibility to the video, and I tend to really get into character by the end of filming."
Her audience: "I have come to realize that my viewers range in age from preteen to octogenarian. I love that! The one thing I hope they take away is that if you enjoy and appreciate a vintage style, you should not let the world's trends sway you. Stay true to yourself and feel pretty all the time, even if you get a few odd looks along the way."
Her favorite beauty product: "A plain white concealer stick. It can be used to provide a pale base for eye shadow or as a highlight for brows and cheeks."
YouTuber: Pursebuzz (www.youtube.com/user/pursebuzz )
What you'll find on her channel: upbeat videos offering hair, makeup, and nail advice. Also, her "How to Fake Abs" makeup tutorial has over 13 million views. Respect.
Why she started making videos: "I started in 2006 on a separate channel to show my friend some makeup tips. After that I received some comments and that grabbed my interest. I was shocked that someone else wanted to know what I had to say. At the time I only saw professional makeup artists applying makeup on models, but there weren't any videos with makeup artists applying makeup on themselves or on everyday people. I knew I had to start somewhere and I have always read in magazines on how to get (insert celebrity) look. So I broke down Carmen Electra's look in her Max Factor ad, [showing] it step by step. I have loved it ever since."
Her most rewarding YouTube experience: "I am huge on understanding that your internal beauty is most important and makeup is just an accessory to your look. So it is rewarding to know that I have reached out to so many people and showed them how to be the best version of themselves."
Her favorite beauty product: "My love of/obsession with makeup began with my MAC Parfait Amour eye shadow."
YouTuber: Vintage or Tacky (www.youtube.com/user/vintageortacky )
What you'll find on her channel: vibrant, colorful eye shadow looks.
Her audience: "I hope that my audience gains some perspective from watching my videos. Yes, I have a beauty channel, but I don't always go on camera looking picture perfect. I showed my hair when I had a botched dye job, I've gone on camera without makeup. I try new hairstyles, hair colors, and makeup. It's not always pretty, but it's honest, it's fun and creative. I hope they learn to have fun with their looks, but not to be ruled by them. My motto is 'Be vintage or tacky, just be yourself!' That and to wear sunscreen."
Her most rewarding YouTube experience: "When people send me messages telling me how much my videos have helped them, with makeup or skincare or self-worth and self-esteem. Knowing that some people just like me and value my opinion and my videos has made me a more confident person."
Her favorite makeup brand: "MAC, because of their quality and price, their palette system, their diversity of items, their pro line, and their recycling program. And, they don't test on animals."
YouTuber: Michele1218 (www.youtube.com/user/michele1218 )
What you'll find on her channel: wearable neutral looks demonstrated in easy-to-follow tutorials.
What inspired her to start making videos: "I have always had a passion for makeup and beauty products and for as many friends as I have, none of them ever shared in my passion. When I stumbled across the beauty community on YouTube, I was hooked! I watched videos for about three months, learned so many amazing techniques, learned so much more about makeup, and found new products that I never knew existed. Once I started to feel comfortable with myself and felt confident, I thought 'Hey, this might be fun!'. I knew how inspired I felt just watching some of these girls, and I thought it would be great if I can help inspire other girls as well! The rest was history!"
How YouTube has changed: "With so many companies finding out about all the YT beauty gurus it seems like more and more review videos are becoming paid advertisements. Therefore viewers and subscribers are becoming more and more skeptical of the products people are reviewing. When I make a review video, it seems as though I always have to defend it by saying my own money was spent and I was not sent free products or been paid to review. It's unfortunate because there are a lot of girls including myself that never accept paid reviews and because the 'bigger' gurus do it is assumed that we all do."
Her favorite makeup brand and beauty product? "My favorite makeup brand is MAC and my favorite product is mascara. I don't care what brand but I can never leave the house without it on!"
Read complete interviews  with the beauty gurus.