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What’s Next for Beauty YouTubers?

Vloggers shot the beauty industry to new heights. But years of non-stop content creation has left many of YouTube’s biggest names burnt out and looking to new avenues.
Creators who grew to fame creating beauty content on YouTube are looking elsewhere.
Creators who grew to fame creating beauty content on YouTube are looking elsewhere. (YouTube)
By
  • Emily Jensen
BoF PROFESSIONAL

Key insights

  • Beauty YouTubers revolutionised the way consumers learn about beauty products, but over a decade into many of their tenures, they're itching for a change.
  • Some are experimenting with new platforms, like TikTok, which has displaced YouTube as the birthplace of many online beauty trends.
  • Others are moving away from beauty content entirely, pivoting to categories like fitness or wellness.

When Alexandra Anele started her YouTube channel in 2015, the beauty landscape was relatively unsaturated. In time, her subscriber count climbed thanks to her technique-driven, art-inspired makeup tutorials, with videos like “Dude, blush placement changes your whole face” receiving more than 4 million views.

But the output required to build such an audience takes its toll. Anele saw her brother, fellow YouTuber Guyon Brandt, upload videos as frequently as three times a week to get a foothold on the platform.

“I was like, ‘Well, I guess that’s what I have to do.’ And I finally worked up to that and I’ve been trying to maintain that. But talk about burnout,” said Anele, who now has over a million followers.

She still uploads beauty videos to YouTube multiple times a week, but admits to finding herself in a creative rut and opened up about the challenges of online fame in a video more centred on mental health than beauty.

Anele and other major beauty YouTubers, some of whom have been on the platform for over decade, face a crossroads. They created a new way to consume beauty, but the gruelling pace of ideating and uploading original videos on makeup multiple times a week is starting to take its toll. At the same time, TikTok’s short-form, seemingly more authentic videos have helped it displace YouTube as ground zero for viral trends and products.

Hind Sebti, co-founder of beauty incubator Waldencast and founder of skin care brand Whind, likens an influencer’s YouTube channel to a TV series, and as with a traditional TV series, those channels may evolve over time or come to a natural endpoint.

“How many seasons can you run?” she asked. “How do you think you are going to be able to maintain your audience captive and recruit new ones as you evolve?”

In looking to their next “season,” some of YouTube’s most influential beauty names have slowed down or stopped posting beauty videos altogether in favour of new platforms or new topics. But audiences and algorithms don’t always make it such an easy switch.

New Topics

In order to evolve their audience, beauty YouTubers have experimented with new topics, often centred on lifestyle. Take Jaclyn Hill, who pioneered influencer collaborations with the likes of Becca and Morphe. In recent months, she’s pivoted to sharing her mental health and weight loss journey with her 5.8 million subscribers, while also promoting her jewellery line, Jaclyn Roxanne.

“Creators who are authentic with their personality from day one have a little bit more success,” in pivoting to new genres, said Megan Herren, associate strategy director for creative agency Movers+Shakers. “Not only are people tuning in for that niche category like beauty, but they’re getting to know the creator as a person. So the audience is more likely to want to follow other aspects of their life.”

But offering up one’s inner life on social media is not an easy task. Hill’s uploads on her weight loss attempts have been subject to criticism for what some see as promoting disordered eating. Attempting to introduce new content to YouTube can mean risking losing subscribers who came to a channel specifically for videos on a particular topic. Even when viewer reception is positive, YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t necessarily reward creators who step outside their original niche.

“Those videos that deviate from beauty are guaranteed to only get like 20,000 views, max,” said Anele. “Trying to … change your image is so hard. You really have to stick with it.”

That said, “beauty” is not as a niche category as it once was, allowing creators more leeway in what they share with their audiences. There’s increasing overlap between beauty and wellness, which now includes supplements and sexual health, with influencers like longtime beauty guru Tati Westbrook still using her channel to promote her supplement brand, Halo Beauty, alongside her traditional beauty YouTube videos. Others have gone even broader; Laura Lee incorporated Shein shopping sprees onto her channel, and in April, Jeffree Star unveiled a gun in collaboration with firearms manufacturer Beretta.

New Platforms

Creators can also hop over to other platforms like TikTok, even if it means building a new audience from scratch.

“TikTok has allowed well-known YouTube beauty creators to try to tap into different niches,” said Herren. “And we’re seeing more of their personality on that platform.”

Once they’re on TikTok, some creators are interacting with TikTok beauty trends, while others are using the move as a way to step outside beauty altogether. KathleenLights, for example, uses TikTok to post astrology-centric jokes, while keeping up with occasional beauty uploads for her YouTube audience of 4.15 million. Alissa Ashley left behind her 2.06 million YouTube subscribers to post almost exclusively fitness content to TikTok, landing deals for TikTok videos with non-beauty brands like Asics and Microsoft. On her Lavishly Jackie Instagram page and her TikTok, Jackie Aina has been able to cultivate an audience interested in high-end lifestyle videos while also promoting her candle brand, Forvr Mood, working with both beauty and non-beauty sponsors, like No. 7 and Ancestry.

“It’s down to authenticity. You can sell luggage, you can sell candles, you can do whatever, as long as it’s rooted in a story that your brand has been telling,” says Sebti.

New platforms can require new style and norms, Herren said. Beauty YouTubers, as well, as are not as likely to be at the forefront of trends when competing with native TikTokkers.

“I think creators’ downfall, and that leads to burnout, is if they try to do the same style on every platform, because that’s not going to help them get those creative juices flowing,” she said.

Anele notes she has a core audience who follows her to each of her platforms, and like most YouTubers she includes all of her social handles in each video to help followers discover her. But not all YouTubers are keen on fully transitioning to another space.

“I think I’m just old,” Anele says of the possibility of posting on TikTok full time. “The move recently for myself has been trying to step away a little bit from social media to feel better.”

Ultimately, creators need to monetise their audience in order to make a living. But leaving behind a hard-won viewership is more than just a business decision.

“I do feel very connected to my community,” says Anele. “I also have a parasocial relationship with my followers. I don’t want to just stop YouTube one day and abandon everybody. But in what I’m doing now, I don’t know how much longer I could be doing it.”

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