I have to start this post by saying that I was inspired to write about my relationship with makeup because of Tenneil’s post about her own experiences, and I definitely recommend giving that a read if you haven’t already. Although I was blogging for years and years before I started paying attention to and participating in the online beauty community, it was definitely blogging and YouTube that got me seriously into it back in 2013, so my relationship with beauty is inextricably linked to the changing dynamics of blogging. And since Tenneil and I were already online friends at the time, her beauty content was definitely instrumental in lighting that first spark for me.
I’m lucky to have always had pretty decent skin with only the occasional hormonal breakout to worry about, so I didn’t wear makeup regularly or really give my skin much thought until a few years after high school. From memory, I stuck to the same routine every day for a few years - foundation, powder, blush, liquid liner, mascara and often red lipstick. Outside of lip products I only owned one of each item, and I had basically no skincare routine to speak of.
But sometime in 2013 everything changed – Tenneil and a few other bloggers I followed were posting beauty content and I learned about beauty videos on YouTube through them, and suddenly everything shifted. I went from being pretty indifferent about makeup to having this insatiable urge to watch every video, read every blog post and try every product. I’m a fairly obsessive person when it comes to my hobbies - I’ve always been that way, so makeup was no exception. From there it took about 6 months for me to develop an interest in skincare and to start taking it more seriously, but it wasn’t long before I became even more passionate about it than makeup. Back in those days, bloggers and YouTubers were still buying the vast majority of what they featured themselves, especially if you were to go through any of their earlier content, which I spent hours and hours doing with great enthusiasm. It felt like getting recommendations from a friend, and there were so many must-haves, dupes, bargains and Holy Grail products to try. Different shades, finishes and formulas that I wanted to own.
I remember watching huge makeup collection videos and having this craving to shuffle through drawers and drawers of products, and all the magical options they would contain. I went through a huge experimentation phase, which a lot of us in the community have done, because initially I didn’t know my skin type, what was likely to work for me, what shades I felt comfortable wearing, what finishes I preferred, etc. I wanted to try everything because I wanted to know what it was all about, and a lot of us got sucked into the same cycle of enabling each other to buy more and more. It took me a while to start to develop my own tastes and preferences, and to realise what was and wasn’t working as I continued to experiment.
In 2014 I went travelling for 5 months, and spent a couple of those months in the US. At the time the Australian dollar was above 90c so the exchange rate was great, and it meant that all of these high end products were finally within my reach, not to mention the brands we didn’t have access to (this was before Sephora launched in Australia). Before that I was mostly buying drugstore makeup, and often on sale or with some sort of discount code, because I didn’t have a huge income and I was trying to save most of my money for my holiday. But during that trip I could finally let lose because everything was more affordable (though by no means cheap) and I was in holiday mode. I easily hit VIB Rouge within that time, which means I spent over $1,000 USD on beauty products, and that doesn’t count all the drugstore makeup I bought as well.
But as much as I bought all those products because of the online beauty community and was encouraged to keep consuming more and more, I have also been influenced in a lot of other ways as well. Around this time I started seeing decluttering content popping up, and even though I was overseas at the time, I was getting the itch to clear out what I had at home. Of course I didn’t stop buying things while I was away, but instead of wanting to hoard years-old gift with purchase makeup that I never wore just for the sake of having a bigger collection, when I got home I did my first significant declutter so that most of the makeup I owned was bought that year.
I also started actively trying to finish up my skincare products. Instead of having 5 cleansers open at once because I never wanted to run out of anything, I decided (for the most part) to only use one of each type of skincare at a time. I realised that key ingredients expire and will no longer be effective in a serum you’ve had open for 2 years. As someone who bought basically everything they owned, I could see how much of a waste it was if something expired before I could finish it, and I didn’t want to be putting ineffective products on my skin either. So I started to work my way through my skincare backups before buying anything new, while also putting makeup I wasn’t certain about to the test and giving away the products that didn’t work for me.
Another big shift that was happening at the same time was that instead of sending out a few things here and there, brands were sending bloggers & YouTubers whole lines of new lipsticks, or every shade of a new foundation, or their entire seasonal collection. The volume seemed to increase at a rate that was getting ridiculous, and it became impossible for the average person who doesn’t receive PR packages to keep up (in the sense of reviewing and owning a similar amount of products). The whole dynamic was changing - it wasn’t so much a case of a friend showing you something they had bought anymore, because a lot of people had been sent everything they were talking about, or had a discount code or were being paid by the brand but they weren’t disclosing the relationship in a way that was clear.
Of course not everyone was shady, and what I’ve said just focuses on the darker side of what was happening, but those realisations definitely helped to break the enabling spell that I was under that made me want to keep trying everything that was being recommended to me. Some people are quite picky about the products they recommend, while others seem to love and rave about everything they’ve ever tried, so it pays to choose wisely when it comes to whose recommendations you take. On that note, as I said, it took me a while to develop my own tastes and style when it comes to makeup, and to really get a handle on what I liked about certain products and didn’t like about others. I was also learning about what I was capable of doing with makeup, what suited my face and made me feel confident, which products I got the most joy out of using, what shades I reached for, what finishes and formats I preferred, etc.
Although I tried a lot of things that I didn’t end up loving or keeping, I can’t deny that the saturation / experimentation phase was really helpful for me. It took me a while to learn that people have different skin types, skin tones, facial features, and things that they may want to enhance or minimise, so there really is no one-size-fits-all way to do your makeup. Similarly, we have different lifestyles, live in different climates, and have different comfort levels when it comes to things like wearing bright colours. I was more or less taking recommendations indiscriminately, but as I started to figure out my own style a bit more, I got much, much better at judging whether or not something was actually worth buying myself. So naturally, new launches were holding less and less power over me because I could talk myself out of wanting things much more easily than before.
When I saw huge makeup collections where people showed 40 different foundations, or 6 of the same concealer in different shades, instead of feeling envious like I may have in the past, I felt overwhelmed. Although I may watch PR unboxings from certain YouTubers whose job it is to review and talk about makeup, these days I have literally no desire to be in their place. I know if I had to open 50 boxes of makeup that I didn’t choose for myself I would feel completely suffocated, and honestly it sounds like a nightmare to me. I don’t personally accept very many PR opportunities, and when I do it’s only ever something that I know I would actually use. I can’t stand the thought of being sent things I don’t want or need, like being given a birthday present you have no use for. I honestly think these days if someone gave me a $1,000 Sephora voucher I’d have a hard time spending it on products that I would find true value in owning because I already have more than enough. (Mecca would be a different story though, because $$ candles.)
From there, it occurred to me that rather than trying to make products work for me that I didn’t really like, I’d rather have a good makeup day every day and use products that I know I love. Anything that didn’t work for me didn’t need to be in my collection and I found myself regularly picking out products here and there that I’d decided weren’t right, or shades that I knew I didn’t actually use and didn’t need for “just in case”. It felt really good to pass these on to my friends and family who weren’t inclined to buy themselves new makeup all the time and who would say that it felt like Christmas when I did a declutter.
In the first half of 2016 I bought my apartment, which meant that my mortgage and general living expenses took up most of my income, and I just wasn’t in a position to treat myself anymore. Fortunately by that time I had started to feel like I already owned enough, and what I really wanted was to streamline my collection to a point where I was happy with everything in it. I no longer got any pleasure out of owning things for the sake of it, and for a long time I had been far more interested in seeing decluttering content in the blogging/YT world than collections that take up an entire room.
Although I’m still a sucker for minis (mostly when it comes to skincare), it takes a lot these days for a new release to interest me enough to consider buying it. How many different formulas can there be? How many shades of eyeshadows can possibly be created?
During my move to Canada in 2017 I took a lot of pleasure in really editing down my lipstick collection to something that feels manageable to me. I’m talking downsizing from two full sets of Muji 5-drawers at my worst stage, to the one thicker Muji 2-drawer that I have now, though it’s far from being crammed full. It houses all my lip products except for balms and I feel so much happier looking at it and knowing exactly what’s in there and how each product performs because I can actually rotate through and feel familiar with them.
In some ways the beauty industry seems to be going the way of fast fashion, where brands are pumping out new releases every other month, and half of them are repeats of something they’ve produced before. Honestly, if every brand released two eyeshadow palettes a year (which is actually a pretty conservative estimate), how long does it take before every colour already exists and they’ve made them all and we’re done?! How are there even new lipstick shades to launch?!
I owe so much to blogging, including discovering my makeup tastes, developing my skills, learning how to take care of my skin, the (probably) thousands of hours I’ve spent either making or enjoying content, and of course the friendships I have made in the beauty community. But I think as much as I’ve personally changed, both the online world and the beauty industry have changed a lot too, and it’s the combination of all these things that has made my relationship with beauty what it is today. I’m in the best place I have ever been, where I can clearly see, use and enjoy what I have, I think critically before making new purchases and I know when enough is enough. I have the freedom to experiment and express myself with the way I look, as well as the knowledge to make informed buying decisions. Using, talking and learning about beauty products is a huge passion of mine, I’m just glad that I no longer feel like I’m always left wanting more.