In the 10 years since beauty vlogging first emerged on YouTube, the simple instructional videos have grown from a casual hobby to one of the most lucrative forms of blogging today. There's no better proof of this than Michelle Phan, the Boston-bred beauty vlogger who posted her first video, "Natural Looking Makeup Tutorial," on YouTube in 2007. A few years, hundreds of millions of views and a $500-million business later, Phan has officially ushered in the movement of beauty vloggers as brands in themselves. Posting beauty how-to videos isn't just a creative outlet; for some, it can mean lucrative endorsement deals and bona fide celebrity status.
Given the sheer quantity of video beauty tutorials as well as their unwavering popularity, companies and audiences alike remain captivated by these "mainstream" vloggers. Familiar names like Phan, Ingrid Nelsin of Miss Glamorazzi, and Tanya Burr feature large beauty brands like Lancome or Maybelline — and are often compensated accordingly. But a niche beauty vlogging community has emerged over the past few years, and it's selling both products and an eco-friendly message to go alongside them. These next-gen "green" vloggers reflect a shift in consumers' priorities. Whether you're referring to all-natural, eco-friendly or 100 percent organic products, customers have begun to care more what they put on their faces. Even though it's become common knowledge that, from a marketing standpoint, the term "natural" is a relatively meaningless claim to make about products, there's an entire subgroup of Internet beauty pros that firmly stands behind their use.
At the forefront of the movement is SunKissAlba's Alba Garcia, who boasts 277,ooo Instagram followers and over 600,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, which has the slogan "Where Beauty Meets Health." Garcia promotes an all-natural beauty routine, and racks up nearly 500,000 views for videos like "5 Everyday Curly Hairstyles." Although the page wasn't originally health-oriented, the vlogger said she changed its focus after her son was diagnosed with autism. "Through research and experimentation with nutrition, and the connection that it has with our mind, body and nature, we discovered that everything that has helped our child improve his symptoms of autism can also help everyone else," she explains. "So I started applying my discovery towards food and ingredients towards beauty, and I realized how unhealthy my skin care products were." Now, Garcia only promotes (and uses) beauty brands derived from natural ingredients, like Alima Pure, RMS Beauty and 100% Pure.
Another popular vlogger (with over 287,000 YouTube subscribers) is Sarah Nagel of Holistic Habits, who started her page as a way to solve skin issues. "I was on a holistic journey trying to heal my skin from severe acne. I found natural products/remedies to be very effective, whether it be makeup, hair care, or skin care," she says. "I was also fascinated with the process of making videos, so it was combining two of my biggest passions: film and holistic living."
Over the past few years, the Vancouver-based vlogger has won an online following for her straightforward how-to's on everything from oil pulling to using honey to highlight hair. She also creates monthly videos featuring her favorite products — all of which meet specific requirements. "I look for things that are 100% natural, high quality, no animal testing and the products have to work." Like most beauty videos, the clips here are promotional tools (complete with links to buy), but Nagel said the aim of her channel is sending a holistic message to viewers. "The ultimate goal of my videos is to inspire people to adapt a healthy lifestyle, while being entertained at the same time," she explains.
Oslo-based Kate Murphy, behind the channel and blog Living Pretty, Naturally, agrees. "It's not about forcing things, or making people feel bad about products they didn't realize were harmful; it's about educating and helping people make small changes in their life that impact them in a positive way."
Despite the rise in popularity of green beauty, even the most successful vloggers have followings far less than their mainstream beauty counterparts. Most of the women we talked to had numbers hovering in the mid-hundred thousands, whereas some of the household-name vloggers like Zoella or Bethany Mota, boast more than nine million followers and more than a million views per video. According Garcia of SunKissAlba, it's pointless to even compare the two sectors. "The competition would never be real and I think there's enough room for all of us," she says. "My numbers in viewers/followers aren't what make me successful; it's my intentions and my truth that make me relatable and worthy of being here." Sarah Nagel agreed. "I watch a lot of non-eco beauty YouTubers as well because I like their personalities and videos (even though I don't necessarily use the products they use)."
Shilling products to your online fans is a crucial part of making money blogging. But endorsement and education don't need to be mutually exclusive — and the latest group of green vloggers believes it's just as important to know what you're buying as it is to know who's selling it.