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The 19 Most Sought-After Instagram Beauty Influencers of 2016

A closer look at the beauty content generators that fans (and brands) were obsessed with in 2016.
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Beauty influencer James Charles, who became CoverGirl's first-ever male brand ambassador this year. Photo: @JamesChares/Instagram

Beauty influencer James Charles, who became CoverGirl's first-ever male brand ambassador this year. Photo: @JamesChares/Instagram

If you'd told us 10 — hell, even five years ago, that Instagram would soon launch multi-million-dollar careers, we probably would have casually laughed it off. But the photo-sharing app has created a platform for some of the most prominent beauty influencers in the space, enabling them to launch their own product lines and partner on countless brand collaborations.

While naysayers give some of these influencers a hard time for not being professionally trained makeup artists, their followers revere their skills — and the fact that they have a whole lot of hustle and heart. Oh, and on the business side of things, influencers sell. If one thing's for certain, this past year has proved that influencers aren't just a flash-in-the-pan trend; they're making an imprint on society and the way many millennials shop, and as a result, brands are clamoring to work with them.

So, in keeping with Fashionista tradition, we decided to release our annual ranking of the most influential influencers, but chose to swing focus a bit this time around: We'll look at Instagram's most noteworthy beauty influencers first, with a dedicated YouTube influencer ranking coming soon.

This list is of course very different than the style blogger list that was created in 2015. For one, this list is beauty-focused – surprise! – but secondly, we're less fixated on the idea of bloggers this time around. As the field of beauty influencing has changed and expanded over the past few years, influencers themselves have taken to a variety of different platforms beyond blogs. Many bloggers have stopped blogging altogether, choosing instead to channel their energies toward creating Instagram content feed going the video route. Instagram makes sense as a primary platform for beauty influencers; for beauty, photos and videos have become king.

To determine our ranking, we considered the following sources:

  • Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter followers, as well as website traffic. These numbers gave us a snapshot of how many people these influencers are able to reach on a daily basis.
  • Brand extensions. We gave props to influencers who have used their influence to create original products... good ones.
  • It factor. We talked to industry insiders (and consulted with Fohr Card) about which personalities advertisers are loving right now, and who is moving the most products via affiliate links.
  • Google News searches. Headline makers were rewarded for extending their reach beyond their own network.

A quick disclaimer that we also excluded anyone who started as a celebrity or stylist in their own right, without needing a social-media platform to get them there. So as much as we may love them, it's for that reason that we didn't include Kylie Jenner or Jen Atkin here; they started off with their own careers, and then built their 'grams. This list is purely for the beauty gurus who function primarily on Instagram (again, YouTube is secondary for them), as these are the influencers who have created brands out of 'gramming.

Then, we crunched the numbers – quite literally, in an Excel doc – to determine the list below.

1. Chrisspy, @Chrisspy

Chrisspy (whose real name is Christina) has 3.5 million Instagram followers and the brand recognition to go along with that stat. The California native worked at a MAC Cosmetics counter before posting her makeup images online to help teach others, and the rest is history. Now, Chrisspy works with brands like Urban Decay and speaks on beauty panels, like the recent PopCon in Dubai.

2. Amra Olević, @Amrezy

Amra Olević was the first influencer to collaborate with Anastasia Beverly Hills — a company known for being at the forefront of influencer marketing — and created her own palette with the brand. With five million Instagram followers, the Balkan beauty continues to collaborate with brands, most recently working with Lip Land cosmetics on a liquid lipstick line.

3. Marianna Hewitt, @Marianna_Hewitt

Marianna Hewitt, one of the few influencers on this list who consistently updates her blog (as well as all other #content channels), bridges the gap between beauty, style and luxury. With 653K Instagram followers, Hewitt hangs out with the likes of the K-Jenners by night and does LORAC sponsorships by day.

4. Naomi Giannopoulos, @Vegas_Nay

Naomi Giannopoulos is another OG Instagram influencer, with 7.9 million followers. She's launched her own faux lash line and nail line, Vegas Nay Lashes and Nails by Vegas Nay respectively, and has collaborated with Too Faced on a limited edition palette.

5. Karen Sarahi Gonzalez, @Iluvsarahii

Based in Southern California, Karen Sarahi Gonzalez was working in MAC Cosmetics stores for five years before going out on her own. She's now cultivated a following of 3.2 million on Instagram and works with brands like NYX Cosmetics, Garnier and Dermalogica.

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6. Shayla Mitchell, @MakeupShayla

With a following of 2.1 million on Instagram, Shayla Mitchell is well known for her video tutorials on the platform, which fans love because they're short, informative and to the point. Mitchell works with brands like The Estée Edit, Maybelline and Quay Australia for sponsorships and more, and we have a feeling she'll be working on her own collaboration or product line soon.

7. Samantha Ravndahl, @ssssamanthaa

Canadian makeup artist Samantha Ravndahl has 2.4 million followers on Instagram and frequently works with brands like NYX Cosmetics, REN, Biotherm and Lancôme.

8. Maryam Maquillage, @MaryamNYC

Self-taught makeup artist Maryam of Maryam Maquillage started with a blog, and then moved her focus to Instagram once she gained traction on the platform. (She now boasts 984K followers on it.) Working with brands like Benefit Cosmetics, Crest, The Estée Edit and Maybelline, she's well known for both her makeup versatility and her Instagram video tutorials.

9. Hrush Achemyan, @styledbyhrush

Hrush Achemyan might be part of the Kardashian-Jenner glamsquad, but she's also a beauty influencer in her own right. Aside from of course doing Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian's makeup reguarly, Achemyan also created her own limited-edition palette in collaboration with Tarte Cosmetics, teamed up with Make Up For Ever for a Brow Show in Dubai and hosts her own master classes around the globe.

10. James Charles, @JamesCharles

James Charles made a name for himself as a sought-after influencer this year when CoverGirl named him its first male ambassador — and the 17-year-old (!) deserves every accolade. His makeup skills have been garnering attention from some of the biggest beauty junkies (and beauty brands) alike over the past few years, quickly amassing him one million followers and his coveted ambassadorship.

11. Ellarie Noel, @Ellarie

Noel rose to notoriety on Instagram with her tutorial videos rather than photos, an attribute that has helped her to distinguish herself from other beauty influencers on the platform. She now has a following 1.1 million deep and collaborates with brands like Smashbox, ColourPop, NYX Cosmetics and more.

12. Angel Merino, @Mac_Daddyy

Another one of the "beauty boys" to make a name for himself on Instagram, self-taught makeup pro Angel Merino has worked with clients like Chanel Iman and Christina Milian when he isn't busy with his beauty influencer duties. Merino credits his social-media following with helping connect him with many of his celebrity clients and grow that side of his business to where it is today. Merino also launched his own makeup line, Artist Couture, and just collaborated with PUR Cosmetics on their Royalty Collection.

13. Gabriel Zamora, @thegabrielzamora

Gabriel Zamora is one of the up-and-comers in the game, but he's had a ton of growth and engagement in the past year, landing him on this list. Zamora currently has 136K followers on Instagram and is one of the official Ipsy content creators (Chrisspy is also part of that group). In recent months, Zamora has worked with MAC Cosmetics, Benefit Cosmetics, Gen Beauty and more.

14. Kay-Lani Ross, @viva_glam_kay

Florida-born Kay-Lani Ross has one million followers on Instagram and is known for being totally real on her channel, bringing her family life into a lot of her posts, but still maintaining a focus on makeup and tutorials. Ross has been able to work with brands like Gerard Cosmetics and Boxy Charm, and of course do plenty of meet-ups.

15. Isabel Bedoya, @itsisabelbedoya

Silver-haired beauty Isabel Bedoya is a self-taught makeup artist with more than 1.6 million followers. The hair chameleon is known for sharing her beauty tips and trying out colorful new looks on the platform, and works with brands like Gerard Cosmetics, Physicians Formula, Farsali and more.

16. Laura Gurrola, @LauraG_143

Laura Gurrola is the only influencer on this list who never expanded to other platforms — her Instagram channel took off, and she stuck with it, YouTube be damned. Gurrola now has two million followers and has launched her own nail-polish line in collaboration with LiveGlam, Laura G.

17. Jade Marie, @JadeyWadey180

Jade Marie, otherwise known as Jadey Wadey, has 956K followers on Instagram and the attention of some very large beauty brands. She's an ambassador for L'Oréal and Smashbox ambassador, and just collaborated with PUR Cosmetics on their Royalty Collection. And that's all just in the last couple of weeks.

18. Nikki French, @NikkiFrenchMakeup

Nikki French made news around the globe when she transformed herself into Jessica Rabbit for Halloween, which also landed her on this list (it greatly boosted her Google rankings this year). French has 476K followers on Instagram and has worked with brands like Morphe Brushes and Melanie Mills, and we're interested to see what else is yet to come.

19. Griselda Martinez, @MakeupbyGriselda

Instagrammer Griselda Martinez switches up her content between beauty looks, quick-hit tutorials and OOTD posts, keeping her audience interested with a healthy mix. Martinez currently has 918K followers, and works with brands like Garnier, Benefit Cosmetics and GlamGlow. 

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