Beauty influencers have been the foundation of the industry for over a decade, but a new generation is on the rise as the most influential group on social media.
Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2015, has a combined spending power of over $140 billion and is considered the biggest generation of beauty spenders by researchers. Their interest in beauty isn’t limited to spending. Gen Z content creators have been building platforms and growing followings on apps like TikTok and Instagram by showcasing their favorite beauty products and creative looks. As a generation, they are changing the way the industry thinks about makeup and skincare.
We talked to these six content creators about what they want to see from beauty brands, how they plan to grow and use their influence, and the future of beauty as a $532 billion industry.
Artistry is key for AJ, whose Instagram account boasts over 13,000 followers. She posts “mainly makeup looks, with some panning content sprinkled in,” but it’s her monthly editorial series that allows her to be her most creative.
While her platform is mainly just a space to display her art, she does feel that she has “a responsibility to spread awareness about social justice,” and this obligation extends to her brand collaborations as well. It is important to her that the brands’ mission and products agree with her interests and values and she usually only works with those that are “cruelty-free and/or vegan, inclusive, and ethical.”
So, what’s next in the beauty world according to AJ? Indie brands will overtake the popularity of “large, mainstream corporations.” She feels there are certain things larger brands can’t provide, such as “originality, transparency, and inclusion,” which, in combination with Gen Z’s “rise in anti-consumerism” and brand’s constant push for people to consume their products, “has encouraged people to reevaluate which companies they should support.”
Rashawn, an influencer and recent college graduate, is all about skincare. His usual content is a combination of videos, photography, informational posts, and reviews. And while his account features a wide array of skincare products, he largely focuses on sunscreen, dedicating one day a week to “Sunscreen Sundays.” His platform serves as a “creative outlet for [him] to do photography, photo editing, video editing, [and] some writing as well,” which a little different from his brand new computer engineering degree.
According to Rashawn, beauty’s future lies with an increase in inclusivity. “Like everywhere, it really fits into every part of the industry, whether it’s like marketing campaigns, the influencers brands choose to work with… shade ranges,” he says.
But the future of Rashawn’s account is slightly different. He plans to continue with his interest: skincare and sunscreen. However, his next benchmark is “getting the 10k [followers] and getting the swipe up feature.”
Makeup is the main focus for Pat, an 18-year-old creator who describes her looks as “avant-garde and experimental.” Her Instagram account consists of photos and videos that showcase both her process and final creation and she aims to always be creative and unique.
As a member of Gen Z and as someone with a platform, she says she feels “encouraged” to educate herself about and speak up on social issues. Pat incorporates infographics and website links for her followers. “Social media has enabled me to engage and interact with Gen Zs from all over the world and that has widened my perspective and knowledge of global issues and happenings,” she says. To her, it is great that several brands are setting the standard for what modern beauty should look like as she feels that “Gen Zs are the most diverse, multicultural generation in history, and we would want the beauty industry to reflect that as well.”
Like so many others, Pat finds her creative process stifled. “I often experience creative blocks and demotivation when I can’t come up with something I like. Sometimes I just feel like stopping once and for all,” she says. But her biggest motivation is her encouraging followers as kind DMs and recreations of her look reassure her that “my art has purpose.”
@skincarecrazyPurple ##showertok feat. the AMAZING whipped oil body moisturizer sent from @fentyskin 💜 ##fyp ##showerroutine ##hygiene ##hygieneproducts ##aesthetic ##ad♬ Cool for the Summer – Demi Lovato
Tanisha is a young influencer, known for her makeup and skincare content. She posts everything from beauty products to beauty hacks. Her Tik Tok and Instagram accounts, which combined have over 400,000 followers, have been a work in progress for over a year and a half. Her strategy? Engagement.
“I think the best thing to do is connect with your followers, engage with them, and get them to trust you, [and] connect with you,” she says. Her youth helps with connecting with her younger audience. “Sometimes, older adults cannot understand their insecurities… and sometimes we have the same problems as other younger teens, so maybe we can help each other out.”
She says that Gen Z is “definitely more open to talking about natural things like body hair… and they share more about themselves to help other people.”
Tanisha also believes her Gen Z peers are changing beauty. “They’re now caring about their skin way more than they did before. They’re touching topics that we’ve never thought about, like exfoliating things I’ve never heard of, and they’re being more natural.”
Chime, a content creator from Washington, posts makeup looks that she describes as “editorial” and “abstract.” She incorporates unique patterns and shapes and finds inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest, and even artistic wallpaper patterns.
She started posting six years ago for fun but she gained many of her 14,000 followers when quarantine started last year. Though her content has changed over the years, she now tends to create colorful looks. “I feel like now the things that are trendy aren’t necessarily your everyday glam. I feel like the whole makeup world has sort of shifted,” she says.
Chime feels it is important to use her platform to educate herself and others on social issues. According to her, the lack of diversity, equity, and equality are still problems in the beauty community and some creators are taking action.
“People who have bigger platforms, they use their platforms to reach out to brands that they’ve worked with… just to hold them accountable,” she says of activism in beauty. “That’s been sort of shining a clear light on who to support and who not to support. Makeup is not just about makeup anymore. It sort of goes into that whole other category, especially with our generation.”
@benneileytake it easy on yourself ##skincare♬ original sound – Ben Neiley
Ben, a young skincare influencer with nearly 600,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram, is all about accessibility and comfort. “I try to make content that is really welcoming and doesn’t feel intimidating. I think that skincare can be really overwhelming, and I want my page to feel like a place where anyone, at any phase in their skincare journey—be it novice or total enthusiast—can learn and grow,” he says.
He also sees the growing intersection between the beauty world and the social issues affecting our world. “Beauty and skincare don’t exist in a vacuum, and issues like racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination permeate this industry in really dangerous ways, and it’s important to focus on making the spaces we occupy as safe and inclusive as possible.”
So, what does Ben want to see in the beauty industry’s future? “I think we all want the beauty industry to be transparent, inclusive, accessible, and ethical. I want everyone, no matter their identity, to feel like they have the ability to take good care of their skin, and I want to know that the products being made come from an ethical source – for the people involved in the production process and for the environment.”