Tweens Watching Beauty Gurus on YouTube: 3 Parenting Tips
Makeup, fashion, lavish lifestyle? Guide your child into positive content.
Posted September 28, 2021 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
- Beauty-related content on YouTube is fast-changing. Parents could navigate this challenge by focusing on positive content and its meanings.
- The “connected” rule: Understand why your tweens or teens feel connected to the videos they watch.
- The “instructive and relatable” rule: Suggest content that is information-rich and age-appropriate for your teenager's daily life.
- The “sponsorship transparency” rule: Encourage questioning of whether transparent disclosure of sponsorship is present.
This post is co-authored by Becky Pham, a Ph.D. Student at the University of Southern California, and Yalda T. Uhls.
Beauty influencers on YouTube, also known as “beauty gurus,” are typically vloggers who create videos and offer advice on makeup, skincare, and fashion. The new generation of gatekeepers in the $49.2 billion US cosmetic and beauty industry, beauty gurus are increasingly shaping how tweens and teens consume and purchase beauty products, and how they perceive and imitate popular standards of beauty.
Through watching and interacting with beauty gurus online, tweens and teens might gain benefits such as honing their makeup craft through self-study and self-motivation, or developing more passion for the arts.
On the other hand, YouTube content has changed so fast that the old school girl-next-door “get ready with me” makeup look is losing traction. All hail the new beauty gurus who, more often than not, resemble Hollywood celebrities and gain their popularity with big money, lavish lifestyle, and dramatic personalities.
One such example is the larger-than-life Jeffree Star, who ranked #10 in Forbes’s list of Highest-Paid YouTube Stars in 2020. Having acquired a whopping 16.4 million YouTube subscribers and 2.5 billion YouTube views, Star has been repeatedly embroiled in controversies and backlash due to allegations of racism and toxic behaviors. Reported detrimental consequences for young, impressionable viewers from beauty gurus other than Star include encouraging consumerism, eating disorders, and sexualization of children.
As parents of tweens and teens, keeping up with your child’s latest popular culture enthusiasm to make sure they are not teetering on the unsafe side of YouTube can feel like an uphill climb. Fret not—you might not know all the beauty guru names your children are watching on YouTube and might not have the time to do so, but you can help guide them into more positive content.
By using the three principles that follow, you can create rules applicable to you and your children that emphasize specific types of beauty-related content.
1. The “connected” rule
YouTube content is appealing to our tweens and teens, first and foremost, because it is entertaining and fun. On a deeper level, tweens and teens keep watching this content because it responds to their media consumption needs.
Research has suggested that viewers of beauty-related videos on YouTube find their content valuable, intimate, and even fitting for self-development through a sense of closeness and connection. Talk to your tweens or teens with an open mind. Listen to the way they describe their thoughts and feelings about the videos when being put on the spot or speaking candidly.
Your children might demonstrate feeling connected to certain videos through actions such as viewing (and re-viewing), liking, subscribing, sharing links, leaving comments, and seeking to purchase promoted merchandise. You don’t have to keep a tab on every such action of your children. What you need to do is try to understand why they feel “connected” to which types of beauty-related videos as much as you can.
Form your own categories of videos they gravitate towards. Examples of these types of videos could be makeup tutorials, cosmetics purchasing vlogs, cosmetics reviews, or cosmetics hauls.
Don't worry if your children haven’t quite formed an idea of why they find certain videos more interesting than others. It is perfectly fine for your children to watch content simply as a pastime to escape daily life and overcome stress.
The point is to keep the conversation going and encourage your children to find as much meaning in their media consumption as possible, with your understanding and support as a safety net.
2. The “instructive and relatable” rule
Any tween or teen with free access to YouTube could learn a few makeup and dressing tips from any beauty gurus. But not all beauty tips are appropriate for their young age, and not all products featured are affordable for their shopping budget.
Jeffree Star, for instance, often reviewed high-end products that cost thousands of dollars such as foundation, highlighter, contour palettes, and lipsticks against backgrounds such as mansions and fancy getaway locations.
There is no denying the entertaining and informational value these videos could bring. Yet tweens and teens—especially female—who view too much age-inappropriate content and little else might be more prone to risks of premature or over-sexualization and excess consumerism due to their young age.
If you feel like this is the case for your tweens/teens, aim for diversifying their YouTube video menu by searching for and suggesting more “instructive” and “relatable” content. This alternative (or supplementary) option should inform your children of some knowledge about cosmetics, and fit their everyday life scenarios.
This is also where your knowledge from tip #1 can come in: Some types of videos might be more likely to encourage excess consumerism (haul videos where a chain of products are quickly highlighted with little discussion of their values) than others (tutorial videos where the beauty gurus need to demonstrate their makeup step-by-step).
A video about hauling makeup palettes at a luxury resort? This is not necessarily bad. But how about trying to balance this out with a tutorial video on how to create three different innovative makeup looks from one same palette that will better fit a teen’s shopping budget? Positive content can be fun too.
3. The “sponsorship transparency” rule
Beauty gurus are increasingly partnering with brands for marketing and advertising purposes or for the creation of their own makeup lines, which will then be featured in their videos. Research has shown that young and naïve, tweens and teens might not be able to differentiate the economic motive behind the sponsored videos they watch from the beauty gurus that they adore.
As a result, some beauty gurus might take advantage of tweens and teens’ purchasing power, especially through cosmetics review videos that might not necessarily demonstrate a truthful representation of the product, or through a lack of sponsorship disclosure.
Research has shown that although sponsored content might be at odds with beauty gurus’ authentic persona, a win-win situation is still achievable under two conditions: first, the beauty guru should fully disclose the contractual terms of their sponsored partnership; second, the review content of sponsored products should be just as enjoyable and passionate as their other content.
If you notice your children watching multiple review videos of beauty products, help them gain advertising literacy and practice their discernment of the underlying economic motive by encouraging them to answer these open-ended questions:
- How do you think the content creator has acquired these products, and from where?
- Has the content creator mentioned this clearly, or is this your guess?
- Why do you think the content creator specifically chose to review these products?
- What do you think about the quality of their review opinions?
- How is the quality of this review video based on their other videos?
Creating and practicing these rules may take you some time. Monitoring tweens or teens’ media use is never an easy feat.
At its core, this process is one training ground for you to minimize risks and maximize opportunities for your children on the specific topic of YouTube beauty gurus. Ten Jeffree Star and makeup reviews videos later, you might realize how much more you have gotten to understand what makes your children feel connected, to YouTube, to the world around them, and to you.
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