Before TikTok came into the headlines as the socially aware, Donald Trump-clowning ground for Generation Z, the app was priming itself as the new frontier for beauty education.
Social media and the beauty space are longtime lovers, with the relationship kindled with the success of beauty Instagrammers and YouTubers. These factions, where faces are tagged to subscribers and followers that total millions, were the next step up from the beauty bloggers that came before.
As consumers wanted beauty-related information and entertainment in more visually dynamic formats, those social media platforms reigned. Now, as we move to crave information in short, digestible and visual parcels, it is only natural that beauty content on TikTok is on the up.
These days, beauty educators on the platform usually number hundreds of thousands of subscribers, with their videos often reaching double the volume.
For example, Hyram Jarbo, who fronts @skincarebyhyram, has 3.9 million followers. Across his videos, views average two million or more. His feed is chock full of educational videos that range from treating fungal acne to debunking the clout of cult brands such as Glossier, all offered to viewers in 60 seconds or less.
Another account, @DermDoctor, fronted by dermatologist Dr Shah, has 425,300 followers at the time of writing, with an average of a million views for clips that span identifying and treating blemishes to the merits of active ingredients.
It may seem like compact content is the sole reason for the platform’s rise, but TikTok beauty educators rarely, if ever, sacrifice breadth for depth. The boom is more of a multi-headed hydra, each a launchpad for TikTok’s dizzying beauty space.
In the beginning, there were challenges
TikTok is navigated and driven by hashtags. These hashtags are often gateways to challenges — viral prompts to create videos that mimic the movements, songs, or content of videos responding to the same. For TiktTok’s beauty crowd, challenges were the first building block for the category.
The #LipstickChallenge, which made waves in 2019, began as a task for users to apply lipstick in as awkward of a manner as possible — contorting your arms behind our head, using your feet, has over 568.8 million views to date. It has since evolved into a trend where users apply lipstick to a bottom lip that vanishes at the end of the clip. The longevity of the hashtag, stretched by users redefining its content, is just one way TikTok proves the persistent powers of challenges.
Another makeup trend currently drawing 1.5 billion eyeballs is the #PassTheBrush challenge, where users “transform” their faces from bare to full glam with the swipe of a brush across the camera’s lens. These are thriving on TikTok out of sheer entertainment value and the call for viewers to “do as I do, but one better” when they watch similar content created by other users.
Then, viral products
The trend-based nature of TikTok is not just about copycat videos set to the same beat. It also propels purchases when products go viral, with The Ordinary’s 30% AHA + BHA 2% Peeling Mask being the best-in-class study.
In February, user @kaelynwhite posted a video about what her skin looked like before and after the use of the chemical exfoliant. The dramatic results, credited to the bloodlike mask that cost less than US$10 (S$13.88), sent a surge of users to purchase the product.
Of the one million views the video has amassed, 52,000 sales were made in the span of two weeks, as confirmed by The Ordinary. Another success story comes from the CeraVe Renewing SA cleanser, plugged by @SkincarebyHyram in a video on reducing acne. Of the 65 million videos that feature the brand’s hashtag, a majority are before-and-after showcases of dramatic acne reduction after the product is used.
The way TikTok incites the purchasing power of Generation Z has got beauty brands investing in the platform in return. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, is one. The label has a creator’s studio known as the TikTok Home, where influencers get to stay, enjoy their time, and of course, populate the Fenty Beauty and their own TikTok pages with content about the brand’s products.
And now, beauty education
Where TikTok’s beauty prowess thoroughly stands out is, as we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s capacity for education. Instead of just pushing you products a la Instagram, or forcing you to sit through (or, gasp, read) a verbose barrage of beauty-related text or talk, TikTok has opened a window for users to gain insightful access to the world of beauty.
The people leading the charge aren’t just influencers with a ton of followers as their only credentials, but experts like skincare professionals, dermatologists and makeup artists and hairstylists.
@SkincarebyHyram and @DermDoctor are two key players in TikTok’s beauty vortex, but their names and reach are matched by all levels of cosmetic pros. @TeaWithMD, run by Stanford-trained dermatologist Dr Joyce, offers handy skincare resources that go from the best products to remedy acne available at drugstores or debunking myths about blemishes.
Founder of skincare brand Dieux Skin, Charlotte Palermino, also has a TikTok where she offers research-backed, provoking takes on skincare truths — hyaluronic acid is bad, for instance, while denatured alcohol isn’t always the devil we make it out to be.
The education isn’t just limited to skincare either. Makeup artists are using the page to offer inspiration in a blink to viewers, from the costume creations to accessible eyeshadow tutorials. Hairstylists also use the TikTok the same way the skincare crowd do: to discredit false information like “hair grows faster when cut”, or offer nifty hair-related how-tos.
The fact that this is the current state of TikTok’s beauty space before the app has entered the mainstream speaks volumes to its cred and potential. With billions of videos and views circulating its beauty map, TikTok is a gateway to learning about beauty, from head-to-toe, in a manner that is as novel as it gets. And it is here to stay.
Featured image: Abby Roberts; hero image: Kon Karampelas/Unsplash