TV and magazine adverts will often tell you that [insert brand name]'s new foundation is "suitable for all skin types" and we'll believe this and go running to the beauty counter to purchase said foundation.

Which often leads to disappointment. Disappointment that could have been avoided if you watched a makeup tutorial on YouTube and a beauty vlogger said, "I prefer not to use this foundation in winter because the matte effect actually makes my skin look and feel dry."

The vlogger is not saying the foundation is a crap product, but they're telling the viewer that it's not necessarily suitable for all skin types, all year round.

This is something adverts often omit because they think it wouldn't work in the brand's favour to divulge such information. Perhaps. But won't an unhappy customer who spent money on a product which didn't live up to expectations do even more damage?

Cosmetic brands have caught on to the influencer wave, which was previously a marketing tool only the fashion industry was explicitly making use of.

Beauty vloggers therefore serve the function of providing that missing link of transparency and trust between the brand and the consumer.

I reiterate - this is not a bad thing for brands, as it actually is what consumers want. Consumers are no longer buying dreams sold to them by advertising campaigns - we want to know all the pros and cons of a product (of which there shouldn't be too many) before buying it.

This creates a better understanding of the product, thereby managing expectations and building brand loyalty.

Think of how you've never seen an L.A. Girl or Urban Decay ad, and yet you know the one stocks the best concealer ever and the other offers one of the best eyeshadow palettes on the market.

How? Beauty vlogger reviews and product placement in YouTube tutorials and Instagram posts.

So how does this whole product placement strategy work then? Do beauty vloggers all go makeup shopping together?


Cosmetic brands have caught onto the influencer wave, which was previously a marketing tool that only the fashion industry employed.

In an interview with fashion influencer Camille Charrière, British Vogue discovered that brands are interested in your number of followers more than anything else - the more followers you have, the more lucrative investing in you is.

Read: Local experiment shows how easy it is to be a fake “influencer”

Beyond the number of followers, British Vogue also reported that brands calculate the engagement ratio of each post by adding up the number of likes and comments and dividing it by the number of followers the potential influencer has.

So what brands are after is a high engagement rate and an element of accessibility to an even wider audience than they already have through the YouTube Channels and Instagram accounts of relatable online personalities.

After scouting social media and assessing online trends, brands then partner up with bloggers/vloggers with a large following because these are usually the people who are most likely to engage actively with their audience, unlike celebrities who often don't even run their own social media accounts.

It would seem that it's all about selling a lifestyle that appears more organic than curated.

What the arrival of South African beauty vloggers offered was not only introducing makeup to people of darker skin tones, but also showcasing products you can buy locally.

But some people will probably argue that vloggers who have a large following all post the same thing, so how would that help the brand?

Although the content may seem like it's all the same across all the YouTube channels, each vlogger has a different tone and approach that appeals to different factions of the same audience. They also have different styles of posting on social media.

According to an unnamed vlogger who spoke to The Guardian, brands will therefore consider approaching you when you have reached about 20 000 to 30 000 views, while also taking into account whether your tone fits their brand image.

When you look at South Africa in particular you'll realise that the success of many of our beauty YouTubers is based on the fact that for a long time makeup tutorials were conducted by very fair-skinned international makeup artists who tended to feature products you couldn't find in South Africa.

And what the arrival of South African beauty vloggers offered was not only introducing makeup to people of darker skin tones, but also showcasing products you can buy locally. All while still appealing to globally recognised cosmetic brands.

Read more: 5 makeup must dos for dark skins

It further helps the brand when vloggers of different skin tones and skin types feature their products, as it exhibits the versatility of the product.

Local vloggers such as Cynthia Gwebu, Mihlali Ndamase and Brett Robson have therefore exposed South African women to brands they would have otherwise overlooked on beauty counters and at local cosmetic stores such as DisChem and Clicks.

Brands such as N.Y.X, L.A. Girl, Urban Decay and NARS, which previously only seemed accessible to a niche, yet loyal market are slowly becoming more mainstream, thanks to these influencers.

So while you learn how to achieve the perfect glazed doughnut highlight look, your fave beauty vlogger is getting her views (and hopefully her cash too) and brands are getting more of their merchandise off the shelves. Everybody wins. Right?