Creator Economy

The Evolution of YouTube Beauty Gurus

By Editorial Staff

The beauty industry is by far one of the most lucrative industries that works closely with influencers – namely YouTube beauty gurus – to promote their products and sell a lifestyle to their consumers. One of the most formative and recognizable differences on the YouTube platform is the unfolding of the beauty and lifestyle niches along with trends and sponsorships.

These YouTube beauty creators rack in millions upon millions of views for in-depth makeup tutorials and now the more casual “Chit Chat Get Ready With Me”. As the platform grew into careers, the distinctions between YouTube beauty gurus and lifestyle influencers became clear. 

What is a YouTube Beauty Guru?

A YouTube beauty guru is a content creator that makes videos surrounding beauty and lifestyle. In the early days of YouTube, creators like Bethany Mota and Meredith Foster were considered beauty gurus even though their content branched out into fashion and DIY videos along with YouTube challenges and Q&As.

YouTube beauty creators were dubbed “beauty gurus” for their seemingly effortless ways of developing style and perfect skin. The term “guru” began as a slight shade toward the superficially perfect beauty influencers such as Dulce Candy, Michelle Phan, Tati Westbrook, and Zoella, but the term evolved into the career many people recognize today. 

Now, it is less clothing hauls and “boyfriend does my makeup” videos, and instead more full-glam content and product reviews that define this creator niche. The new generation of YouTube viewers crave videos that cater to their everyday needs and their love for the art of makeup.

Want to learn more about internet history? Read about the evolution of YouTube reaction channels here.

The First YouTube Beauty Guru

On May 20th, 2007, Michelle Phan was just a regular college student. She had received her laptop through her school and decided to film a natural makeup tutorial on her small YouTube channel, then titled “Ricebunny”.

The video now has over 12 million views and continues to gain views from fans tapping into their nostalgia. One user reminisced, “I was only 9 when this video came out, and now I am 23.”

Now in 2022, Michelle Phan has garnered over a billion YouTube views and amassed nearly 9 million subscribers. In a recent live stream on her YouTube channel, she talks about the struggles of creating her brand and encourages new creators to “[k]now your worth! You’re allowed to make money, you’re allowed to earn a living.”

Michelle Phan goes on to talk about the earlier days of YouTube before the transparency between creators and their followers regarding an influencer’s earning power. Now it is common knowledge that influencers like Kylie Jenner can earn millions on a single Instagram post.

See a full breakdown of modern creators’ earning power in our report, compiling data from the creators themselves.

Before influencing grew as a respectable industry, Michelle Phan recounts being shamed by fans for taking a Lancome sponsorship: “It was the very makeup counter that rejected me in the beginning, and I had this incredible full circle story, I was so excited. And so when I did the announcement video, people were sh*tting on me, saying I sold out, how dare I. And I remember that traumatized me for years, I felt like I [couldn’t] take any money, then.”

In present-day 2022, Phan wants this new generation of creators to recognize their worth and their value for a brand. 

YouTube Beauty Guru: From 2013 to 2016

In the mid-2010s, the online beauty community revealed a divide.

In one Tana Mongeau video, Shane Dawson casually asked her how she managed to stay out of the YouTube beauty guru drama. To which Mongeau responded back, “Do you mean like Nikita, Gabriel, like that side? Or the Alisha Marie and Niki & Gabi side? Like there are two sides, ya know?” 

The shift began with the definition and further focus on beauty and makeup-based content. Tati Westbrook, Laura Lee, and Nikita Dragun filmed more full glam content and were involved in the drama of 2018-2019. Whereas more brand-friendly creators such as Alisha Marie or Niki & Gabi produced content not exclusively tethered to makeup, but also lifestyle, DIYS, and random YouTube challenges. 

Though the distinction is no longer necessarily tethered in online drama or “beef”, lifestyle vloggers who do makeup in addition to other content now define their own category and industry separate from the beauty gurus of today.

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Criticisms & Backlash

This new age of YouTube has also brought a new wave of subscribers that understand and are happy for their favorite creator’s success. Though, because it’s the internet, there’s a twist.

One of the biggest YouTube beauty gurus in the world is content creator NikkieTutorials. She began her YouTube journey in 2008 when she was just 14 years old, posting her first of many makeup tutorials onto her channel – which now holds nearly 14 million subscribers. The title of the video was “Makeup Tutorial; My first official Look for YT.” with a sweet description that read, “My first tutorial! Please give me some feedback, on what i can do better :)” 

Now Nikkietutorials is considered one of the most talented and versatile makeup creators on the platform. Her YouTube series “The Power of Makeup” has over 80 million views on her channel, with the video starring herself garnering over half.

Filmed in 2015, the makeup community experienced heavy critique. It was not cool to like makeup because it was synonymous with being fake or insecure. Nikkie tore down all those baseless criticisms, rooted in nothing but misogyny, and she continued to create innovative content.

Eventually, the likes of Kim Kardashian and Adele featured on her channel in 2018, and Nikkietutorials officially became mainstream. 

She struck a deal with Maybelline New York, gracing their YouTube channel with her presence and personal tips. However, the videos Nikkie did in association with Maybelline were met with criticism from Nikkie’s fanbase. 

The criticisms truly pointed towards Maybelline New York alone, with users creating videos advocating for the release of Nikkie. Many of the comments on the video, like, “A sister gotta do what a sister gotta do to get her coin” which received over 600 likes, supported Nikkie in any career-building endeavor. 

Read more about creator brands and their potential here.

In the evolution of YouTube beauty gurus and content creation as a whole, fans and supporters no longer see creators that participate in sponsored videos or that create sponsored content as a ‘sellout’. Instead, they support and raise their favorite creators up.

This is a clear contrast to the audience and community sentiment described by Michelle Phan when she began getting sponsorships and attention from high-end brands. Viewership transforms as the audience begins to understand the gravity of brand connections for creators, bridging the gap for future creators.

YouTube beauty gurus grew and evolved along with the YouTube algorithm. The ebb and flow of the platform recognizes the strong power of these creators as they continue to withstand the test of time.


This article was written by Victoria Huynh

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