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More than makeup: how cosmetics are shaping today's culture

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In recent years, beauty has evolved into more than just a part of women’s morning routines. Beauty is now a billion-dollar business and a way to express ones identity. According to an Orbis Research report titled “Global Cosmetics Products Market-Analysis of Growth, Trends and Forecasts," the global cosmetics market was valued at $532.43 billion in 2017 and analysts anticipate that its value could skyrocket to $805.61 billion by 2023.

The enormous extent of these statistics can be attributed to the increasing influence of social media beauty gurus and a diversified market consisting of products that cater to the preferences of beauty enthusiasts of different genders, skill-levels, incomes and ages. From an economic perspective, a highly competitive market encourages entrepreneurship and innovation. As brands strive to find their niche and create quality products, consumers find themselves with an infinite range of options to choose from in physical and online markets.

Celebrities have a large role to play in the makeup industry today, either as brand ambassadors or founders. Zendaya for Covergirl, Karlie Kloss for L’Oréal and Ruby Rose for Urban Decay are popular examples of brands associating their brands with popular faces.

 Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty was an instant success when it released in 2017 as it resonated with people of color, as its shade range includes 40 shades. To Rihanna, diversity was not a shallow marketing ploy, but rather essential to the  the brand. The Fenty experience mirrors everything people love about Rihanna as a provocative contemporary artist and pop culture icon.

Today, the youngest of the KarJenner clan, Kylie Jenner, is essentially credited for the reinvention of lip products. In 2018, Kylie Cosmetics was valued at approximately $800 million by Forbes Magazine. Jenner, a social media mogul and controversial symbol of today’s beauty standards, was also recently on the cover of Forbes for being the most influential ‘self-made’ female billionaire in America. Her sister, Kim Kardashian West's brand, KKW Beauty, is also incredibly successful.

Additionally, Beauty YouTube — with its "problematic favorites" such as Jeffree Star, James Charles, Tati Westbrook, Jaclyn Hill, Patrick Starr and NikkieTutorials — has established itself as the primary authority on guiding consumers to make informed choices on beauty. Internet celebrities saturate the web with makeup tutorials, skin care routines and product reviews. The fact that creators represent different races, gender identities and sexual orientations speaks volumes about inclusivity and diversity in media today. Additionally, creators can turn their passion of makeup artistry into fruitful careers by appealing to their viewership through brand sponsorships, collaborations and affiliate codes. Aside from its advisory function, Beauty YouTube also has a large fan-following for its entertaining-but-toxic culture of scandal and gossip.

Apart from the beloved drugstore and luxury brands we swear by, the quirky products of aesthetically-pleasing indie brands like Milk, Mario Badescu, ColourPop and Glossier appeal to many Instagram-obsessed millennials. These brands promise and deliver luxury quality, sometimes at relatively cheap and cheerful prices, which only further their allure.

Additionally, beauty trends are being imported from all around the world, with Korean products taking the lead in imported makeup and skin care. The dynamic nature of beauty today has given rise to a cult-following of eclectic, clickbait-like products including but not limited to jelly highlighters, magnetic face masks and cushion and putty foundations that stray from the conventional formulas used to manufacture and market makeup.

Valeria Macias, a first-year in the School of Arts and Sciences, believes the culture of beauty that the cosmetics industry has cultivated is a double-edged sword. “The positive impact of makeup is that it is empowering and helps boost your self-confidence. When you look good, you feel good. Also, makeup is a lot more accessible today as there are amazing high-end and drugstore products. However, the negative impact of the excessive beauty culture today is that people, especially young girls, feel insecure about their appearance and have to deal with social pressures and image issues from a very early age,” Macias said.

It’s evident that the "Millennium of Makeup" has its roots in self-empowerment and social media. 

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