Falling down a YouTube rabbit hole broadened my beauty horizons

I’ve fallen down quite a few YouTube rabbit holes in my life. I can’t tell you how many times the clock has struck 2a.m. and I’ve found myself 10 videos deep in cute cats or goofy Emma Stone interviews. But I can’t often say that falling down one of those holes has really changed my life, at least not in any long-term way.

Last spring, however, something unexpected happened. I finally discovered the wonders of beauty videos, and it completely altered my outlook on makeup.

A year ago I did the same thing to my face every day that I’d been doing since high school — mineral foundation, mascara, and blush. Once every six months I would attempt winged eyeliner, scream into the mirror, and give up. Lip products other than chapstick were a foreign concept to me, and I thought contouring was just something everyone pretended was real so as not to hurt Kim Kardashian’s feelings.

I’ve always been into fashion, but for some reason all the creativity I put into my appearance was reserved for everything below my neck. Experimenting with eye shadow combos and lipstick formulas just didn’t intrigue me in the same way that tying a scarf or layering a sweater did.

Then one day I was trolling the Lush website (even makeup novices enjoy handmade, heavenly-smelling bath products), and I decided to look up a product review on YouTube. Suddenly I was introduced to something called a “haul.” I was befuddled. Surely there couldn’t be an entire genre of videos in which people spend 20 minutes talking about their recent purchases, I thought. But it was true — there really is such a genre, and I just watched three hauls in a row without knowing what hit me.

It only escalated from there.

Hauls led to tutorials, which led to monthly favorites, which led to high-end/drugstore comparisons, and before I knew it, I was subscribed to dozens of beauty channels and checking for updates several times a day. There was just something about how those ladies put that makeup on their faces and talked about all their glossy new products that mesmerized me. (If you’re wondering, my favorites include KathleenLights, Zoella, I Covet Thee and Mariah Leonard. And Lisa Eldridge is obviously queen.)

Of course, one can really only watch so many beauty videos before the need to buy everything and put it on one’s own face becomes too overwhelming to resist. Thus, an obsession was born.

I’ve done things in the name of beauty in the past year that I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams. Whereas before I was the sort to use those tiny sponge applicators for eye shadow, I now own at least six different brushes for my eyes alone. I also bought a Marc Jacobs contour palette, because not only do I finally believe in contouring, but I also believe in it, you know? I also have a Birchbox subscription that I take very seriously, and a love for matte lipsticks that just won’t quit.

Not to mention all the beauty lingo I throw around like it’s going out of style: “I watched a swatch video and decided to get this awesome dupe for the Urban Decay Naked palette. The shadows are so pigmented, and there’s no fallout. This color looks great in the crease. Of course I always tightline to make my lashes stand out.” WHO AM I?

Still, as much as my approach to makeup has changed in the past year, I’m far from a guru. I still can’t quite grasp how to do a smoky eye and not look like I got punched in the face, and highlighter mystifies me. I also don’t totally understand how baking works — hearing about it mostly just makes me crave cookies. But as with any newfound obsession, half the fun is seeing what’s out there, trying new things, and deciding what works for you.

Whereas I started this journey thinking I had to follow all the “rules” set in place by the videos I was watching, I now view them more as “guidelines.” I’ve also quelled my urge to go out and buy every single product a beauty guru says is worth it. Well, almost quelled. My bank account might disagree with me.

I think part of the reason I never did much with makeup before was because I was viewing it merely as something to cover imperfections. I just wanted to erase my zits and darken my lashes. But seeing how #nbd so many beauty gurus are about their bare faces, and how enthusiastic they are about different looks, made me realize that it doesn’t have to just be about hiding things you don’t like about yourself. Like fashion, it serves a purpose, but it can also be a hell of a lot of fun.

Jill O’Rourke is a pop culture writer whose Lifetime movie reviews you may have read on Crushable. Her favorite pastime is rewatching 30 Rock three times a year, and she dreams of one day retiring to a hobbit hole. You can follow her on Twitter.

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