Glossing over: How consumers should approach minimalist beauty brands


Between the paper-thin pages of fashion magazines, stuck on the front page of Pinterest boards, and lining the walls of any makeup store, advertisements feature models with largely uniform makeup looks. These advertisements, with heavily made-up models, push on to the viewer a standard of 21st-century beauty trends. Some of these features – such as skinny models, high cheekbones, and large, doe eyes – have been longly persistent and long analyzed in the history of the fashion industry. Other trends have waned in and out of popularity, with some – such as the thickness of eyebrows – being inconsistent within a two-decade span.

With standards of beauty ever evolving, one reactionary beauty movement has risen in popularity. The “No-makeup makeup” look, recognizable by “effortlessly” smooth skin, dewy features, and thick brows and lashes has been popularized by brands like Milk, RMS, and Glossier – and has led to a heavily invested consumer base who pour money into brands that boast minimality. Looking at advertisements from these brands reveal a push for individuality and ease of use. Products are blazoned with labels like “multi-use” “mixable” and “buildable.” Items are made with ingredients that claim to improve the user through their capabilities to moisturize, contort to your skin, and be universally flattering. As we journey into a new era of beauty trends, we must be savvy consumers, and critically examine the products being marketed towards us.

To those involved in this “no-makeup makeup” trend in beauty, they are allowed to escape the social stigma associated with wearing makeup. Folks who choose to wear bold, exaggerated makeup looks are met with mixed reactions, some complementary and some not-so-complementary. Minimalist brands market to a crowd who wants to appear put together without being perceived as “vain” or “trying too hard.”

At the same time, these brands employ skilled marketing tactics that come across experimental and well executed. Take Glossier – the makeup and skincare brand never takes the same approach to launching a new product twice. Advertisements range from makeup bloggers using a new mystery product to adorning Beyonce at the 2018 Grammys.

Brands like Glossier have upwards of 950,000 followers on social media platforms such as Instagram and sell out of products overnight. Statistics like this make it evident that their marketing approach is working well. With Glossier in particular, aspects of the shopping experience make the brand seem exclusive and luxurious while remaining within the under-fifty-dollar range for multiple products. The key to a minimalist beauty brand is to understand your client base: how much will consumers pay to feel like they are receiving not just a product but extravagant and chic experience?

The question we as consumers must reflect on is are these products “worth” the cost? While this is ultimately up to individual preference, often, brands still thrive among the criticism of products. One look at Glossier’s website will show a large number of positive reviews with a mix of negative reviews, with most products averaging around four out of five stars. However, many of the negative reviews follow a similar formula: the writer first justifies their brand loyalty, then criticizes the product, yet still gives a medium-to-high rating. “I am the biggest glossier fan and I was so excited when the [sic] came out with this so I purchased it straight away,” one reviewer writes. “My skin has never been worse not even when I was a teenager. I feel embarrassed to go outside! I have stopped using this now and I hope my skin will go back to normal again… I have never been this upset and sad after using a new skin product.” Three out of five stars.

The positive reviews for unliked products show one crucial point in the minimalist beauty movement: even through brand hiccups, Glossier’s client base sticks with them, and the brand adapts. With a customer service team hailed for their kindness and flexibility, and a marketing team that adjusts pricing and aesthetic of products in response to feedback from their client base, Glossier’s structure allows easy response to the change of the market.

As consumers of beauty, it is important to reflect on why we are consuming what we buy. Does it “work,” or are we drawn to brand appeal? Does it matter the reason we purchase a product as long as it satisfies us?

The short answer to the latter question is, yes. As we embark on the new age of advertising in the world of social media, large-scale publicity stunts, and chic, modern brands, we must remember to stay grounded and cognizant of our purchases. Minimalist beauty brands claim to foster individuality and the freedom to choose, yet promote uniformity of the user. Our money as consumers is our voice, and we must use it to support brands providing quality, key products.