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Makeup for Social Media vs Real Life: The Key Differences

Looking great in pictures and real life are two different things.

Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on July 13, 2023

Woman With Expressive Makeup

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It’s no secret that our approach to personal beauty has been completely transformed by the rise of social media.
Some of the most well-known names of our generation rose to fame through their mastery of the art of makeup.
Think Zoe Sugg, Jeffree Star, and James Charles, who have close to 100 million subscribers between them.

In turn, the world of social media makeup style tutorials has affected how all of us approach our personal style.

The dramatic, gradient eyeshadows, subtle lipliners, and high-camp contouring styles that are ubiquitous among young people today would not have been so widespread if it weren’t for Instagram and YouTube culture.

While the lines between performative social media makeup and practical, everyday style are increasingly blurred, there are still some distinct differences.

Knowing these differences can help you take the best approach when it comes to using makeup, whether you’re getting ready for a night out or simply doing it for the ‘gram.

Here’s what you need to remember.


Viral social media looks require a showbusiness-level of dedication


The first thing any aspiring influencer needs to know is that social media makeup requires some serious dedication and resources.

In a world where all successful makeup artists use expensive lighting and sophisticated visual trickery, any newcomers need to be prepared.

Consider social media makeup to be the same as any other type of digital show business.

Strong colors and high contrast are essential to ensure every facet of your look is visible on someone’s laptop screen.


Real-life makeup requires some practical considerations


While you might have seen a powerful look on YouTube that you’re dying to recreate before your next night on the town, there are some practical considerations to take note of before you try it out.

As we’ve already covered, makeup influencers need to go the extra mile to make their carefully-crafted looks stand out.

This often means that they will apply several heavy layers of makeup, forming a pancake so thick that it would quickly start to slide off your face just as you begin chatting to that guy in the part who bought you a drink.

Having makeup that stays in top form all day long is key.

In addition, the level of effort that goes into online looks just isn’t practical in real life.

Many influencers report spending several hours on a single look, with some even spending an entire day getting it right.

No social event is worth that much effort unless it’s exactly what you like.


Even the most share-worthy looks might not play well in real-life situations


While Jeffree Star’s latest cyberpunk-themed contour might have wowed you when you were sat in bed playing on your phone, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice for your first day at a new job.

Put simply, many looks created by influencers and YouTube personalities are designed to be consumed online.

Not only will you look odd if you wear some of the more dramatic looks out to work (which definitely isn’t a bad thing), but you just won’t look the same as you thought you would.

How a makeup look appears under the circular light is not guaranteed to be how it will appear in the cold light of day.

Remember to consider the environment you will actually be wearing your makeup in, for aesthetic reasons at least.


However, it’s still OK to aim for high drama in both situations


That’s not to say that OTT makeup looks are inappropriate for social situations.

Makeup is a form of art and self-expression, so you should absolutely consider your most dramatic, high-fashion look the next time you’re heading out with your besties.

It’s simply important to remember that, as with all forms of art, a little finesse and consideration for the craft are required to make it work.

With these nuggets of wisdom in mind, you’ll be guaranteed to slay your next look, whether it’s for socials or for your next house party!

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