Watching a beauty video on YouTube is like a digital doobie before bed, writes Lee Suckling.
Some people find their calm with the Headspace app. Others experience a sense of cathartic bliss watching Dr. Pimple Popper, or listening to pickle-crunching ASMR sounds. My latest form of zen comes in the form of celebrity YouTube beauty videos.
We all find watching famous people while they deal with their skin problems refreshing. Women's magazines have run their "celebrities without make-up" feature for decades. It sells because it lets us all exhale a communal sigh of relief – they are, in fact, just like us.
In-home make-up and skincare videos take this to the next level. These celebs aren't being papped from their worst angles. They've voluntarily put a camera and a selfie light in their own bathroom, and they're letting you see right into their actual pores. They'll show you their under-eye circles, their wrinkles and their spots, and tell you how they manage them. It's exhilarating to see what they really look like when the curtains get closed.
The calming effect these 5-10 minute clips has on me owes to my captivation with anything behind-the-scenes. "The process" is more interesting than the final product to me. Seeing the sheer amount of work that goes in is effective in alleviating my own stresses. It's a form of escapism; like when you worry about your best friend's problems instead of your own.
We all have our own version of what we do in our bathrooms alone – when the door is closed and nobody can see a thing we do. For some, it's the only time of the day we'll achieve complete and total privacy. So to be introduced to somebody's routine for a Met Gala dewy glow or watch them treat their acne-prone skin feels exclusive. Despite being freely available and viewed by millions on YouTube, it feels like you're hanging out with somebody really special, one-on-one, as they dissect their face for you.
Harper's Bazaar's YouTube series Go To Bed With Me gives me more chill than two glasses of white wine. Watching one or two of these videos before my own bedtime is like a digital doobie. Always set in the most beautiful Hollywood bathrooms, I revel in watching the lashes and the foundation come off, the skin getting cleansed, toned, and moisturised, and the serums, oils, patches, masks, and creams go on.
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Whether it's Cindy Crawford or Antoni Porowski, these celebrities welcome you in to their most personal moment of the day. You are their closest friend. You feel included in their otherwise-unattainable lives.
This is where the stress-relief really comes through during these videos. There's an extreme sense of satisfaction as you realise that people you place on a pedestal have the same skin and beauty concerns as you do.
I love it when they make clear how many arduous steps (10, 15, 20... more) go into putting a face on, and taking it back off again. Celebrities are not superhuman. They are just as tired and downtrodden as we all are. They all have pimples, dehydration, sensitive skin, rosacea... you name it, they got it too. They are not flawless, and everything that makes them seem that way just comes in a little bottle. There's much satisfaction for regular folks in that.
Why are skincare and make-up so intriguing to some of us? Beauty is a $532 billion industry. People take beauty seriously because in it lies a sense of self. When you look good, you feel good, and that's an obsession on its own. The desire to see how somebody achieves their beauty goes hand-in-hand with how much product we all buy each year. That's why these videos are so popular.
What's behind every beauty routine? Hard work. A unique combination of expensive products and ones from the supermarket. Years of consultations with dermatologists and make-up professionals and learning tips from friends. All of this time and effort culminates in these celebrity YouTube videos, as you learn all that they know about skin, make-up, and hair (in just a few minutes).
Some of the tips you'll try at home – I've certainly developed my own Go To Bed With Me nighttime routine now – and others you'll trash as "too much work". Every now and then you get a Goop moment suggesting the $3000 bottle of rose water is essential, and it reminds you of how grounded you are. And with that sentiment comes another nugget of stress-relieving, calm-inducing bliss. Yes, you too could look like a celebrity. But it's a real slog. Sometimes all you need to relax is not to follow your own beauty routine, but just to sit on the couch and watch somebody else do it instead of you.