How Social Media Heightened Consumerism in the Beauty Industry
Social media determines what is trending and socially acceptable from music to the products we use every single day. The hard-wired desire to fit in is a catalyst for purchasing trending products, creating a cyclical routine whenever a new product or aesthetic goes viral. Cue the flood of happy chemicals after the purchase because of the feeling of belonging.
- A core principle of consumerism is that a “person’s wellbeing and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions”.
- Social media drives heightened consumerism through influencers and trends
- Focus on the little things, not the little purchases
What Makes us Happy?
According to Investopedia, a core principle of consumerism is that a “person’s wellbeing and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions”. In other words, people need items to be happy and, unfortunately, Americans have fallen victim to consumerism. In fact, a Lending Tree survey found that 90% of Americans have spent money on something to make themselves happier, with 54% reporting this purchase created temporary happiness.
If only over half of those surveyed reported temporary happiness, then why do millions of people continue to rely on purchasing material items for their happiness? The answer is quite simple. It is all that we are taught. Consumer ads and marketing techniques have painted a distorted picture of happiness, brainwashing consumers into believing that purchasing items will provide the happiness they are searching for.
Essentially, consumers' happiness is attached to the purpose and outcome of a product, i.e. clearer skin, a neat home with less visible clutter, or being able to talk with friends, family, or co-workers about the latest episode of a TV series.
Social media drives consumerism based on the basic psychological need to fit in or belong. According to a psychology research article published in 2021, the need to belong varies from person to person. One might feel a high need to belong while another feels a low need to belong. Unfulfilling this basic psychological need can have negative effects on one’s well-being. Furthermore, the article explains that individuals with a high need to belong “showed greater conformity to others’ opinions,” and “greater attention to social identities.”
Social media and influencers have only perpetuated this problem. How? Influencers also create distorted realities. Sharing these curated highlights has created the phenomenon known as comparison culture where individuals continuously compare their lives to the edited lives of others.
Comparison culture has led to a yearning to create the same lifestyle and aesthetic as these influencers because people are convinced they are unhappy with their own reality after comparison. Thus, individuals with this mindset purchase products influencers share, believing the items will enable them to create the same reality of wealth, appearance, and contentment.
Social Media and Heightened Consumerism in the Beauty Industry
The beauty industry has reaped the benefits of increased consumerism thanks to social media influencer marketing and product trending. Below are a few statistics highlighting how well the beauty industry is doing right now.
- Beauty Industry generates over $100 billion in revenue annually
- Skincare is projected to generate up to $177 billion in 2025
- Skincare has the greatest market share of the beauty industry at 42% with hair care and makeup following at 22% and 18% respectively
- Beauty companies are expected to spend $7.7 billion on advertising in 2022 and approximately 34.1% of this will take place in digital advertising
- 67% of beauty shoppers say they turn to influencers to discover new products and 43% say they would purchase an item promoted by an influencer
Next, let’s take a look at leading beauty trends on social media that have led to heightened consumerism.
1. Hyperfocus on Skincare Rituals with an Emphasis on Aesthetics, Efficacy, and Collection Size
Anyone in the beauty community with a presence on social media knows there has been a hyperfocus on skincare rituals since the start of COVID-19. TikTok videos sharing aesthetically pleasing skincare, high efficacy products, and skincare product collection size blew up in popularity, amassing millions of likes.
The impact of this? Millions purchasing products for the wrong reasons. Product efficacy is the only rational reason to purchase a beauty product, not because it comes in cute packaging, it's trending on TikTok, or you just need another to fill up your acrylic drawer divider.
2. Owning an Exorbitant Amount of Beauty Products Because Beauty is a Form of Self Care
Beauty has always been a form of self care, but in recent years social media has placed extreme emphasis on it. This extreme emphasis has created the message that there is no such thing as too much because it is an investment in oneself.
Thus, individuals have collected an exorbitant amount of beauty products over time. Additionally, treating beauty as a primary form of self care can be dangerous because it ties an individual's identity, happiness, well-being, and physical worth to owning and using beauty products.
As you can see, heightened consumerism as a result of these beauty trends is rooted in the desire to fit in and reliance on the products for happiness and well-being.
Correlation does not mean causation, but It is apparent there is a link between heightened consumerism, increased consumer spending, and social media. From product recommendations to trends, the beauty industry has monetarily profited from consumers.
While I cannot offer a solution, I can offer wisdom to those who have fallen victim to the endless cycle (it’s taken me a while to break free from the chains of social media and shopping). Social media trends and influencers do not make your reality less. Less important, less beautiful, less productive, or less interesting. You do not have to purchase countless beauty products (or clothes, or anything really) to fit into the constrictive box social media creates. You do not have to fit into an aesthetic because others do.
You do not have to let social media and shopping purchases dictate your happiness and well-being. You are enough without it. Stay true to yourself and find joy in the little things, not the little purchases.
Written by Lauren Conklin
- Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash