Confessions of a beauty editor: ‘You’re expected to be your own personal brand’

Beauty content is not what it used to be. While it has always catered, on some level, to advertisers, it’s now bent on traffic numbers, too — meaning that the minutiae of the Kardashian clan’s makeup routine often takes precedence above all else.

An onslaught of technological and scientific advances has also made the space less simplistic, normalizing the use of needles (Botox) and heavy machinery (lasers) in the pursuit of a more perfect physique — not to mention the endless cult workouts (from SoulCycle to Barry’s) and questionable diet plans on offer.

Left to navigate and make sense of this terrain are beauty editors, the industry’s guinea pigs of sorts.

In our latest Confessions, in which we grant anonymity for honesty, we chat with a beauty editor who’s worked for both print and online publications about how the job affects her self-esteem and what the industry lies about most.

What’s the biggest misconception about being a beauty editor?
That it’s all about being image-obsessed. When I meet people and tell them what I do, I get a little self-conscious that they’ll assume I’m really vain or really appearances-driven, which is not the case.

People don’t always realize that beauty — especially now, in 2017 — can take a more well-rounded approach, where it’s less about how people look and more about how they’re feeling. That’s what our readers are responding to now. They don’t want to be told how to look — they don’t even really read that content anymore — they’re more interested in learning small ways they can improve themselves. The beauty industry is getting democratized, which I really appreciate.

How much of these so-called democratic changes are genuine, though, and not simply PR stunts?
Obviously, at the end of the day, everyone’s trying to sell something, and you can’t say these moves aren’t done with that in mind or to attract the largest readership possible. But I’m hopeful that it’s not just a flash-in-the-pan situation and more representative of a larger shift.

What improvements would you like to see within the industry?
I would like to see it authentically move towards acceptance and individuality — and I mean true individuality, not just some girl who shaved her hair off.

I hope this whole self-care focus is not just a trend, especially during these times. I think it’s our responsibility as editors to help our readers navigate this political climate, which is stacked against them as women — like how to navigate birth control, for example. It’s hard, though, because you don’t want to get too political [and potentially] alienate people.

Are there certain topics you’re required to write about as part of your job that you just hate?
Oh, yeah — I’ve always disliked the celebrity beat. We all have to write about the Kardashians, although, interestingly enough, fewer people are reading about them; they’re getting fewer clicks, so we’re seeing a shift away from that. And it gets really annoying when you have to regurgitate the same non-news over and over again, like what lipstick some celebrity wore once.

How does working as a beauty editor affect your personal life and self-esteem?
It’s especially hard as someone who has had an eating disorder. Fortunately, I learned really early on to compartmentalize that because I didn’t want to ever bring it into the workplace. It was like this deep, dark secret of mine. Fortunately, I’m past it, but there are times when I’m writing about body acceptance and wondering if it makes me a hypocrite because I struggle with body acceptance, too.

You’re writing about these beautiful models and celebrities, so it’s going to affect you at times. But I think that’s less about being a beauty editor and more about being a woman. The majority of women I know have been touched by body image issues or an eating disorder.

Do you feel pressure to have a certain presence on social media?
I actually think the way you present yourself on social media is where the most pressure is in this industry. When you work for a media company now, you’re expected to be your own personal brand, and it can be tough not to compare yourself to other editors who have huge social media followings. It’s really easy to get caught up in that game.

We didn’t sign up for this, but some people are [more down for it than others]. You’re so focused on the day-to-day of your job sometimes, it can be hard to keep up with your social media presence. That shouldn’t even be a concern, but it is. You’re constantly wondering if you’re doing enough — and if it’s really necessary.

Is it tough to act as a guinea pig of sorts, constantly testing new products and procedures?
I think it’s a personal thing. I’m super down to try anything once, but I’ve learned that I don’t do well with diet stories and cleanses because of my history [with an eating disorder]. I rarely do them, unless it’s something that I know won’t trigger me. I think cleanses are bullshit most of the time, anyway.

Other than the crazy blood facials (which actually work really well, by the way), I’ve tried sweat lodges and taken sound baths. I wouldn’t normally be able to afford this stuff; it’s fun to experience all the crazy shit that celebrities are doing to themselves [for free]. You start to understand why they look so good. I’ve tried some of the weirdest stuff — but it can be pretty fun.

Sometimes they will want to film us trying something for the first time or have us use it on social media, and it’s like: Do I really want to show everyone what I look like with blood all over my face?

What’s the biggest lie coming out of the beauty industry right now?
That not everyone’s had work done. Every celebrity — no matter what age — gets filler and botox, and it’s not a big deal. It’s so subtle, and they still look like themselves — most of the time. But there’s a stigma around it. I get it — everyone wants to say that they’re naturally beautiful — but to me, it’s the same as getting a really intense facial or something. It also perpetuates the whole “no-makeup selfie” farce. It’s really easy to take a no-makeup selfie when you have perfect skin and have had a bunch of work done.

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