Is this going to be yet another rant or post about losing my blogging mojo? Goodness knows, I go through these phases a lot.
But no, to be honest it isn’t. What it is about really, is that feeling of ennui and disenchantment with blogging and what it’s brought about for many of us who have been doing it for a while, or even not for a while, but who are a little more particular in our coverage.
It’s no surprise to me that in a short few months, I’ve come across a number of blog posts from different bloggers in different parts of the world touching on the same or similar subject matter as to how I felt. I’m actually seeing a lot of what I label “beauty fatigue” out there in many blogs in recent times, and I just as readily confess to experiencing that sort of ennui. A small sampling of the posts I’ve read are on British Beauty Blogger, London Beauty Queen, Beauty Reflections and Sway Beauty and even as far as back as 2014 on Rocaille Writes; and while different in subject matter, the underlying theme seems to be a sense of disenchantment with the business, and a fighting desire to not be just another face in the crowd.
Beauty blogging is a huge business. I use the word “business” loosely because for some, it’s their livelihood, and for others, it’s a means to share. Run a search for “beauty blog” on Google and as of today, Google throws up 578 MILLION hits. So, you want to make your mark? You have to stand out, in a crowd of at least 500 MILLION people. That’s about 16 times the population of Malaysia. Puts things in perspective eh? 🙂
But what that also means is that it’s hard to stand out and be different, and above all, honest. You see, many bloggers, myself included, have to depend to a degree, on the brands to feed us information on what’s new and what’s the latest, in order for us to trickle that news out to you, the reader. The problem, as I see it, arises when news or launches go out in a huge social media blitz, but without critique. In a manner of speaking, a lot of the essence of beauty blogging is lost because of this lack of critique and that is, for me, my biggest disenchantment of all.
I’m really curious about how you feel, whether as a blogger or reader, and whether it’s a phase we’re all going through or if there’s something much bigger going on.
From a brand or PR standpoint, I can understand the need to get lots of eyeballs on the new product, and to drum up hype. But it is this that causes this beauty fatigue in many of us.
How often have you come across a brand “leaking” images of a new eyeshadow palette, mascara, eyeliner on social media, and then engaging 50 bloggers and Youtubers to flood your social media and blog feeds within a particular period with this same new eyeshadow palette, mascara or eyeliner; then offering the said product “for a limited time only” before its official release 2 months down the road. Sound familiar? I’m looking at you Urban Decay and Benefit.
You see, I don’t deny that it’s an effective marketing strategy. People actually line up for blocks for hours, outside of places like Sephora in the rain…. to buy an eyeshadow palette. It’s no different from what Apple does with their iPhones; but that is also why I don’t own one 😀
But my problem is not with the whole blitz. Ok, it partially is. Hype turns me off a product, and if I do get my hands on the product, I find any way I can to criticize it. Because you see, you will rarely read critical evaluation of a new product within the first 3 months of its release. During this period of seeding, most bloggers are so enamoured with their free latest “sneak preview” hyped product that they don’t feel the need to criticize it. In fact, they don’t feel right to, or they might not even be allowed to (money often buys silence). A true test of a product’s efficacy comes about 6 months down the road after it’s out in the market and regular people buy it and go “WTF is this crap piece of mascara/eyeliner?!” and the true reviews trickle out.
The same thing happens on Instagram, where attention spans are so short, it’s restricted to a double-tap to like a photo. No, it’s not because you care about what is said in the caption, it’s about how pretty that photo looks. And I think that’s fine, except anything can be made to look pretty with flowers and creative design, and that’s why everything on Instagram should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Having given things some thought, it is this lack of critique in a lot of blogs, that really bugs me.
Blogs are meant to be places were we can share honest opinions on products. That is the essence of all blogs in all niches. Over time, as will happen, they’ve evolved into online magazines. Nothing wrong with that, except that you can’t on the one hand claim be honest, or say that you write product reviews, and on the other hand not offer any critique.
Critique isn’t about product bashing nor negativity. It isn’t about saying something negative about a product, or sighing and moaning or being flippant in an attempt to look original and different from the rah-rah bloggers out there. It is just about being discerning, analytical and critical in your presentation. It is what being honest and truthful is all about.
If you want to review something, that’s what you should be doing – presenting the good and the bad and your thoughts on why you like or dislike it. A “review” isn’t about 10 beautifully edited photographs and 10 lines of text that essentially say “This is the best [insert new product] I have ever used! I can’t live without it!”.
Sure, sometimes, there will be that “I can’t live without it!” product. I have those too and there are products where I can’t find a single bad thing to say about them, because I’m blind to their faults. But it is a very rare product indeed that survives a discerning eye and a critical mind.
So this is what I feel is lacking today, and what I feel should be built up for a stronger blogging voice. In fact, I feel that beauty bloggers in particular, have a responsibility to their readers to channel the truth, because a lot of it affects our skin and by extension, our looks. With food bloggers, it’s just wasted calories, or tech bloggers, wasted money on gadgets. But beauty, it’s more than skin deep. Sometimes it can literally affect our skin.
I don’t know if this casual flippancy to rah-rah is just a reflection of people today (which makes me sound like that old aunty in the corner going “Kids today! tsk tsk tsk”) Do we have shorter attention spans? Do we not appreciate critical thought? Do people even know how to write a critical piece any more?
Or perhaps it’s to do with the fact that many brands and PR people can’t handle critiques of a product. They have 500 million blogs to go after. It’s easy to drop that handful of blogs that are offering to critique their product because the product may not stand up to scrutiny. It’s safer therefore to engage with 10 blogs who’d offer a rah-rah feature with prettily edited photographs (“Cheerleader blogs” I call them), than with 1 critical blog but one that has a wide reach and influence.
So, if you want to play with PR and brands, you have to play by their rules. Or so it seems. Be nice, don’t be critical, take pretty pictures, praise everything sky high so you get that next sneak peek, sponsorship, freebie, collaboration, event invitation etc. That is, in a way, how I feel things are going, hence the reluctance to be critical. Being critical doesn’t get you the event invitations, the freebies, the collaborations and it gets you put into cold storage. Because, you know, you dared to speak your mind. Horrors.
Yet, there’s nothing to stop any of us from going out and buying that latest new product and blogging about it and offering our critique. But, we can only do it on our own time and with our own resources and really, once I’m hit with beauty fatigue, I’m less likely to want to pay good money just “for the blog”. At one time, maybe I would have. Now, knowing what I know that goes on behind the scenes, I’m less likely to. My money is better served going to the things I actually love or want to discover and learn about, not just so I can debunk a hype.
So that’s how I feel in recent times. A little washed up, a little disenchanted and not a little disillusioned. It would be nice to wake up to a tsunami of critical thought, or at least something meaty to read. The number of blogs I read dwindle from day to day as I scrap the Cheerleader blogs. The sad thing is that many blogs I read started as well written, critical blogs. Then fame and freebies happened and now they’re pretty Cheerleader blogs that PR people love. And that’s great. Except their readers have left too. Like me, we come for the critique, we stay for the fun and we leave when it becomes another bland, vacuous PR led machine.
But perhaps if enough people feel the way I do, this critical thought might even happen. And it might even teach the brands and the PR that blogs and bloggers aren’t just mere marketing tools – we have thoughts and opinions and if properly channeled, and properly written, it doesn’t impact them in a negative way at all. It might even bring them more interest in their product, instead of their product being dismissed as “just another hyped up beauty crap product”.
Your thoughts are welcome, blogger or reader. I can’t be the only person out there bemoaning the lack of critique or experiencing beauty fatigue! 😀
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This part “Blogs are meant to be places were we can share honest opinions on products.” is so on point! Nowadays, I just browse those so called “cheerleader blogs” to see what’s new & watch youtube for the fun of it. I’m still new in this beauty blogging thing & since there’s no PR pressuring me, I don’t have to meet a deadline. Also, I felt so guilty when you mentioned waiting in the rain for an eyeshadow in Sephora “yes the urban decay naked on the run” moment, that was a trigger switch for me to actually dig deep & now I cherry pick on things and be not afraid of writing both the good and bad. Because at the end of the day, I’d rather have a beauty collection that I’m really using rather than a gazillion things that are just sitting & eating up space. Continue what you do, we need more of you!
Paris B says
Hello Bee 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and I hope you don’t get too disheartened along your blogging journey if bring critical doesn’t bring you what you were expecting. Be honest and be critical and readers will appreciate that! Oh dear, did you wait in the rain for that palette? I hope it brought you joy anyway. I wasn’t keen on it, and I did say so, but it didn’t stop that queue did it? 😀 Thank you for the support and I hope to have more of you critical thinking blogs join me – we should be a band of sisters! 🙂
I only read blogs with honest reviews and I have been a loyal follower of yours for years. Keep doing what you believe in, quality is what counts.
Paris B says
Hi Mandy, thank you for the affirmation that what I’m doing is appreciated, if not by others, by lovelies by yourself 🙂
You’ve just said everything I have been feeling for months! I think it makes it so much less authentic when brands give a bunch of free stuff to people (NOT saying that as a hater) and then they hype it up. It kind of seems like everyone has it at that point and for me, THAT’S where I start getting turned off. I don’t want what everyone HAS already. Sure, it helps their sales, which is the whole point but I think in the end, it hurts the blogger; maybe not right away but you lose readers. You’ve lost legitimacy at that point. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t care about legitimacy. I fell in love with beauty blogs and blogging in general because it felt like, hey these are REAL people, not a celebrity endorsement, because we all know none of that real! Nowadays, everything is photoshopped to death and just feels SO fake (I almost quit instagram for this reason; I refuse!). I’m so selective about the blogs I follow (you’ve just gained a follower by the way :))! Oh and there’s no waiting in line outside any store for me (unless of course Beyonce is there)!!
I think all we can do is continue what we have been doing and hope that some people can see through the BS.
Paris B says
Hello Indya, I think it’s fascinating how this sense of disenchantment has been sweeping through the beauty blogging community but without many people calling it out. I think a lot of us are tired of what’s happening and we want a change but it’s not going to happen so easily. I think it’s fine that PRs do what they’re doing. It’s their job and I’m not a hater too because I am often on that receiving end. But if a product isn’t worth the hype then we should be able to call it out. But few people feel that way because that’s seen as biting the hand that feeds them right? Thank you for reading my blog and for sharing your thoughts. I hope to see you around, and keep on doing what you’re doing too! 🙂
^Fist bump^ to my critical writer! 🙂
Paris B says
*fist bump* 😀 <3
Tine @ Beautyholics Anonymous says
Yes, yes and a million times YES to every single thing you wrote. If I could high five you right now, I would. I feel exactly the same. Disenchanted, frustrated and quite honestly, pretty damn pissed off. The amount of bloggers here in Australia pandering to brands is growing by the day. These are the ones who get sponsorships, front row to fashion weeks, invitations to events, heaps of products, industry recognition and much more. These are also the ones who copy and paste press releases on their blog, word for word (I actually checked. Yes, eat already nothing to do) and will sing praises about products sent to them to high heavens. Nothing could go wrong with a single product mentioned on the blog.
And here we have bloggers like us, who get blacklisted by PRs because we won’t pander. I’ve fallen off call-out lists because of what I’ve written about products that were sent to me. Good PRs who understand and praise our integrity keep leaving and are replaced by newer and younger ones who would very much prefer to work with someone who would only do positive reviews for products.
I have said time and time again that I could easily buy my own shit if I want to, that I don’t need those products sent to me but in reality, hand on heart, it’s disheartening when the ones who say how high when the PR says jump will get all the perks and more.
But at the end of the day, readers can call bullshit to what we say. It’s pretty bloody obvious if we change our tone because that’s just not how we are. And they’ll drop us like hot potatoes. PRs, I can afford to lose. Readers, hell no.
Paris B says
I’d ^high5 you anyway Tine! 🙂 I feel you because yep, same boat and all that. I think it’s easier to follow the crowd and reap benefits than to stand out and get none. So, should we be content with our small pool of readers because we choose to be critical and honest or should we build a larger following with less inspired writing? I don’t know to be honest. Maybe you can figure it out at the PBevent 😉 Wish I was there! I feel like a sucker for missing it out again 🙁
I love reading beauty blogs. I dislike following beauty bloggers on social media unless they post information about their real lives – what they ate for lunch, who their pets/kids are, etc. Otherwise, they’re just free advertisements for beauty products and there is literally nothing different between leafing through a magazine and scrolling through my feed.
Cheerleader blogs, as you so aptly call them, are utterly useless. They’re maaaaybe useful for photos in different lighting or on different skintones, but in terms of content, they suck. Plain and simple. I do not read cheerleader blogs, but like you, I’ve noticed that some of my old favorite “real” blogs are slowly becoming less critical and discerning. If you take a photo of a few weak-sauce swatches and give it an “A+++!!!” and I see the real swatches on Temptalia and she reams the product, I’m going to unfollow your blog.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I agree with you 100%. I love how you keep this blog real. I love how I get to see what you ate for lunch (in a non-creepy way…ahem). I like that you give the honest truth when reviewing products and go into great detail about why you did or didn’t like a product. PR companies and bloggers/’grammers need to break the vicious cycle somehow that creates this cruddy content.
Paris B says
Thank you for letting me know that I’m (sorta) on the right track 🙂 I think I made the right decision (or accidentally anyway) in keeping my Twitter and Instagram personal because it gives me a lot of leeway to share MY thoughts and photos as opposed to my blog’s thoughts and photos. It lets me be me 🙂 While I’m not a huge fan of Temptalia, I appreciate that despite her fame and popularity, she keeps things real in her own way. I wouldn’t consider her very critical, but I like that she takes the trouble to call out a bad product instead of just glossing over it the way many others do. It doesn’t damage her credibility, but only serves to boost it and I wonder why people can’t see that it can do the same for their blogs!
Wow… this was TLDR to me at first.
But I am giving this post a proper reading and that’s quite some disenchantment.
Anyhowz… yes, I can sense your ennui about the situation right now. I like reading beauty and travel blogs & vlogs, and I do google and surf around. But at least for me, those “reviews” that are really meh and too much gloss, where I can sense the typical superficial promotional “wow”s and raves, I usually don’t bother to go back to them again.
Trust me, I believe the truth-to-life bloggers will stand tide and fad.
It’s not the the first time I comment here also right?
Just do your own stuff! ;b
Paris B says
(Confession: I googled TLDR LOL!) Thank you for coming back to read and comment, Peiqing 🙂 The thing is that I don’t think this is a problem unique to the beauty blogging industry but to the whole blogging industry as a whole. Perhaps we are ripe for a change? I don’t know. But it would be nice to think so right? Thanks for the support!
I’ve actually stopped following most of the chinese makeup blogs I used to follow simply because every time they blogged about a new beauty product (either purchased by themselves or sent to them by that brand’s PR) it read like they were writing a trite PR piece for a magazine. None of it was every critical. It got boring real fast.
Paris B says
Someone I know who does PR in Taiwan told me that bloggers there are paid for almost every review, event attendance etc. It’s an unspoken rule and they can earn a lot more than a regular executive but it isn’t usually disclosed. I don’t know if it’s true because I don’t follow Chinese blogs but I can see why then, that everyone would aspire to be like their idols. It’s curious to see how long it can last.
Hello beautiful stranger. Sorry, I have been quiet. This post is wonderful and truthful as always. Thanks for sticking to your principle and it has made beauty a continuous interest in me through earnest enablers like you. I do see some blogs doing a fabulous copy paste or harmonic parrot – those turn me off really. Hence like most who have left comments here, I narrow down my choice of blogs to read and I also echo the sentiments. Regardless, you know us and will always appreciate your honesty, nevermind some product reviews are not sprinkled with gold dust and unicorn. Haha, but some products are definitely unicorn worthy 🙂
Paris B says
Hey Jennifer 🙂 Thank you for leaving a comment to share your thoughts, I appreciate it as always! Ah copy-paste blogs are a-plenty. I often wonder who they’re kidding, but maybe there is a demand for it, who knows! I would really appreciate a better choice of reading material both locally (especially locally because it would be nice you know) and globally but it seems to be a shrinking minority. Oh well, we do what we can and hope everyone catches on one day 😉
I hear you babe, I am also experiencing beauty fatigue. Not many things excite me anymore like it used to and that\’s why I slowed down on my purchases. For me, I always make sure I do my research first before laying down my money so I only buy stuff I know I am going to love but once in a while a dud slips in.
Paris B says
I guess we can only buy so much before we look at what we have and go “wait a minute, don’t I already own this?” and it turns out that we do! LOL
You are absolutely right. Full stop.
That is way I am here. Thank you!
Paris B says
Thank you kindly Tatiana! 😀 <3
We’ll said! I run an indie cosmetics brand and we need more bloggers willing to be critical. Not only does it give our buyers the right expectations and possibly save us from returns, it helps us improve. I hope you never give up on that. I’m out looking for bloggers right now and avoiding those cheerleaders. I want good, strong writers with pretty swatches and even prettier brains.
Paris B says
Thank you for leaving a comment Brooke and you are a brave (and rare) brand indeed, who is comfortable with a critical review 🙂 I hope more brands follow in your suit and that you find the bloggers you need and want 🙂
Raeleen R. says
I find it really refreshing to read you want to maintain this level of integrity as a reviewer. And this is why I will keep returning to your blog.
Paris B says
Thank you for the vote of confidence, Raeleen 🙂
I really enjoy the way you critique products on your blog. I have found your blog when I was about to lose my hope in the beauty bloggers because they always love all the products out there.. That is why you should keep writing! You are different, analytic and honest. So again, keep doing this! 🙂
Paris B says
Thank you so much Gokce for leaving a comment. I truly appreciate it and I’m happy that you are happy here at MWS because I’m definitely happy to have you! I’ll keep at it, thank you for the affirmation!
I came here from a referral by Monika, a fellow blogger we love. I must say, I have enjoyed reading your piece and everyone’s comment thus far. I realize that in this day and age, everyone blogs with an AGENDA — whether it be personal, business, or a combination of the two. The problem for us as readers (also as bloggers) is to tease between the two. Lack of discernment in posts is a dead giveaway of a business agenda (that comes as money or as free PR items, etc.). Someone who has been around in the blogosphere may be able to spot this from a mile away, but most of us are not! A majority of my readers are moms who do not blog, never/rarely commented if ever, and I use my blog as a personal outlet. I owe it to these very few readers to share something worth their time reading. Chugging out PR products with lots of pretty pictures do not substitute for the personal opinion that often one seeks while reading blogs.
Yes, I think for this matter, I am more selective of blogs and bloggers whose opinion I trust. If a product is BIG enough, MUST-HAVE enough, I will hear it one way or the other.
On the flip side, if all bblogers start to re-examine their “relationships” with PR/Brands, and perhaps be more critical of this issue, PRs maybe less likely to hold products as bargaining chips and perhaps the whole bblogers may turn around as a source of honest opinion and experience. Just imagine what will happen if all bblogers tell the PRs “You know, I’ll blog when I want to, when I have something valuable to say to my reader, and when it is relevant to my blog and my readers. I won’t feature it on my “5 Must-Haves Summer/Spring/Winter” things just so this product get a mentioned out. Thank you for your free products.”
Glad to have found this post!
Paris B says
Hi Claire, thank you so much for dropping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment 🙂 I do tend to agree about the blogging for an agenda thing. This might be why a lot of “old-timers” feel jaded. Because a lot of us started with no agenda in mind except to share. But now, I actually get emails from people asking “how do I get in touch with PR” and they haven’t even started their blog! As to the flipside, I do think a lot of us will feel obliged to feature a product sent by PR anyway in one way or another. I’ve nothing against that, except that I feel there is more to be said about any product than just “Oh look what I received, and it’s the best [product] I’ve ever used!” without too much critical thought. That is what I feel, that’s lacking most 🙂
I think part of the problem is how many people these days don’t like to read. The trend now seems to veer towards fast, disposable information presented “Twitter” style, with photos doing the talking instead.
I get beauty fatigue from time to time, but I’m subscribed to your updates and often, it’s your well-written reviews and blogging integrity that pull me back in. I know I can trust your product reviews, and while a product may or may not work for me, at least I know what it is capable of doing/achieving in a “real world” setting, on a real (thinking) person. This makes me more likely (and curious) to check it out.
And personally, I think brands should give more credit to honest reviews. These are opinions and insights that they would traditionally only get through costly market research and focus groups. Plus, it’s constructive criticism that will help with product development.
If a brand is serious about attracting long-term customers who really believe in the brand and who will invest in the products, I think they can’t afford to disregard blogs like yours. These blogs may not turn impressionable people into Cheerleaders, but they’re a platform for brands to gain loyal, discerning customers.
Paris B says
You are 100% right about people not liking to read these days, Adele. I bet few people make it past paragraph 3 of most of my posts, preferring to just skip right to the nutshell LOL! But it is also to do a lot with behaviour and expectations. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have changed how information is disseminated and consumed and quite often, that reflects in the way people blog or read blogs. In fact, I think sometimes people forget that there is no word/character restriction in a blog! LOL
But yes, I also totally agree with you about the brands part. I get their point of view – bad press is not good for them. But there is a difference between bad and critical press. The problem I feel, is that for the most part, PR and brands are managed by young people who aren’t as experienced about things and therefore have a more idealistic, simplistic view on what should be disseminated. So Cheerleaders will appeal to them and a bit of critique will send them scurrying far away. But I reckon it’s ok. Those who dare approach will have their just rewards and those who don’t, well, they do too! 😉 Thanks for sticking by all this time, Adele. I appreciate it!
I’ll be back with something more eloquent when it’s not this late, but this piece deserves immediate clapping.
Paris B says
haha… thank you Ana! 😀
I think it happens when you “care” (for lack of a better word). And tiring as it may be, it’s all about managing expectations (yours, readers and brands). But always remember that you need to be true to yourself – it’s why your readers trust you and your reviews in the first place. Gosh, I’m full of cliches this morning! Hope you’re feeling better 🙂 x
Paris B says
Thank you Mei and yes, I actually feel much better now that I’ve let it out 😀 But you’re right. Things like these happen when you care and it saddens me to see blogs turn into press release mills because there is so much potential out there. But then, there will be those who will disagree. I guess there’s a place for us all 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I totally agree. Whenever I look for reviews of a product, I’m always looking for posts that go into the science of the ingredients, and not just ‘OOh the packaging is so cute!’. I love reading honest reviews that aren’t afraid to break the product down and say what works and what didn’t.
Paris B says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sammie 😀 I think it’s nice to have a little more discourse on this, and more dissection into the products featured. It’s just more helpful.
what a well-written post. as a woman-of-colour, I read a lot of blogs by African-American bloggers. This is a subsection of the blogging community that is VERY OFTEN over-looked by the PR/marketing machines. Which is stupid as WOC spend billions on beauty products annually. However, since only 2, maybe 3 black bloggers may get samples, the rest often will purchase hyped up products using their own funds. Their honesty, and as you stated, usually 3months post the original hype, is worth the wait. They may not be useful for swatches, unless one also has a deeper tone, but for blatant honest opinions about the true feel/texture/function of a product, rather than just how it looks, african-american bloggers/vloggers are very useful.
Paris B says
Hi there and thank you for your input. You know, you are right about women of colour being under-represented in the beauty blogging world. It’s a pity because beauty really transcends colour and race and it would be so useful to have a product seen on diverse skin tones. I’ll be sure to keep a lookout for more varied blogs because heaven knows, we could all do with some truth out there!