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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Social media’s influence on beauty standards fuels overconsumption, impossible financial expectations

Emily Weigand
A bathroom sink cluttered with beauty products, including makeup, hair tools, and fragrances.

Over the past decade the world has witnessed a significant transformation in the realms of beauty and fashion, and it is not exactly because of  evolving tastes or innovative products. 

The rapid evolution of beauty trends, particularly on platforms like TikTok, has contributed to a culture of overconsumption and unrealistic financial standards, especially for teenage girls. This phenomenon is not just a result of changing preferences but also a consequence of social media’s role in exacerbating the effects of capitalism, which relentlessly works to extract money from its users. 

TikTok has been the main breeding ground for the portrayal of these impractical standards. The app’s design intentionally makes users feel left out if they are not actively participating in the latest trends. The app’s personalized feed, called the “For You Page”, allows it to curate content based on your interests and interactions, like a tailor-made playlist of videos. This is achieved through the deployment of neuromarketing, which is “the application of neuroscience to marketing so companies can identify user preferences […] It allows businesses to truly understand how the user responds at the subconscious level,” Many apps use this technique, but it is especially prevalent on TikTok, where user interactions with specific videos are meticulously measured, and content recommendations are fine-tuned accordingly. Given the app’s predominantly young user base and reliance on its fast-paced nature to keep users engaged, trends tend to emerge at an astonishing speed, according to The Case Western Reserve Observe. 

Influencers, many of whom already come from predominantly white socioeconomic backgrounds, actively maintain this cycle of trends, flaunting their latest beauty purchases and captivating young users in a whirlwind of consumerism, according to Forbes Magazine. This pattern only entices their impressionable audience to emulate their style, leading to a spree of consumption that provides temporary satisfaction while ultimately reinforcing the social powers of trends.

An example of this cycle is the inflation of trendy beauty products prices in the last ten years. In 2013, most middle schoolers coveted their EOS lip balms, and, according to Business Insider, “It was the second most-popular lip balm brand in America behind Burt’s Bees.” Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus openly used these lip balms, but they retailed at a modest $3.79. Nowadays, one of the most popular beauty products on TikTok is the Dior Lip Oil, with over 900 million views of  the hashtag. The lip oil is a staggering $40, and yet it is constantly sold out. While celebrities in 2013 were using a lip balm under five dollars, impressionable users are now expected to purchase a product almost ten times that price. 

What adds to this culture of overconsumption is the language that many influencers use when reviewing a beauty product, specifically targeting those who do not have it. Words like “obsessed” and “need” coupled with the thousands of comments exclaiming its magnificence, create pressure on the user, convincing them of the necessity of a product and ultimately making them feel left out, according to SageJournals. At the end of the day, these seemingly must-have items are just another iteration of a familiar product. There are so many lip oils at a much cheaper rate than the Dior one, such as the NYX Professional Makeup Fat Oil Lip Drip, priced at $8.99. The exorbitant price tags associated with such trendy items are not a reflection of their intrinsic quality, but rather a byproduct of their reliance on ceaseless social media promotion. This relentless marketing hype magnifies their perceived value and thus rationalizes their premium cost, perpetuating a cycle of impulsive buying that contributes to the culture of overconsumption. It continuously drives the demand for new products, and this need for the latest items not only leads to greater resource consumption, but it also places financial strain on individuals. 

These promotions continuously amplify the message that to be “relevant,” one must spend unreasonable amounts of money on fleeting trends. The reality is that only a select few can truly afford this lifestyle, while the vast majority of Americans grapple with limited incomes, according to CNBC. The pressure to conform to these standards creates a culture of aspiration that for most is financially unsustainable.

These online spaces, shaped by marketing techniques and influential personalities, intensify the consumerist cycle, urging people to make costly investments in pursuit of relevance.

Alix Earle is a 22-year-old who has gained significant popularity on TikTok by making “get ready with me” videos. Products Earle recommends sell out so fast that it’s been called ‘the Alix Earle effect.’ She uses high-end products like Drunk Elephant and Charlotte Tilbury, which have teenage girls trying to emulate that type of casual wealth. Creator Diana Melstrad even went as far as creating a product-by-product breakdown of the makeup Earle regularly uses in her videos. The video, which shows 18 products that total $497, has over 80,000 likes. This constant pursuit of social status doesn’t just strain individuals’ finances; it also exacerbates economic disparities, perpetuating a distressing cycle of insecurity and discontent. As teenagers scramble to mirror Alix Earle’s aesthetic, they often engage in irresponsible spending, sacrificing their hard-earned money on high-priced beauty products, according to The Rolling Stone. This cycle intensifies their desire to fit into an exclusive beauty mold, driving them further into financial strain. Simultaneously, it widens the gap between the upper and lower class. Those who can’t afford these expensive beauty products find themselves on the margins, unable to participate in the beauty trends that dominate social media. The relentless price increases of cosmetics not only perpetuate economic inequalities but also nurture a culture of discontent. 

As we navigate this evolving digital landscape, it becomes evident that the appeal of staying up-to-date with the latest offerings, often presented by influencers and content creators, has a profound impact on our financial choices. These online spaces, shaped by marketing techniques and influential personalities, intensify the consumerist cycle, urging people to make costly investments in pursuit of relevance. The desire to keep up with these ever-shifting trends affects not only our wallets but also our self-esteem and sense of belonging. It creates a divide between those who can afford to indulge in these trends and those who cannot, thus worsening economic disparities. It is important to recognize the broader implications of beauty choices, both on one’s own lives and on the world around them. To break free from the relentless pull of excessive spending, consider assessing one’s values, setting conscious spending habits and supporting platforms and voices that align with one’s principles. By making informed choices, society can collectively steer this digital landscape towards a more balanced and sustainable future.

Do you feel social media impacts your purchases? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Contributors
Maya Bensaoud
Maya Bensaoud, Staff Writer
Senior Maya Bensaoud is a staff writer for Southpaw and Bearing News. She is also co-president of Muslim Student Union and a member of NHS. In her free time, Maya likes to read, bake and listen to music.
Emily Weigand
Emily Weigand, Staff Writer, Photographer
Senior Emily Weigand is a staff writer and photographer for Southpaw and Bearing News. In her free time, she likes to read, write, cook and listen to music.

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