But these makeup routines aren’t even focused on the products themselves! Sure, a user might swipe on a sparkly shadow, but rather than explaining the formula or the best application methods, they’re sharing unrelated personal stories. What makes them so mesmerizing?
According to Hafeez, it’s a classic case of parallel visual storytelling, where your brain is involved in two sensory activities at the same time: the listening and the watching. Carmichael agrees: “If they were showing you the makeup video in silence, you might get bored. If they were telling you about their day by itself, you might get bored,” she says. “Pairing them together gives your brain a little bit more variety.”
Doubling up activities also creates space for a bit more vulnerability. “It’s a little bit of a red herring,” Hafeez says. “In distracting you, they’re actually sharing a lot more that may feel too intense. It works because the public also realizes that they’re hearing something vulnerable, but it doesn’t make it uncomfortable for them either.”
As you watch someone coat on mascara, perhaps they also share their anxieties or fears. “[They] suddenly feel like they can blurt out something because there’s a context of a different behavior in a different activity,” Carmichael adds.
After scrolling through my For You Page with this context in mind, I was floored by how many users do, in fact, use makeup to reveal something below the surface. “I’m literally using makeup as therapy today,” says content creator Mina Hasan in a recent video. She shares that her dermatologist told her that her hair loss was “concerning,” as she taps in her concealer with a beauty blender. “I just hate uncertainty and not being in control of a situation,” she reveals while lining her lips with precision.
Just last week, beauty journalist and esthetician Rio Viera-Newton posted a video of her makeup routine while discussing her treatment and recovery process from an eating disorder. She kicks off the routine with: “Get ready with me while I overshare.”
Both Hasan and Viera-Newton are aware that they’re sharing something private (it’s not like they’re blurting out personal information on the fly), but the makeup distraction might make the delivery just a touch easier—for them and the viewer.