I have a confession to make: I own a highlighter.
No, not the neon-colored stick used for note-taking. I'm talking about the shimmery stuff makeup pros use for achieving that perfectly "lit from within" glow celebrities — and the pros on YouTube — always seem to have.
I also have a second confession: A year ago, I had no idea makeup highlighters existed. Nor did I know that "strobing," aka highlighting, was often the secret to achieving that covetable glow.
I'm not unique in any of this. According to a September report from NDP Group in the U.K., sales for highlighters and illuminators grew by 48.5% between January and August compared to the same period last year. An NDP report from the United States noted the same trend, with the "All Other Face" segment — including strobing products — growing by 49% in the third quarter this year.
"Makeup is really driving growth in the prestige beauty market fueled by the popularity of the selfie," said June Jensen, director of U.K. beauty for the NPD Group. Selfies specifically are "driving consumers to spend more on highlighters so they can experiment with this new way of accentuating the face."
Selfies have already impacted how we shop for clothes. This year, they completely impacted our makeup choices too — and not just with strobing. Here's how.
The professionals are making trends go viral.
You can blame Kim Kardashian, the queen of both the selfie and strobing. But it's not just celebrities we're looking at. More of us are staring at the perfectly contoured or strobed faces of makeup artists, and they're modeling the work on themselves.
Type in any makeup technique on YouTube or search its hashtag on Instagram, and you'll find close-ups of faces demonstrating certain techniques that then go viral, from contouring — with its carefully placed swipes of dark foundation — to the aforementioned strobing, creating skin so luminous it's almost blinding.
These makeup aficionados and their faces are becoming our go-to resources online; the popular beauty blogger known as Huda Beauty has 9 million followers on Instagram, just 1 million less than Gigi Hadid.
And the techniques and tips makeup artists offer often reflect an awareness of photos. Makeup artist Luis Casco even released her own book called #Beautiful: 50 Easy-to-Create Selfie-Ready Beauty Looks. We learn from the artists, and the artists are on social media — and they're teaching with selfies in mind.
We're buying makeup that pops on camera.
The tailoring of makeup to selfie culture has impacted the beauty industry in very real ways. In the past year or so, CoverGirl began testing how its makeup looks in iPhone photos, according to the New York Times.
"We've got one type of consumer who is constantly taking pictures, and what really matters to her and her social group is how she looks in a selfie," Sarah Vickery, CoverGirl's principal scientist, told the Times. "It's something we really have to pay attention to." Other beauty companies have done the same, according to the Times.
It makes sense that companies are paying attention to our social media feeds, particularly Instagram, where users spend an average of 257 minutes a month and the engagement is higher than on other platforms.
So what makeup looks best on Instagram? Many of the top posts on Instagram are ones that feature glamorous looks. Contoured faces, multicolored eyeshadows and the deep, berry-hued and brown lipsticks that are trendy right now seem to stand out from the pact.
Those eyes are often topped off with a set of false eyelashes, the kind Kardashian promoted after her wedding and which saw a huge sales increase. When Huda Beauty launched a product line at Sephora, she started with eyelashes.
Seeing all these makeup looks has influence sales too. Makeup for your face, eye and lips in the "prestige" category all saw gains in the double-digits, NPD also reported, meaning customers were springing for expensive products for high-impact looks.
We want products that make us "camera ready."
Brands are also releasing products designed specifically with photos in mind, and they're getting more and more popular. The term "HD makeup" started making headlines circa 2009, but has seen a big spike in 2015, according to Google Trends. The term "camera-ready makeup" also is new to the scene; a search on Google Trends showed we started getting interested in it about two years ago, and interest has been unwavering since.
Beauty companies have taken note.
"Face, eye and lip makeup is vital to achieving a photo-ready finish and brands have responded with foundation and primers that reference the look people want to achieve using terms like photo ready, camera ready and HD," Jensen said in the press release from NPD Group. "It's spurned a new sub-sector and is driving sales."
On top of those primers we apply our highlighters, which serve their most important purpose under a camera light.
And if you think you don't need these selfie-ready products? It's the unavoidable norm. Looking "camera ready" was the key selling point a beauty adviser at Sephora recently gave me when I walked in looking for a new foundation. I said I was simply open to trying something new, so she led me to one product she said was "perfect for photos."
Which, if I was being honest, mattered. Sure, I wanted something with nice color and non-cakey texture. But my real concern was, "How will I look in pics?" I walked out a happy customer.