Instagram vs. Editorial: Why Makeup Artists Are Fighting Over Who Has the Better Aesthetic

Members of each camp have begun to throw stones at each other, saying that one style of makeup application is better than the other.
Publish date:
April 12, 2016
makeup artists, kylie jenner, Instagram, Kendall Jenner, Editorial

With the burgeoning influence of social media, a rift has begun to take place among makeup artists. (Cue snapping and West Side Story score.) Painstakingly applied, multi-focus looks with strong brows, strong lips, and strong eyes are becoming increasingly popular. Some artists are embracing this trend. Others are stringently against it, clinging to tried and true, clean and clear editorial makeup looks.

I'm here to break down the difference between the two and explain why this matters within the makeup world and beyond.

Let's start with our definitions, shall we?

Editorial makeup is what we see in fashion magazines. It's the makeup of the Pat McGraths, Lisa Elderidges, and Billy Bs of the world.

Open any issue of Vogue and you observe the same common denominator among the images: beautiful woman. More often than not, the woman is the focus rather than the makeup. Skin actually looks like skin: it's soft and touchable. Some natural shadows, folds, and freckles may be visible, but just enough to give that "no-makeup makeup" effect.

There is generally one clear, strong focus. If the lips are red and glossy, the eye shadow will be a subtle sweep of matte bone. If the eyes are smoked out, the lips may be coated with a layer of sheer gloss. There can be secondary features (like a strong brow or a dewy highlight), but they are always in support of the main focus.

Even avant garde looks are designed with the model's facial structure and coloration in mind. Makeup placement is purposeful and varies depending on the model. It is not one-size-fits-all.

Last but not least, there is a balance between textures. If there is a glossy lip and a shimmery lid, there should be mattified skin. If there's a matte lip and matte skin, there should be a glossy eye and perhaps a touch of illuminator.

In a nutshell, editorial makeup is focused, purposeful, and enhances the natural features of the model.

"Instagram makeup" is characterized by the type of makeup we see on all forms of social media — think @amrezy, @nikkitutorials, and @nikkifrenchmakeup.

Technology has allowed for a new community of passionate makeup lovers to push the cosmetic boundary in every category. The focus is the makeup itself, with talented artists showing off their honed skills in every way possible.

The skin is disguised by full-coverage foundation, which creates a completely blank canvas. Highlight and contour are generously applied and painstakingly blended out with a beautyblender. The foundation is set and/or baked with a thick layer of powder, which further disguises natural texture and/or coloration. Bronzer and blush are both necessities. The eye is heavily painted with either a saturated smoky shadow or a dramatic wing. Illuminator is always applied. The brows are extremely defined and even emphasized by a contrasting light concealer. The lip is generally matte (although, occasionally, a glossy lip does make an appearance) and frequently overdrawn to convey fullness. Dark colors and rich reds abound (though nudes are pretty popular as well).

With "Instagram" makeup, the primary feature is... everything. Each facial feature can be individually photographed and displayed as a work of art. This look is more affected by the style than the model it is applied on.

Think of the difference between Kendall and Kylie Jenner's makeup. When Kendall is on shoots, her makeup artists stick within the editorial playbook. Her skin is visible rather than the foundation. The focus is always crystal-clear, whether it be eyes, lips, or complexion. We see the beautiful Kendall rather than just the beautiful makeup. The makeup is in support of her.

Kylie, on the other hand, is totally in support of the makeup. Her foundation tends to be a bit thicker. The highlight and contour are considerably more intense. There is less of a variation between textures (things are either super-matte or super-glossy). And there are multiple features of equal focus (strong lips, complexion, and brows generally). Kylie is truly the product of the "Instagram glam" generation.

fun day with @nordstrom

A post shared by Kendall + Kylie (@kendallandkylie) on

Now, why does it matter?

Well, members of each aesthetic camp have begun to throw stones at each other, saying that one style of application is better than the other. Editorial makeup artists are accusing "Instaglam" artists of using an "everything but the kitchen sink" style approach. They believe the makeup to be overdone and overkill, muddying the definition of "makeup artistry." Those of the "Instaglam" approach find editorial makeup too basic and simple. They often accuse natural looks of appearing unfinished or blah.

Who's to say that one look is more beautiful than the other? What gives a makeup artist, or even a makeup wearer, the authority to declare what beauty is? I believe this rift is challenging us to redefine what we find beautiful. Aesthetics are polarized, and we are forced to declare our side.

As a makeup artist, I hear Kylie Jenner come up in conversation often — as she should. Regardless of anyone's personal feelings, I think we can all agree she is a huge pop-culture icon. Half of the people I see bring me photos of Kylie, asking to have that particular look replicated. The other half shudder when I say her name. They wince at her makeup-positive style and, instead, request the most natural look possible.

If beauty is a science — symmetry, balance, Fibonacci sequence and all that — how can one woman alone divide the country?

I think the lesson to be learned here is that beauty is relative. Beauty is whatever you find attractive and whatever makes you feel confident.

I used to be an Instaglam girl until I got bored of wearing full-coverage foundation and cat-eyes every day. Every. Single. Day. So I experimented with more editorial looks on myself. I started wearing BB creams and no eyeliner. I opted for setting sprays over layers of translucent powder. Now, I spend half the week looking Instafamous, and half the week looking like a model in Vogue. How much fun is that?

Act natural ✨

A post shared by Kim Carpluk (@kcarpluk) on

Whether you're into Instaglam girl or an editorial, have fun with your makeup and allow others to have fun with theirs!

  • Do you strongly subscribe to one of these camps?
  • Whose makeup style do you relate to? And whose style turns you off?