What Really Goes On At A Beauty Conference, Including All The Swag Attendees Get

If my friends walked into my bedroom today, they would think I'd just opened my own makeup store — or that I'd robbed one.

The reality is that I just spent this past weekend at Generation Beauty NYC by Ipsy (also known as simply Gen Beauty) and one of the takeaways was: Damn, that's a lot of makeup swag. Having only gotten into makeup a couple of years ago, I was nervous about going to my first beauty conference. Before then, I actually prided myself on not giving a hoot about whether my blemishes were concealed or the fact that my eyelashes are basically nonexistent. So what's a beauty conference actually like?

First, a quick rundown on the beauty conference I attended: Gen Beauty was launched by Michelle Phan, the YouTube star who basically started the whole movement of posting makeup tutorials and hauls online. It's an annual conference with locations in New York, San Francisco, and Toronto that's open to all makeup enthusiasts regardless of expertise, including semi-newbies of the makeup world (aka me), and fans of the YouTube beauty scene. A similar, wildly popular event is Beautycon, which brings together the entire beauty community across all social media. Some conferences like IMATS are better suited for professional MUAs or people who just want to buy the products from vendors instead of getting samples.

While it can feel like your makeup swag is free, beauty conferences aren't cheap. I had a 40 percent discount code and my ticket still came out to be $114.30. There's also airfare and lodging to consider if you don't already live in the area. Luckily, I already live in New York City so that was covered. On Saturday, I hopped on a shuttle provided for conference attendees (a fancy black bus with cushioned seats and mini TVs), got my first goodie bag filled with NYX products, and found myself at Gen Beauty in barely an hour.

It was on the first day at Gen Beauty that I realized the purpose of attending a beauty conference can be boiled down to 1) meeting beauty gurus, 2) networking with major makeup brands, and 3) scoring tons of products and makeovers. There were more than 40 vendor booths with a mix of high-end and drugstore, K-beauty and western brands. I was able to visit around 30, probably because I planned out my schedule down to the second (LOL no I didn't, I totally improvised.)

Many of the waiting lines, particularly for the high-end brands like Benefit and Too Faced, were excruciatingly long. Like, 30 or 40 minutes. Luckily, I got to meet some awesome people who all share the same passion. And by the way, everyone looks drop-dead gorgeous at beauty conferences and you get inspired to try new looks just from people-watching.

Some of the brands like Absolute NY featured creative games like Spin the Wheel, with guaranteed prizes. There's usually a catch, though: You either have to follow them on social media, post a selfie on Instagram and use their hashtag, or some combination of the two. For a full-size liquid lipstick and a cleanser, though? I'm game! (Pun intended.)

All of the vendor booths had their own elaborate backdrops, display counters, makeup demos and selfie stations. Oh yeah, and hot guys were also involved.

It's hard not to feel like a celebrity when you're posing against a backdrop like this one or this one. FYI, the IT Cosmetics logo here is made of fluffy makeup brush heads, and the brush hairs were so. Soft.

A huge part of Gen Beauty is centered around online beauty influencers. After watching YouTubers like Karen O, Patrick Starrr, and Manny Mua for months, it was seriously cool to see them in person. Because many of them launched their brands at home, they're down-to-earth and will even ask for your name.

Oh, and I sort of got to meet Michelle Phan when she invited us to take selfies with her. This totally counts, right?

One of the best moments by far was meeting KathleenLights, my favorite YouTuber. Yes, I waited in line for an hour and yes, I totally fangirl-cried.

Again, you get two goodie bags chock full of makeup — one on Saturday, and one on Sunday. I literally only bought three products at Gen Beauty. (In case you're curious, I got Tarte's Shape Tape Concealer, Tarte's Metallic Eyeshadow in "Scandal," and a set of Royal MODA face brushes.)

Overall, I'd say my first beauty conference was a huge success. Gen Beauty was a bit different from what I'd imagined and I definitely didn't get to visit all of the brands on my list, but it was worth it. Will I go to another beauty conference again? Once is probably enough for me — at least for a year.