What It's Like To Be A Beauty Blogger In A Country Where It's Almost Impossible To Buy Popular Makeup
Like many other 27-year-old women, I love makeup. I even have a beauty blog. But I've never even seen an Anastasia Beverly Hills Palette in real life.
I live in Chile and became interested in makeup a few years ago, after I watched my very first beauty tutorial — Michelle Phan’s anime tutorial, to be exact. It immediately blew my mind. Before then, I never realized you could do so much with products as simple as eyeshadow and powders. I was 18 then and only owned one very low-cost foundation and a single purple eyeshadow I wore every day. I didn’t even use mascara.
But the beauty industry (as well as my love of makeup) has evolved significantly since then. Michelle Phan is no longer making new videos for her YouTube channel, but there are thousands of other beauty bloggers making their own. The industry is constantly shifting, but still, people like me, who live in countries where products are not available, are often left out.
In an internet overflowing with cat eyeliner tutorials, the important thing now for those watching is to discover not only which eyeliners are right for them, but which ones are actually worth it. This is why some of the most popular beauty content on YouTube includes the reviews of new products that vloggers create. Checking out these types of videos from your favorite beauty guru is almost a ritual for the makeup lovers around the world — including me. No matter where you are, you can watch the review and leave inspired to buy a certain product. But that doesn't mean those products are available for everyone to purchase.
When I started my beauty blog, I studied other Chilean bloggers and noticed a different pattern in their makeup reviews when compared to those by vloggers in other countries. That is, Chilean makeup reviews were actually from bloggers who had bought and were using the product in real life, rather than vloggers from places like the United States or the U.K. who are often gifted product.
Regardless of where you're from, reviewing products is a combination of letting your audience know if it's worth it and also providing more practical information, like the price of the product and where to buy it. But, even for Chile, which is not necessarily a poor country but a developing one, accessibility to products is still an issue. And a big one.
When you are someone who can't get the new product being talked about in review videos until months after its released, it takes away some of the excitement. For example, after ordering, I received Wet N Wild foundation in the mail two months after its initial launch and, for Chilean standards, that was actually fast. Now, almost a year after the U.S. launch, popular Wet N Wild products such as the foundation, highlighters, and blush have finally all arrived in Chile. For us, they're a novelty. For the rest of the internet, they're old news.
And that’s how it works for almost every brand we can get in stores here in Chile — if we can even get the product at all. For most products that do become available, it's always three to six months after the official launch in the United States. And we rarely get YouTubers' collaborations with brands or limited edition products, like the MAC x Patrick Starr powder or the Wet N Wild's Goth-O-Graphic Collection. Because of the lack of truly "new" products, the idea of whether or not something is truly worth my money ends up mattering more than whether it's new or shiny.
Plus, even the mid-range priced U.S. brands can feel expensive when you think about the average annual household income in Chile. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average annual income for Chile in USD is $28,434, while the average annual income in the United States is $60,154. This means that something like the NAKED Heat Palette from Urban Decay, which retails for $54 stateside would be a much higher percentage of the average Chilean's paycheck than the average American's. And this is assuming the palette was even available in Chile — which it isn't according to the Urban Decay website.
But even if you do have the money and you are willing to wait until the products arrive in Chile, many popular brands still aren't available here at all. And there are no Sephora stores here, nor do they currently ship to Chile from the website. Bustle reached out to Sephora, and the brand does ship internationally, but only to Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Brands that are carried there like Too Faced, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Fenty Beauty, Armani, and others are out of the question — even if the brands do ship internationally. For example, Kat Von D began shipping to Chile in late 2017, but most Chilean bloggers (including me) don't want to pay the hefty shipping price: It would be $23 shipping for a $20 lipstick, so it would only make sense if you ordered a bunch. Even in situations with free international shipping, there are sometimes extra taxes for international purchases that can end up being the same cost or even more than international shipping. Because of this, even the more accessible brands often aren't in reality.
Given this, we cherish brands with international shipping like ColourPop, Lime Crime, Jeffree Star, and Makeup Revolution. Even if there's drama surrounding brands, it's often easy to ignore when they're some of the only YouTuber-approved products available to you. I simply feel grateful that I even had a chance to buy them. If the package takes a month to arrive, or if there's some other issue with the shipment, I still am thankful that the brands are even available to me to shop.
Still, I, like other Chilean influencers, try not to focus too much on recommending products you can only buy online. This is because, even if you have the money and want to wait, many people in Chile don't have the credit cards required to do so, or access to other payment options like PayPal. According to the Chilean Association of Banks and Financial Institutions, in 2017 only 20 percent of Chile's population had a credit card. It's not that the other 80 percent can't afford to have one; it's just that most choose to live comfortably without one. And because of our culture and bank system Paypal is not a solution for everyone.
This lack of credit cards created a weird phenomenon, though: buy-sell Facebook groups focused on makeup. Women who have credit cards often buy and then resell on those groups with a commission fee, meaning that getting a hold of some palettes can be even more expensive. Sometimes, the commission and shipping fees can end up making the product double what it would usually be. That's precisely why I've never bought an ABH palette, even though I've had the opportunity to via these groups.
Because of the unique experience we have when it comes to shopping for beauty products, Chilean beauty bloggers like me primarily care about giving a honest review about a product we can get easily. The other Chilean beauty bloggers I know and I hardly ever buy products just to review once and then toss or give away. Since products are so much more difficult to come by, we're careful to select launches we're excited to add to our daily routine, even after we're done filming the video.
I started a blog because I love makeup, fashion, and I wanted a place to talk about all of that. I knew I would never be a famous blogger who can make a living from it. And that is OK for me, and for many other influencers in Chile.
I do hope, though, that things like international shipping will become a real option for Chile in the future. While it seems far-off now, it does give me hope to see the local makeup market grow in recent years; Chilean brands are becoming more bold and innovative than ever. In the meantime, though, I hope to continue blogging and I'm even thinking about creating a palette of shadows myself — all shades inspired by Chile's unique culture and local trends.