How YouTube Saved My Face (And Probably Also My Life)

by Jess Anderson


At 20 years old, I was going through a mid-college crisis. My grades were painfully average, my boyfriend had dumped me, and I was going to my first spring formal hoping it would be a fun re-entrance into the world. However, formal hung in the balance due to a minor (read: major) facial hiccup.

Despite living in a sorority house, being in competitive show choir in high school, and watching my mother do her makeup since toddlerhood, I found myself in an unexpected pickle: I had no idea how to do my own makeup. Could I slap some powder and blush on my face and whack some mascara on my eyeballs, yes. But truthfully, infants can do that. I wanted to be Makeup Proficient. I wanted to be like the MAC counter girl who had tried to help my poor soul in eighth grade by selling me the only two eye shadows I owned up to that point.

Which brings us to 11pm two nights before formal, in a cold sweat sitting in my bed thinking about how I would a.) be socializing in uncharted waters b.) have to wear four-inch heels and a v-tight dress (somehow I found a dress that fit tighter than my actual epidermis) and c.) have to get ready on my own. Full hair, full face, shaved legs and all.

Now most girls might think, “I live in a sorority house with 96 other women. They would for sure know how to do this, I should just ask for help.” Not me. I was too embarrassed by the fact that not only did I not know what I was doing in the makeup department, I didn’t even own the stuff. Let me be more specific: I did not know that liquid foundation was a thing that regular people wore every day, I thought it was for dance recitals and show choir competition exclusively. The word “contour” had never crossed my lips. Eye shadow only came in two colors in my mind, beige and black. Highlight was something I did to textbooks, not to my face; you get the picture.

So, I grabbed my laptop, turned on my tiny reading lamp and did the only thing college kids know to do when they get stuck, lost, or scared: I googled. Next thing you know, there is a YouTube tutorial from a woman named Carli Bybel on how to do a Bronze Smokey Eye inspired by Kim freakin’ Kardashian, and there I am, watching.

Upon first watch, I was wigged. out. This girl was straight out of New Jersey, her eye makeup was so heavy and dark that it looked like competition makeup to me, she was immediately talking about fake lashes which, ha excuse me I thought I just had to deal with what God gave me if I wasn’t on a stage and this chick was using them just for life?! My brain was running 800 miles a minute with questions and concerns and general terror.

But I watched the whole tutorial, and thought “maybe there are more like this that I could learn from.” Three and a half hours later, I had a list of products that I needed to go buy, I had subscribed to four women’s channels on YouTube and I was determined that I would try to do my makeup for the first time after a trip to Ulta and a giant latte the next day.

Trial day came and the Norman Ulta was bombarded by a young, hungry makeup baby trying to bake her face. I spent way too much money, packed up the car and headed back to the mothership with my first caramel macchiato in hand. 

I set up my laptop to play Legally Blonde, sat at the vanity mirror in my room, and got to work. I broke out my moisturizer, my primer (lol look at me), my foundation and my concealer, got my beauty blender ready to blend, and cracked the seal on a loose powder to bake those under eyes like little banana nut muffins. At the closing credits of the movie, I looked in the mirror and was astonished at what I was seeing: I looked like Carli Bybel, Amanda Bynes and Jennifer Lawrence had a baby, and I was hella proud. For the first time in my life I felt like I could do my makeup with confidence, knowing that I wouldn’t end up looking like a garbage-diving raccoon at the end of the day. I ran around my floor showing my friends how I did, looked to the heavens with thanks, and jumped around for a hot minute, ready to take on game day (literally it was just a formal).

I had such a fun night and felt like a movie star, and ever since I have gone to YouTube with all beauty needs. As much as I might be embarrassed at the way I got here, today I know the difference between a BB and a CC cream, which products work for different events and times of day, and how to contour, cut crease, and more. YouTube gave me the confidence boost I needed to get me excited about meeting new people, making friends, and going to class without looking like a hobo. So, to YouTube and its makeup gurus, I love you. Thank you for saving my face. And to anyone that needs makeup tips, product recommendations or just a little pep talk: grab a beauty blender and some caramel macchiatos and let’s chat.

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