Why Makeup Companies Love Social Media

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People who sell beauty are only too happy to tell women that they'll look bad on Instagram without their products.

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Apparently, foundation, the makeup form, is making a big comeback. Why? The ubiquity of social media, the New York Times reports.

"Now that everyone seems to be an amateur photographer, posting unretouched photos to social media willy-nilly," we read, "some women are taking pre-emptive measures to ensure their complexions look smooth on the Internet."

HD cameras also appear to have played a role in the resurgence of the "very done" look. A company called Make Up for Ever even has an "HD" line of makeups. "I created it for makeup artists to use professionally, but now everyone has cameras," its creator tells the Times. She continues: "It's not only young girls, but also old ladies like me who want to look good in these social photos. It's really the Internet and how everyone participates by sharing video and images."

I can just see the days when people chide each other for having standard-definition faces.

Could this be a fake trend story? Perhaps, but it's the kind of fake trend story that the makeup industry is happy to help market into a real trend. Just look at the support that the story's thesis gets from Revlon's Chief Marketing Officer, Julia Goldin.

"If you look at how relationships are today, they are built visually. You see people taking pictures of themselves, their friends or other people," Goldin said. "On Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, everyday life plays out in images. It comes on a daily basis. It started out with HD, but it's not really about stars anymore."

The resurgence of heavier-duty makeup strategies may or may not be driven by social media's relentless photo exchanges. But what really matters here is the social atmosphere in which everyone is taking photos, which pushes many women to attempt to recreate the superhuman skin of airbrushed celebrities. If putting on lots of makeup is making a comeback, don't blame social media, blame the beauty profiteers who benefit from making women appear flawless.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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