Looking at Unboxing Beauty Videos

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While the lion’s share of recent beauty chatter has centered on 30-second viral TikToks, the polar opposite phenomenon – long, elaborate “unboxing” videos – is still shockingly popular on YouTube, perhaps giving hope to the hand wringers who fret over our ever-declining attention spans.

One Box at a Time

These nutty peeks into a beauty influencer’s rarified world, one in which they literally unbox mountains of fresh loot they’ve received either directly from brands or from PR firms, aren’t new. In fact, one of the most popular, which has garnered north of 27 million views, was created in 2018.

Unboxing videos, which provide a behind the scenes look at a world that used to be the unique provenance of magazine editors but is now much more democratized, help some launches actually get seen by consumers.

They aren’t product reviews or tutorials, either, because the influencer is seeing the merch for the first time alongside the viewer or channel subscriber. And because there are so many boxes to get through, brands will be extremely lucky if the influencer stops the flow for even two seconds to swatch an eyeshadow, dab a miracle crème or spritz a fragrance and share a lightning-quick opinion.

Mostly there isn’t time for that. Instead, it’s slice open the mailer with a box cutter, dig through the (usually egregiously wasteful) interior packaging to get to the product, show it to the camera, say something cute, toss it to the side, move onto to the next box. Literally that it’s it, and many, many millions of viewers can’t get enough.

Why Unboxing Videos Still Resonate

Recently I received a stat-laden email from Journalistic.org, an entity that aggregates info on a given topic if feels might be of interest to reporters covering specific beats.

Sizing me up correctly, this Journalistic.org missive completely and utterly sucked me into the vortex of beauty unboxing videos.

I guess I was peripherally aware of them before. But as a beauty and wellness writer who struggles to keep her own tidy little mountain of unsolicited merch under control, I had never actually watched one.

But now that I’ve seen several (and have picked my jaw off the floor at the staggering amount of overkill that’s still happening in the beauty industry in 2022), I’ve come to two firm conclusions about unboxing videos:

They’re a great way for consumers to learn about new launches.

Despite how much beauty coverage major digital media outlets like Byrdie, Vogue and Into the Gloss do, they can’t get to everything. Unboxing videos, which provide a behind the scenes look at a world that used to be the unique provenance of magazine editors but is now much more democratized, help some launches actually get seen by consumers. Given the bewildering array of new SKUs unveiled every year, any sliver of spotlight helps.

They’re a great way for the industry to see that it needs a reality check.

In one of the most recently filmed unboxing videos I watched, shot in February of this year, I’ve never seen so many false lashes in my life. Yes, I know this is a monster category now; everywhere I go women of all ages are sporting openly fake flutters. But do these new lash upstarts really think they’ll be able to cut through the clutter? Perhaps brands should consider having someone on their team keep up with the steady deluge of unboxing content; if anything can open your eyes to market saturation and product redundancy, it’s the unboxing video of a beauty influencer with a healthy number of channel subscribers.

As Always, the Comment Section Is Pure Gold

Although there are several key metrics to tell whether a YouTube video is a hit or not, i.e., views and thumbs up and down, it’s the comments that really clue us in to what’s going on inside the consumer’s head.

Scrolling through the comments on the unboxing videos I watched, a lot of similarities surfaced. Several of the commenters said they’d kill to receive even a fraction of the free product these influencers received; several said they were excited to see the upcoming launches and were already making shopping lists; several said they admired the way a few of the influencers “seemed genuinely grateful” to get all this loot sent to them gratis.

That last bit is so interesting and, I think, extremely important for brands to make note of. When you’re making your influencer “send to” lists, be sure to over-index on the humble, grateful types and steer clear of the entitled divas.

Top 5 Beauty Unboxing Videos on YouTube

According to Journalistic.org, via a Netherlands-based research firm called Top-x.nl, these are the five most popular beauty unboxing videos on YouTube. I watched them all so you don’t have to!

Video Title: Wish Unboxing / Beauty Edition

Influencer: Wish Shopping Channel

Originally Aired: September 2018

Number of views as of 5/15/22: 27,323,282

Deep Thoughts: This super-short (1:32) video confused the hell out of me, mostly because it wasn’t like any of the others on this list. Apparently, it’s based on some monster shopping app called Wish that somehow escaped my knowledge over the past few years. This isn’t an unboxing video in the classic sense; I’m only including it here because it was on the Journalistic.org / Top-x.nl list. But those views…

 

Video Title: Petite ‘n Pretty PR Makeup Unboxing!!!

Influencer: Jessalyn Grace

Originally Aired: July 2018

Number of views as of 5/15/22: 4,110,532

Deep Thoughts: This giddy ball of video cotton candy was the first unboxing of the kiddie makeup brand Petite ‘n Pretty by YouTube superstar Grace, who was 11 at the time. It’s adorable, highly detailed and I have to believe has garnered massive sales for Petite ‘n Pretty over the years. Grace is good; brands should keep their eye on her.

Video Title: Makeup Kit Unboxing! A Step-By-Step Guide

Influencer: Slick Slime Sam

Originally Aired: January 2019

Number of views as of 5/15/22: 4,031,843

Deep Thoughts: Full disclosure: I only made it through the opening quarter of this 8-minute video. Why? Because, like the Jessalyn Grace video, it’s also aimed at kids – specifically kids who might want to make their own eyeshadow palettes with a Project MC2 makeup kit. Working my way through these last two videos, it’s pretty clear to me that pipsqueaks are the future of beauty.

 

Video Title: Amazon Makeup Unboxing ASMR

Influencer: Iris Xo

Originally Aired: May 2021

Number of views as of 5/15/22: 2,484,883

Deep Thoughts: More akin to a TikTok than a full-blown YouTube unboxing video, this tiny, 29-second number incorporates the cult-ish ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) trend that’s all over YouTube. Don’t know what that is? According to Merriam-Webster, it refers to “the ‘tingly feeling’ that travels from the head downward that some experience in response to certain sounds, feelings or descriptions. These can include soft whispering, crinkling paper or a gentle touch.” Okaaaay….

Video Title: FREE STUFF BEAUTY GURUS GET | Unboxing PR Packages…Episode 7

Influencer: Tati Westbrook

Originally Aired: September 2017

Number of views as of 5/15/22: 2,223,223

Deep Thoughts: While I was already aware of Westbrook before I watched this – largely because of a very public dustup she’d had with fellow beauty YouTuber James Charles – I’d never watched one of her videos before. Having done so, I can absolutely understand why this stunning makeup artist has almost 9 million channel subscribers. She’s hilarious, knows her stuff and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. In fact, she openly states she doesn’t care if beauty publicists boot her off their freebies list. That’s clout. Bonus: in this video, she had her handsome hubby in tow as her box-cutting assistant.

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