How YouTube Makeup Tutorials Helped Me Survive High School

Ingrid Nilsen

Before I began ninth grade, my family moved. I'd spent the first 14 years of my life in the same house, same neighborhood, and, from first through eighth grade, same school. But when we moved to a new house in new state, I began freshman year completely new to all my surroundings. This sort of thing is never easy for a kid (or for an adult, for that matter)-it's terrifying to have to start over, to have to make new friends from scratch. It normally works out for the best within a few months, but unfortunately, that's not what happened for me. At least not in the way I expected.

I made a couple friends that ninth-grade year, but because so many of them knew each other from as far back as pre-K or kindergarten, they mostly had their own circles, and those only solidified further come 10th grade. I tried so hard to find people to connect with. I did everything you're supposed to: I joined basketball, crew, theater. I even tried my hand at keeping score during volleyball games. Quite honestly, I really didn't find a place where I felt like I fit-I couldn't squeeze my way into any of these tightly knit groups.

What didn't help was that this was 2010, a year when websites like Formspring (remember?) were cropping up all over the place. These sites allowed teenagers to send messages to one another anonymously. I don't know who approved that or thought it would be a good idea, but let's just say I was getting far more mean messages than nice ones. My life at this new high school definitely left something to be desired.

Any day I felt lonely after school or on a weekend, I could turn to watching a makeup video… to make it better.

Makeup became part of my identity, something everyone knew me for.

My fascination with beauty vloggers persisted through high school, and as my collection of beautiful products took up more and more space and I got better at my makeup skills, I stopped caring about things my peers thought about me. Makeup gave me the confidence to express myself. While so many other girls either stuck to a more fresh-faced look or a simple swipe of black eyeliner, I wore Urban Decay Mildew eye shadow, a shimmery green-and-gold color, all over my lids regularly. It complemented my dark brown eyes, so why the hell not?

This hobby got me through a lot-when the two-years-older boy I liked stopped texting me, I played with makeup. When I stayed home from prom, I wore a killer eye look and enjoyed a delicious dinner with my family. Makeup was something I could turn to that simply allowed me to create. I could jam out to the Jonas Brothers and High School Musical songs or concentrate silently and make art on my face in whatever way I wanted. There was no messing up-even the extreme winged eyeliner served as practice for what I didn't want, for when I'd eventually want to wear the look somewhere.

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so… welcome to The Flipside (as in the flip side of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society's definition of “beauty.” Here, you'll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we'd love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideofBeauty). Because here on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.

Has makeup ever helped you get through a hard time? Tell us your story in the comments below!