Michelle Phan – the most influential person in the cosmetic business


Who is the most influential person in the beauty world? Well I am working on it, but it isn’t me yet. It is hard to work this kind of thing out. I started considering job roles like the head of L’Oréal or the editor of Vogue. But without resorting to Google I don’t know their names off the top of my head. Surely the name of the most influential person in my line of business ought to be on the tip of my tongue?  When I framed it like that it occurred to me that all of us who make a living actually making and selling beauty products are not at all influential. We spend all our working hours trying to produce what the consumer wants.  

The people who are influential are the ones that have the biggest effect on what actually gets bought.  Traditionally this would have been the beauty editors of glossies.  But today most people get their information not from the printed page but from the Internet.

And where exactly do people go on the Internet?   Well beauty blogs get a lot of the attention, but the really massive format for beauty is YouTube.  I thought about the biggest names I know, and had a look at their YouTube stats.  (I didn’t need to resort to Google – these names were already in my head.)   The winner was pretty clear.  In terms of subscribers and big numbers of views for particular videos Michelle Phan won reasonably easily.  Given the random nature of the way YouTube and the web works generally, I suppose it is possible that there is somebody out there who is even more successful and of whom I haven’t heard.  So if you know of someone who can beat these stats, please let me know.  But Michelle’s numbers are impressive by any standard.

At time of writing, she has 3.5 million subscribers.  She has nearly 700 million video views in total.  Her biggest individual video has pulled in over 40 millions views – but she has several that are not far off that.  This is the sort of viewing levels that only top pop stars can be sure of beating.

Is there anything special about her videos?  Well they are very good.  Michelle herself has a very appealing presence on camera and she certainly has a way with makeup.  And she has taken full advantage of all the outlets that are available, so she has a website, Facebook page etc.  But to be honest there are plenty of others who might well have done just as well.  I think she was just in the right place at the right time.  I don’t think anyone could have done it, but quite a lot of people could have done.

But whatever, millions of people around the world are watching what Michelle Phan is doing and responding to it.  She didn’t go to university to get into that position.  She didn’t work her way up the corporate ladder.  She didn’t even sell all her possessions to invest in a risky scheme to make her dreams come true.  She just switched on a video camera and let her love of makeup do the rest.  That is the world we live in.

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She hardly needs any promotion from me, but here is Michelle Phan’s YouTube channel.  I put the link in mainly because I know a lot of people in the business will have never heard of her.


8 thoughts on “Michelle Phan – the most influential person in the cosmetic business”

  1. Michelle is super talented! I’ve watched some of her tutorial videos and have really enjoyed them. It’s true that Youtube is an excellent platform for beauty bloggers, but it’s something that I haven’t jumped into yet. Though I know I really should! Also, it would have been nice if you mentioned other beauty bloggers or vloggers who are in the same league as Michelle Phan. It’d be nice to discover them too.

  2. Great reflection and article! Beauty youtubers have SUCH a huge influence on the beauty industry. I think you are right about Michelle having the largest following. The only other person that I could think of (who really is still not THAT close to as many views and followers as her) is Kandee Johnson (1.2 million subscribers, 193.8 million video views). Michelle’s numbers are staggering and so impressive!

    I would love to hear if anyone can think of any others!

  3. I really enjoyed this article, I remember watching Michelle Phan from when she had only a handful of videos out.

    There’s also Bubzbeauty (1.7m subscribers, 276m views) who’s a next door type of girl too but I think Michelle is way ahead than everybody else. She’s more my style compared to Michelle though. I think when it comes to youtube gurus it’s more who is your

    But I agree youtube gurus influence what I buy, they’re more likely to bring attention to products before I go buy them and I always read/watch reviews before buying any beauty products.

  4. You have forgotten to mention that Michelle has channeled her YouTube success into viable, multi-million dollar businesses. In addition to Ipsy/MyGlam community and beauty bag subscription company (which she co-founded and owns), she is also a video makeup blogger for Lancome Cosmetics, and, as of January 2013, for Brides Magazine as well; she has launched and designed her own jewelry line with GlamBoutique; she also created a YouTube women’s network which focuses on life style, travel, fashion editorial, make overs and beauty called FAWN (For All Women Network). Basically, she used YouTube to launch her own global brand as well as launch the YouTube careers of many other successful gurus in beauty, hair and fashion, such as Andrea’s Choice, Chriselle Lim, Daven Mayeda, Theodore Leaf, just to name a few.

    Other popular beauty gurus who are lovely but not nearly on the same level as Michelle are the previously mentioned BubzBeauty, Andrea’s Choice, MacBarbie07, JuicyStar07 (and her sister AllThatGlitters21), KandeeJohnson, Dope211 (who is also Michelle Phan’s sister-in-law), and PixiWoo (a sister duo of professional makeup artists who run a successful makeup studio in the UK)–a personal favorite).

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