More than a decade ago, if you were to ask your average 20-something how they learned to do their makeup, chances are they’d tell you they picked it up from watching their mom when they were young, from experimenting with the worst drug store brands out there, or from trying to recreate looks that they’d seen in magazines. Makeup today is completely different. High end brands have become more readily available — and more financially approachable — as retail chains like Sephora and Ulta have expanded since their opening days.
Access to makeup tutorials has changed, too. Since YouTube launched in 2005, it’s transformed into a haven for makeup gurus and novices alike. Pros like Kat Von D and Nikkie de Jager post how-tos to audiences in the millions. Even YouTube old schoolers like Jenna Marbles aren’t immune to the draw of a good beauty vid. Over the last few years, makeup vloggers have upped their game with challenges. Some are out of the box and incredible to watch. Others… not so much. Here’s every YouTube makeup challenge worth watching (and every one you should definitely skip).
Best: No Mirror Makeup
The No Mirror Makeup challenge hit YouTube sometime early in 2012, with Czech beauty blogger Petra Vančurová posting one of the first vids. It took off, and it’s now possible to watch a video of nearly every beauty vlogger on the platform attempt it. It’s also one of those challenges that continues to pop up as the years go on — at the time of publication, Michelle Phan‘s take on it from 2012 had received nearly 7 million views, while Nikkie de Jager‘s video from 2015 had racked up over 10 million.
The premise is simple: Attempt to do a full face of makeup without the help of a mirror. And though the concept of the challenge itself is straightforward, the execution most certainly is not. And as years have passed, YouTubers who attempt the challenge have gone far beyond just a little foundation, blush, and eyeliner. De Jager did a full contour just to be able to say she pushed herself to the limit. Results ranged from not bad to full on clownish, but it’s the commentary that’s truly the best. "Please don’t look like a penis," is one of De Jager’s greatest gems as she contoured her nose.
Worst: 100 Layers
The 100 Layers challenge was actually inspired by a weird nail art trend dubbed "bubble nails," that hit Instagram hard in 2015. Basically, the original idea (which, according to Nails Magazine, has been around since at least 2009) was to layer acrylic in a way that rounds out the nails. Where it evolved into something else — and inevitably went completely off the rails — was when Simply Nailogical posted the first #PolishMountain video in mid-2016, which consisted of painting on 100 layers of nail polish.
YouTubers rolled with it, for better or worse. The challenge evolved into 100 layers of foundation, 100 layers of liquid lipstick, and, for some, 100 layers of everything. While watching Jenna Marbles coat her skin with 100 layers of self tanner alongside the 100 layers of foundation she put on her face and the 100 layers of false eyelashes she glued to her lids held a certain amount of entertainment value, mostly it was just kind of scary. And the thought of trying to wash all of that off? We’ll pass.
Best: One Product Only
The One Product Only challenge seems to have originated sometime in 2015, with two of the earliest videos coming from Swedish makeup artist Linda Hallberg and tattoo artist/cosmetics entrepreneur Kat Von D. The challenge is simple enough: create an entire look using only one product. Hallberg, who pulled a random black gel pencil from a container of five, attempted to do something that could be everyday wearable. Von D, meanwhile, went the high drama route and chose her brand’s Studded Kiss Lipstick in a deep maroon shade beforehand.
One of the best things about the One Product Only challenge is that you don’t have to be a YouTube beauty vlogger with a thousand makeup palettes at your disposal to do it. The average viewer and novice artist can create their own look with a single item, and it can be whatever they happen to have in their makeup drawer at the time. Sure, it may not look dramatic, or professional, or even that good, but it’s an easier way to hone makeup skills than by trying to take on clown contouring.
Worst: Full Face Using Only Art Supplies
The Full Face Using Only… challenges have been around on YouTube for a few years. Videos like Full Face Using Only Liquid Lipsticks (inspired in part by Kat Von D’s One Product Only challenge) or Full Face Using Only Food began popping up in 2016. Some are certainly better than others, but some have left us wondering if beauty vloggers have just completely run out of ideas.
Take the Full Face Using Only Art Supplies, which originator Tiffany Ma said was "the best video idea ever." It involves putting only things purchased from the local arts and crafts store on one’s face. In Ma’s case, she got her cache of supplies from Michael’s and put together an entire look by blending different colors of face paint, sidewalk chalk, glitter, and Crayola poster markers. The finished product looks just as bad as you’d imagine, but it has the added bonus of being completely terrible for your skin.
Best: My Boyfriend Does My Makeup
My Boyfriend Does My Makeup is one of the oldest and most classic YouTube makeup challenges out there, dating back to at least 2012 with Jenna Marbles‘ wine-fueled version and Lilly Singh‘s variation "I don’t have a boyfriend but I do have a daddy" My Dad Does My Makeup video. The challenge involves getting your significant other — who ideally has zero knowledge of makeup product or application — to apply an entire makeup look on their own, with zero guidance.
My Boyfriend Does My Makeup is fun enough to watch because of the dynamic between two people on opposite ends of the makeup knowledge spectrum. One person who’s presumably spent countless hours over the course of their life practicing with their own face has to give up control to someone else who has no idea what they’re doing. These videos are hilarious because they show how difficult it is to put our appearance in the hands of someone else, even if we happen to love that other person. But it’s also a great relationship tester — because if you can’t trust a person to choose the right foundation color for you, can you really trust them at all?
Worst: Tiny Hands Makeup
While we aren’t exactly sure when, why or how tiny hands became the phenomenon it did, we can probably narrow it down to sometime around the early 2010s and Kristen Wiig’s portrayal of Dooneese on Saturday Night Live. Since then, YouTubers have been creating tiny hands videos for all manner of everyday tasks, like playing games or finger painting. So it was really only a matter of time before beauty vloggers took the challenge a step further and decided to do their makeup using only tiny hands.
At the beginning of 2017, Alyx Weiss posted the video Drunk Tiny Hands Makeup Tutorial. Since then, Tiny Hands Makeup videos have managed to crop up in YouTube feeds periodically, with some well-known beauty talent hopping on the bandwagon. Early in 2019, Manny Gutierrez posted his own version of the challenge to his channel, which, at the time of publication, had been viewed nearly 500,000 times. While it’s good for a few laughs, the challenge isn’t worth much more in terms of longevity or watchability.
Best: No Brushes Makeup
The No Brushes Makeup challenge dates back to at least the beginning of 2014, when beauty and style vlogger Teni Panosian posted her everyday look using only her hands. It’s another one of those challenges that’s been incredibly popular with YouTubers, with some of the best versions coming from Jackie Aina and Tati Westbrook. It’s easy to understand why it’s now one of the go-to videos for beauty vloggers, too. Limited or missing supplies is a thing everyone has experienced at least once or twice, so watching how pros handle the challenge is a great way to hone skills, if nothing else.
The highlight of the No Brushes Makeup challenge, however, comes down to the eyebrows. Aina decided to take the same approach as some others she’d seen, by using her nails as an eyebrow brush. Hers, however, came straight out of a package, as opposed to the ones on her own hands. "Look, I’m using my resources, okay?" she told the camera.
Worst: Bratz Doll Transformation
Doing a makeup challenge that attempts to recreate an iconic look is one thing. Doing a makeup challenge that attempts to recreate one of the creepiest mis-proportioned dolls to ever hit the market is quite another. In 2017, Promise Phan introduced YouTube to the Bratz Doll Makeup Transformation. In her description of the video, she said she took inspiration from Instagram user missgaymatte, whose entire feed is littered with looks pulled straight from the MGA Entertainment lineup.
The talent required to complete this challenge is certainly undeniable. At the same time, though, the end result is that you look like a Bratz doll. As impressive as the talent required to do this is, it isn’t something the average YouTube subscriber could do on their own. And the fan base for a Bratz doll transformation isn’t as wide-reaching as many of the other challenges out there. Bottom line: it’s impressive from a skills-perspective, but it winds up looking more creepy than anything else.
Best: Full Face Using Only Highlighters
The mid-2010s saw the birth of highlight in the makeup industry. In 2017, Refinery29 posted an entire history of highlighter, which actually saw its birth in the film industry, when filming moved from outdoors to indoors and makeup artists had to find a way to mimic the natural reflective quality of daylight onto actors.
Fast forward to 2016, when YouTuber Mariya created the Full Face Using Only Highlighters video, which took the trend to a whole other level. Highlighter was used for everything — foundation, contour, shadow, lips. You name it, it shone like the sun.
While Mariya was the first to do the challenge, plenty of other YouTubers jumped on the bandwagon, including massive stars like Jeffree Star and Nikkie de Jager of NikkieTutorials. The hilarious Jenna Marbles also followed with her own variation, but her take on the Full Face Using Only Highlighters was as extra as she is (notice that it’s highlighters, as in the school supplies). "Now because I want extra highlight," she said at one point, "I’m just going to highlight everything I just highlighted, but again, with a highlight."
Worst: Underwater Makeup
As makeup challenges have become more common on YouTube over the last several years, the push to make them harder and more extreme has become evident. Hence, the Underwater Makeup challenge, which began with Cloe Breena in June 2018. Breena’s channel has a playlist dedicated to Extreme Makeup Challenges, as well as two separate underwater playlists, so it probably shouldn’t be all that surprising that she would make the choice to try and combine the two into a single, really awful, impossible challenge.
Aside from just trying to deal with the logistics of keeping your eyes open underwater and holding your breath long enough to (hopefully) apply some bronzer, there’s the fact that doing this challenge quite literally will destroy every piece of makeup you use. While there are lots of silly challenges that are equally pointless, at least some of them have solid entertainment value. This is one of those challenges that unfortunately falls short — it just lacks the laugh value needed to offset how bad it is overall.
Best: The Power of Makeup
Following YouTube and Instagram beauty personalities can sometimes feel intimidating. Influencers like Huda Kattan and Nikkie de Jager are able to pull off looks so stunning and flawless that just the thought of attempting their level of contour leads to anxiety. But these artists also understand how transformative makeup can be.
In 2015, De Jager created The Power of Makeup, which she explained came about because of two reasons. The first is that she felt people who loved makeup were being shamed for either being insecure or wanting attention and she wanted to flip the script. The second is that a lot of people she meets when she isn’t wearing a full face of makeup don’t believe that she’s the same person from her videos. Her answer was to split her face in half — on one side, she’d remain bare-faced, and on the other side, she’d go full glam.
On top of narrating her usual product list, De Jager goes even further, explaining how she uses makeup to actually change her eye shape, making them appear larger. The video wound up being replicated by other YouTubers, showing how makeup can be used so positively, particularly when it comes to those with skin conditions.
Worst: Drunk vs. High Makeup
Drunk makeup tutorials are nothing new to YouTube. A quick search will take you down a rabbit hole of various videos all based on the premise of drunkenness stretching back at least to 2012, and new videos are uploaded all the time, with slightly different variations or mashups — blackout drunk and drunk boyfriend are both clickable titles. So how does one top the Drunk Makeup challenge? If you’re Lanie Edwards, you mash up two challenges in one video: one drunk, and one high.
The Drunk vs. High Makeup challenge plays out exactly how you’d imagine it would: it’s the same makeup look, done pretty much the same way, only half of the commentary is unbearable. No one wants to babysit a drunk friend, especially if they’ve had to do it a hundred times before. Because the Drunk Makeup challenge has been around for so many years, and done so many times, any new version of it just plays out as more of a bad reboot than an original spin.
Best: How I Used to Do My Makeup
The How I Used to Do My Makeup challenge can be a little hit or miss, especially if the YouTuber in question has only been out of high school for a couple of years. But land on a video where it’s been at least a decade of learning (and living through the worst beauty trends), and this turns out to be one of the most entertaining challenges to ever watch.
Both Jenna Marbles and Bunny Meyer have lived through some early 2000s horror and are good enough sports to be able to make fun of themselves for it. Their videos in particular have the added bonus of revisiting some of the most heinous hair and fashion choices to come out of the era (clip-in hot pink extensions, anyone?).
Really, what makes the How I Used to Do My Makeup challenge so perfect is that it’s a reminder for all of us that everyone makes bad choices in high school, thinking they’re making great choices. Baby blue eyeshadow has never been a good look, but we’ve all tried it. And for a lot of us, there’s photographic proof.
Worst: Clown Contouring
The Clown Contouring challenge almost made it as one of our best picks because its creator, YouTuber BellaDeLune, intended for it to be completely lighthearted. The viral concept initially started as a 15-second video that she posted to her Instagram in 2015. She explained in her YouTube video that she did this to "send a message. Even though you don’t need this amount of makeup — or any makeup at all — to feel or look beautiful, let’s face it, makeup is fun and it’s a way of expressing yourself." She continued to say that she’s been called a "clown" and been hated on for the way she uses makeup as an art form.
Clown Contouring took off, and within a few months, everyone from Bunny Meyer to Alex and Mike from Good Mythical Morning had tried their hand at painting their faces in a ridiculous pattern to contour like a pro. Even traditional media outlets like Teen Vogue started covering it. The challenge — like the look itself — became something of a caricature. It seemed as though everyone on YouTube wanted to do it, but only in a click-bait, spammy sort of way — a far cry from the original message.