When it comes to beauty, there are no courses to opt for. There are no master courses you can do in London or even an online course that can help boost your resume on beauty writing or editing. Yet, the world of beauty: both the brand side and the editorial side has grown exponentially in the past two decades. Today, I’m going to talk about my journey of being a beauty editor, with snippets of being a beauty writer, working in a magazine and things that could help you shape your future.
How I Got My First Job In Beauty
I’m talking about 2010. So please keep in mind that times were different and so was journalism. The main lifestyle magazines targeting women in India were Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue (which were all Mumbai based).
If you have no experience in the sectors you’re starting out in, an internship is the best way to start out. But, I already had 3.5 years in the industry: just in a different medium called TV production. After having logged 6 months in a men’s magazine and 4 months in a travel magazine, I’d gotten an interview with my editor at Prevention India, after knowing about available positions via Twitter.
I had an hour-long discussion with the editor followed by an edit test after which I got the job offer.
The First Few Months Are A Learning Curve
The first few months in any job usually involve getting to know your teams and getting used to the narrative of a publication. For me, it was also about deep diving into the magazine’s identity. And this is where I feel I had the biggest advantage. By some luck, or good karma, I’d ended up at a magazine that prided itself on responsible journalism (you can check out Prevention USA and Prevention Australia). The magazine had curated an army of experts in different fields (health & fitness is the biggest category, btw) including beauty which included makeup artists, dermatologists, cosmetic physicians, trichologists amongst others.
The idea was to constantly vet your story and give the user a reader experience that was authentic and expert-oriented.
The other big resource for a lot of my pages were research journals which would constantly tell us what’s being tested (say an ingredient like micro granules which were at an all-time high at that time, but are no more in the picture since they not only cause microtears but are also not good for the environment and aquatic life).
Lastly, I spent a lot of my time in print journalism (not just in this magazine but others too), interviewing lifestyle experts. This could be for a story, for a full-page interview format page or for a magazine special and ranged from one-on-one meetings to phone calls from 7 am- 8 pm (which is not bad at all).
Lesson Learnt: Vet All The Information You Put Out There With The Help Of Beauty Experts
To this day, my learnings from this experience act as a foundation which I follow when writing a piece on my blog or for a publication. The network of and connection with experts that I built during the time is invaluable when I have to vet the finer details of any write-up and enhance the legitimacy of the content that I put out there for consumption. Sure, the number of experts available now have exponentially increased, which is good, but to have a set of established experts in the field is imperative for a good beauty editor. Your experts can come from Instagram, Tik Tok, YouTube: reach out to them, and ask them for a quote or check if it’s OK to quote them from a video they recently put out. This will add more authority and authenticity to your name in a saturated medium.
Skincare, Hair, Nails Or Treatments: Get Passionate About What You’re Covering
Beauty is just as vast a subject as any other lifestyle topic…so find your niche, or find formats that you’re good with. Explore holistic beauty, schools of beauty, skincare, cosmetic treatments, trichology or nail health. I was obsessed with skincare ingredients and to a certain extent, I still am. My current interest is in cosmetic treatments since the industry is just booming and it’s piqued my curiosity. So find something to get passionate about, and explore it. Talk to experts, write more about it so that your articles provide verified information that’s actually helpful to someone reading it. And additionally, it builds your skillset and knowledge as you explore more areas.
Lesson Learnt: Fairness Creams, Treatments or Reviews…Take A Stand
For a while, I was quite neutral with my opinions. But the more I understood ingredients, or actives, the more my opinions changed. So if you’re against fairness creams, use your voice, on social media or at an event. You don’t have to agree that a product is good if it didn’t do anything to you, or worse, if it broke out your skin.
I remember meeting a dermatologist in 2011 who spoke of collagen drinks and glutathione supplements, which are heavily used in India (and Asia) for lightening and fairness properties. FYI: that’s not their only use by the by. I literally bit her head off because, at that time, I didn’t think that my magazine would ever write or recommend such products.
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Best news I’ve heard today. In a new bid to cancel out whitening and fairness creams, @unilever has announced its part in diversity. Fair and Lovely, the top selling cream in India will have a new name, and mindset too. . . . #fairandlovely #fairnesscreams #lighteningcreams #unilever #beautywriter #skincareenthusiast #skincareaddict #inclusivebeauty
Years passed and I now know that the need of fair skin is a constant demand. I know all of Bollywood (who seems to get fairer every year) along with Bollywood’s leading starlets who consume glutathione as a daily supplement. I’m not afraid of having a conversation but I guess, I have a much more informed opinion now.
An Idiot’s Guide To Shoots (I’m the idiot now)
Now, guys. I will say that I will sound very old school when I reminisce about this, just because I wasn’t using my Blackberry or MotoRazor to take hi-resolution pictures. There was an in-house photographer (who now happens to be my best friend) and a bunch of freelancers we worked with when needed.
But as a beauty editor, you have to come up with a theme of the month, conceptualise how you’d want to shoot it, call up everybody who’s included and make sure you are all on the same page: this would typically include a stylist, a photographer and an intern.
If a stylist is coming, you don’t have to worry about sourcing for props but if YOU ARE THE STYLIST, YOU’RE GOING TO BE ROAMING THE MALLS FOR 2 DAYS. I once had a shoot for waterproof sunscreens for which, it was decided that the prop was going to be lotus leaves, and, I actually had to go to the horticulture society at a popular centre in Delhi and request them to let me pluck a few blooms, or my shoot would be cancelled. And they did. So apart from your heels and your sense of styling, your people skills also get better with every issue.
The more you understand your magazine’s style along with your personal style, the better the pages are.
Back to the story! Of course, the job didn’t end by obtaining the prop and completing the shoot. Once you get the dump of original photos, you’re equally involved with choosing the final photos which are then edited. And once the photos get put on the page and approved by the editor, they’re sent for a final retouching by another professional. Yes, the process was long, but the focus was on quality since it was a monthly magazine. (also, it’s a different story for covers!)
Lessons Learnt: Customise Your Photography Kit According To Your Needs
While I do have a few basics etched in my memory, the industry has totally changed when it comes to photography skills. There are better, quicker turnouts, and everybody can do great shoots…your photography kit could include a contact sheet and a window or a DSLR with fancy lenses. You do you. I, for one, don’t take many photos because I’m not good at it and I haven’t invested in my photography gear. For people like me, I make the most of stock photos (I think they’re absolutely fabulous) and my iPhone.
How to conduct yourself when representing a brand: PR events and FAM trips
A big part of working as a beauty editor or a writer/blogger is to attend events. I remember I wasn’t nervous about my first beauty FAM trip since I’d done a bunch of travel FAMs prior to that, but if it’s your first time or something new, you will have mixed feelings about it. But events are great for learning about the brand for which the event is held; and additionally for genuine, solid old-school networking. The members of your community and your peers are all there, and the list could include some established names (the Miranda Priestly’s from your circuit might be in attendance). So it’s always good to put your best foot forward, introduce yourself and learn most from the events. Don’t lose sight of what you’re here to do, which is to learn about a brand’s new collection, a product which could vary from a night cream to a lipstick collection and network and learn from your peers. Also, remember that you’re representing a brand, so it’s always important to be in line with that.
Lessons Learnt: Make Most Of These Beauty & PR Events To Network, Familiarise and Form Opinions
Personally, people cared a lot about me when I came on behalf of a publication versus my blog. And that’s because a magazine has more readers than a blog, or, in this case, my blog. A lot of bloggers get treated like royalty because they are doing so well on their Instagram or YouTube. In situations like this, I like to remind myself that an event is happening for a bigger reason, which is that the PR team of a certain company is putting a bunch of money to promote their product and how this is an opportunity to network, see some new products and to also, hopefully, cultivate an opinion.
What I Typically Do In An Event
I like to reach on time, do a lap of the store or attend the event which includes trying the product, speak to the relevant category head, ask a few relevant questions, make PC for about 5-10 minutes and then leave.
I also think events are as much fun as the people who attend it, so if I happen to run into a colleague or get sucked into a discussion, it’s great. Otherwise, even Fashion Week is boring.
Lastly, if you see someone who’s having a really hard time, please put them at ease. I do that every time I attend an event and to me, cliques, which I see to this day, should be cancelled.
PR Journalism Vs Journalism
PR journalism, is what most of us, including some of my favourite magazines and bloggers, are guilty of doing. This includes a FAM trip you were sent for, say, to see, a beauty brand’s headquarters in…Korea, or perhaps for a beauty launch. There is also something called #gifted which is basically how all editors and writers get PR boxes of latest products on a monthly basis. The amount of coverage (1 page, half page, a column and para) plus your opinion is somewhere going to be affected by the fact that was PR-led activity that you attended.
Honestly, it all comes down to your brand, your brand’s relationship with another brand, or sometimes your own experience. How much PR journalism do you engage in? Is it all that you do? Those are some hard questions for a beauty editor to manoeuvre through.
Lessons Learnt: Find A Balance Between Genuine and Paid Collaborations
It’s better to draw a line. For instance, if I get a gifted product now, I do 2 stories on my Instagram and Facebook. I buy most of my products on my own, but to be honest, I was very used to getting PR boxes until the end of 2018. Sometimes you have to kick yourself out of a reverie, re-think what you’re doing and why you actually started doing it.
Now I only do best of brands, talk about solo products on Instagram once in a while, and my stories are more about the information on ingredients, trends or formulas that I would want my readers to know. (Read the difference between physical and chemical exfoliators here.)
If you’re a vlogger who got a lot of subscribers for calling out companies, and you suddenly start doing ONLY paid videos (usually for new collections), your fans are going to see through that, or worse, call you out for it. So as a beauty editor, keep learning and continue to evolve.
A Typical Month Being A Magazine Beauty Editor
Brainstorming ideas and concepts for photoshoots
Start work on stories/single pages
Phone interviews/Coordination For Shoots
Writing stories and taking in editorial changes
Edit rounds around closing
PR events, FAM trips
Writing other stories
These Skills Helped Me Transition From Print To Digital Medium
The foundations of writing, editing and networking amongst other skills helped me immensely when I switched to the digital medium. While I launched my blog in 2014, I also started writing on POPxo and Myntra as a guest columnist.
In 2018, I joined POPxo as a Digital Beauty Editor and I have to say, the experience was quite different. Sure, I was used to a faster environment wherein I’m used to doing 1-2 stories a day, it was even faster there (when I quit POPxo, the beauty team was publishing 10 small stories a day). You also have a much larger but younger team which includes writers, social media managers and a junior editor.
As a digital beauty editor, you will have to prepare yourself to multitask between social media, brand deliverables (for a collaboration or a paid campaign), commissioning and editing stories amongst other responsibilities.
A Typical Day Being A Digital Beauty Editor
Publish stories ( A mix of planned and news stories)
Edit news stories (to be pushed out in the afternoon or evening)
Approve social media posts, YouTube videos and text
Ideation & Assigning Work
Planning for next 2-3 weeks
How To Become A Beauty Editor
Unfortunately, they don’t teach any of this at a university level, not even online, which is just sad. So if you want to become a beauty editor in this day and age, I would say:
- There is a deafening amount of content creators out there, which leads to misinformation. Identify your niche, your passion and stick to it. However, be cognizant to expand your skill-sets and learn more with time
- Create your portfolio: Unfortunately, the pressure of social media is very real, if you are very passionate about beauty (skincare, makeup, holistic wellness, DIY, hair, cosmetic treatments), choose a medium and create content on it.
- Try to freelance for other websites and magazines.
- Once you do become a beauty writer, use all the opportunities to learn, learn, learn. I never said no to extra work because I liked what I was doing. I hope you do too.
- Draw a line between what’s OK and what’s NOT ok with you when it comes to PR, branding and paid associations for you and the brand you represent.
- Take a stand. The world’s biggest magazines are contemplating if they should stop doing fashion shoots (to minimise wastage) amongst inclusivity. If you strongly feel about a cause, now’s the time to stand by it.
- Have your own opinions, even if they are unpopular. It’s OK.
I hope you enjoy this blog on being a beauty editor and I hope this helps you, if you’re interested in this field.