TikTok Mascara Drama Raises Questions About Authenticity

TikTok Mascara Drama Raises Questions About Authenticity

The world of beauty influence has evolved. There was a time when it was a healthy online environment for developers to post makeup tutorials, reviews, and recommendations. Now it’s one of the most dramatic communities on the internet. Even those trying to stay away from the drama altogether aren’t immune. The most recent example: TikToker Mikayla Nogueira. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old beauty influencer uploaded a video reviewing a mascara. Soon after, she faced a tidal wave of backlash online as people accused her of wearing false lashes to enhance the mascara’s effect, thereby offering inauthentic advice.

In the video, Noguiera sews up another creator’s video and snaps himself with L’Oreal Telescopic Life Mascara on one eye, saying, “It literally changed my life. These look like fake eyelashes…” before pausing and saying, “Eh? What?” The words “L’Oreal Paris Partner” flash on the screen in the lower left corner before disappearing again, and she demonstrates how to use the product. “I’m speechless and I’m not sure if anyone can ever compete with this product,” she says at the end of the video.

Then came the comments. “Girl, did you add fakes at the end?” one person commented. “We can see the length in the outer corner.” Reassuring her followers that wasn’t the case, Nogueira wrote back in the comments, “No just three/four coats and my tight liner.” In response to another comment about the fake lashes, she wrote, “No omg , L’Oreal would never allow that in a partner post!!! But you all prove my point.” Within three days, the video exploded in popularity and has been viewed over 24.6 million times, while debates over its authenticity continue.

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Nogueira officials did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

A popular beauty YouTuber named Alissa Ashley posted a video on TikTok explaining what she saw as the main issue with Nogueira’s review (based on the unverified assumption that the latter wore false lashes). “If you have such a big platform and you decide to use it to post a made up review, that’s not okay,” Ashley says in the video. She goes on to say that this isn’t just affecting Nogueira’s content, but the beauty community as a whole because it further confirms people’s skepticism towards beauty influencers reviewing products.

Videos with the hashtag #MikaylaNogueiradrama have been viewed over 10.5 million times and Nogueira has faced a barrage of criticism. So far, she hasn’t responded differently than in her initial replies to comments on TikTok. Aside from the drama surrounding the lashes themselves, there’s also a chance the influencer could be fined by the Federal Trade Commission for failing to include the usual “paid partnership” icon at the bottom of the video, as it did usually the case with sponsored content. The FTC’s “Truth in Advertising” guidelines require that content creators disclose when they have a “substantial connection” to a brand. This includes “a personal, family, employment, or financial relationship — such as the brand that pays you or offers you free or discounted products or services.” The policy also requires that if the originator makes an endorsement in a video, they must include the disclosure in the video, which Nogueira did by briefly displaying “L’Oreal Paris Partner” in an on-screen hashtag.

Other beauty influencers, including Bretman Rock and Kirsten Titus, have made videos featuring the same product as Nogueira and given it positive reviews. They used the same hashtags and included “L’Oreal Paris Partner” in their videos. Reactions to her videos continued to add drama, as users pointed out that her results were much less dramatic than Nogueira’s when comparing the videos. Embattled creators like James Charles (who admitted and later apologized for underage messaging and requesting nudes) and Jeffree Star (who was the subject of an inside exposure and faced allegations of bullying, sexual assault and violence) took the opportunity to to do this own product reviews of the mascara.

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We’ve yet to see where this particular drama will end up when it comes to the authenticity of the mascara review. But whatever the outcome, the fallout serves as an example of the transformation the beauty world has seen since many of its stars betrayed the trust of their followers. In one particularly infamous example, the case of YouTuber Jaclyn Hill’s messy lipstick launch, customers are said to have found hair and mold in her products, leading many today to be primed to sniff the first scent from an influencer who leads them astray. And that kind of distrust extends beyond the beauty community; Last month, an ancestral lifestyle influencer called The Liver King faced backlash when he admitted to taking steroids to sculpt his physique on top of his raw meat diet.

When it comes to Noguiera’s future, one only has to focus on past controversies. Though many creators in the beauty community have had their own dramas, squabbles, and controversies, they’ve mostly made it to the other side and maintained a platform. Whether that means muting after a heartfelt apology on her Notes app, a standard apology YouTube video, or just continuing to post, it’s hard to waste a platform of millions. At the end of the day, controversy or not, the real winner here is the brand that commissioned the sponsored post.

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Write to Moises Mendez II at [email protected]

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