The VSCO Girl, that teenager who loves the VSCO photo app, wears oversized T-shirts, drinks from a pastel-colored Hydro Flask, carries a Fjallraven Kanken backpack, and strictly wears Crocs or Birkenstocks is now being noticed by adults in mainstream business. That’s right, she’s an influencer, but on a whole other level. From promoting fashion trends and positive self-esteem to potentially killing the makeup industry, the VSCO Girls’ impact on both commerce and culture could be huge in 2020.
VSCO Girl Impact: Makeup Industry
A staple characteristic of the VSCO girl is her minimalist style. While she wears popular brands, she prides herself in focusing on skincare and self-care. That means she trades the full-face of makeup for a Burt’s Bees lip balm and Mario Badescu rosewater facial spray. And companies have noticed.
According to Fortune, “Investment bank and securities firm Piper Jaffray released its semiannual teen survey this fall, detailing just how influential the VSCO trend is, noting a 21% decrease in cosmetic spending among female teens year over year. Plus, the firm last week downgraded Estée Lauder stock from overweight to neutral, while cosmetics retailer Ulta Beauty saw its stock fall 29% at the end of August following disappointing second quarter earnings, further indicating a softening of makeup sales.”
On the flip side, some companies are gaining popularity for their natural and vegan products. A representative at Mario Badescu told Fortune, “We have definitely seen a lift in sales and awareness that can be attributed to our association with this aesthetic.”
Additionally, Kayla Marci, an analyst covering the cosmetics industry at retail data firm Edited, confirmed with Fortune that teen girls are using fewer products, and the ones they do use have more transparent ingredients and sometimes a social conscience. “Brand awareness is appearing to be more crucial than price,” she said.
Some companies are even adjusting their branding to target this new market. Estée Lauder is moving to make their packaging recyclable, reusable, and refillable, and L’Oreal’s 2018 annual report stated that skincare sales were rocketing and they’re hoping to switch to paper-based packaging by 2020.
While some on social media mock the VSCO aesthetic, clearly this is an audience that businesses want to reach; 75% of VSCO’s registered users are younger than 25, making them the coveted-demographic of Gen Z. In fact, it’s gotten so big that Amazon.com even sells “VSCO Girl Starter Packs,” which gives users bundles containing things like scrunchies, bows, bracelets and reusable straws that can help Gen Z live their VSCO girl dreams. And at an average price of $10 or more, these companies are making a good profit.
However, as some retailers are capitalizing on these teens, the VSCO movement is focusing on something bigger: mental-wellness.
Transforming Mental Health
Julie Inouye, Vice President of Communications at VSCO, told PRWeek that VSCO is changing the way young girls, particularly Gen Z, are expressing their creativity, diversity, and stances on matters that are important to them, such as climate change.
“[Gen Z] knows what each platform is good for and what the downfalls of each are,” Joel Flory, VSCO CEO told TechCrunch. “They are actively making investments in creativity and in their mental health, and they are seeking out a space where they can be who they are. And the fact that they’re even talking about mental health, anxiety, depression and compare culture — it took me so long in life to be able to articulate what I was feeling … They’re putting their money and time in brands and causes that they care about. And so for us, that’s why I think we’ve seen a lot of our growth.”
Unlike other social media platforms, VSCO doesn’t publicly list their engagement. Inouye thinks that’s what’s so incredible about the app.
“With VSCO, there are only reinforcement gestures. The only way you can interact with content on VSCO today is to favorite something or republish it. Both those actions are very encouraging gestures,” Inouye said.
As a mother of two girls and an avid-social media user, she notices the way other platforms can negatively affect the psyche.
“Trends will come and go but the most important thing is that my daughters feel supported to explore who they are and who they want to be,” Inouye explained. VSCO provides this platform for exploration and sees the VSCO Girl impact as a positive.
“One of the wonderful things to come out of the VSCO Girl meme is this generation’s sense of empowerment and self-awareness. If my daughters grow up having this strong sense of self, I’d consider that a great thing — with or without the scrunchies.”