While all of the top 10 beauty brands on Instagram are great at interacting online, it also comes down to, of course, selling a fantastic product a particular demographic needs and loves. The following brands all have that in common, along with a dedicated staff working around the clock to ensure their feeds feature coordinated grids, curated content and well-written captions. Here, CEW Beauty Insider analyzed the best of the best and shared some key takeaways on what they’re doing well, how clear they are on what they’re selling, how they engage with their followers, and what elements they leverage, from influencer partnerships to Instagram Stories to Boomerangs to create compelling content.
M.A.C Cosmetics: 16.7 Million Followers
Yes, M.A.C has more than 20 years of history in the beauty space, but its following of almost 17 million is no accident. M.A.C posts a lot of eye and lip makeup closeups, which are proven to amp up engagement with beauty and makeup enthusiasts because they can envision themselves donning the product, which is more difficult to do in a shot of a full face (someone else’s, of course). The brand also posts a judicious amount of product shots. M.A.C is long known for its collaborations with everyone from Dame Edna to beauty boy Patrick Starr, its latest partnership. As influencers are currently crucial to branding, the vlogger and makeup artist partnership makes for a likely successful collaboration.
M.A.C uses Instagram Stories to share tips and tricks from their senior makeup artists and holiday product wish lists. Recently posted were makeup techniques, like the “tap and swirl” highlighter trick courtesy of M.A.C makeup artist Romero Jennings. Boomerangs were also incorporated in the story, as was a face chart listing the products used. Instagram Story takeover coverage from influencer @keke at the M.A.C AIDS Fund event featuring Elton John provided a behind-the-scenes feel.
Anastasia Beverly Hills: 14.9 Million Followers
This brow-heavy feed reposts a lot of influencer snaps, like a recent post using one of Anastasia Beverly Hills’ palettes by @officialglitterpig. There are also a multitude of brow how-to videos showing how the brand’s brow powder is used. A recent post by influencer @browsbyanita garnered more than 1 million views. The feed features a few product shots, but mostly closeups of eyes and brows.
A recent Instagram Story features a Sephora France mailing unboxing by brand founder Anastasia Soare herself. There’s also a tutorial from an Anastasia Makeup artist @alyssamarieartistry with text overlay to share which products were used, along with brushes from the makeup range. Nothing but music accompanies the video, along with text shout-outs of the products. Anastasia Beverly Hills often incorporates the “swipe up” feature to shop the products directly from Instagram Stories.
Sephora: 12.9 Million Followers
In a time when retail has its challenges, Sephora’s social feed does not reflect any turmoil. Featuring a mix of product flat-lays, swatches on a range of skin tones, and face shots and videos, the Sephora social team knows its audience. They partnered with influencer @itssangtime on a recent tutorial and many of the brand’s photos in its timeline are shoppable from within Instagram. In a recent Instagram Story, blogger @chaimi_boulayad did an Instagram Story takeover, in which she shared her must-have lip products sold at the store and online.
NYX: 12 Million Followers
The NYX feed is 90% closeups of eyes or lips, with full faces sprinkled throughout, mostly of influencer partnerships, like @wesleybenjamincarter, @goldluxkay, and more. A small amount of product flat-lays are woven throughout, as well. The brand’s fun, millennial-friendly voice serves up how-tos on how to get the “lewks.” A true makeup lover’s brand, this feed focuses on more intricate, colorful looks as opposed to natural cosmetics effects.
NYX also features fans with smaller followings of under 5K, who boast master makeup artistry skills. Recently, NYX posted a diamond painted onto the center of the lips by makeup artist @olgavisage. Showcasing her incredible talent for painting everything from flags to landscapes on lips will no doubt increase her following via showcasing her incredible artistic capabilities.
On the brand’s recent Instagram Stories is a rundown of the brand’s Lippie Countdown Calendar holiday offering and corresponding lipstick swatches.
Too Faced Cosmetics: 9.4 Million Followers
This feed features a 50/50 mix of influencers full faced and product shots with a few eye and lip closeups in the mix. Professional video shoots for the ‘gram are interspersed throughout the feed, as well. Shoppable links to products are incorporated in the makeup flat-lays. The pink color scheme keeps the feed looking unified and on-brand for this feminine, millennial-focused brand.
On Too Faced’s Instagram Stories, a recent post included a tutorial with a step by step on how to get a sunset and turquoise eyeshadow look created with the brand’s new Clover eyeshadow palette. Too Faced used the swipe-up feature so followers can purchase the palette directly on their site.
Urban Decay Cosmetics: 9 Million Followers
This brand’s IG is mostly a product-, flat-lay-heavy feed with influencer video posts interspersed throughout, with a few arm swatch snaps featuring various skin tones. Even the swatches are artfully applied; one photo features waves, another features a printed diamond shape of metallic lip and eye colors in on-trend pinks and purples. The tone is cheeky and on-brand, and engages with fans directly via comments and by addressing questions.
In Urban Decay’s Instagram Stories, the brand recently partnered with a bikini brand called @frankiesbikinis on a giveaway including a bathing suit, two Urban Decay items and three sunglasses from Australian brand, Quay. This cross-promotion is a great way to reach other audiences outside of beauty while amping up engagement among its own fans.
Benefit Cosmetics: 7 Million Followers
Boudoir-chic beauty brand Benefit Cosmetics has shifted its focus to digital, and its pink-themed Instagram feed reflects that. This page features professionally photographed product shots, influencer pics and videos, with a healthy smattering of brow and eye close-ups showcasing Benefit’s products. A recent regram features influencer/makeup artist @muastephnicole’s brows in a close-up. The brand uses clever hashtags, such as #friendswithbenefit, to help locate fans for more engagement. The feed also features Instagram-friendly pics of Benefit boutiques.
On Benefit’s Instagram Stories is brow inspiration, featuring influencers @baileysarian @joyjah, @billieejean and @makeupbyjcole encouraging followers to tag looks with #benefitbrows for a chance to be featured.
Tarte Cosmetics: 7.2 Million Followers
Less uniform with regard to color scheme, this fun feed features a mix of product shots, influencer regrams and eye and lip closeups with links to purchase directly via Instagram. On the feed, the brand also promotes its YouTube channel. Tarte is also a fan of arm-swatch shots, and is diversity-friendly, showing the same shade on an array of skin tones.
On recent Instagram Stories, it’s all about GRWM, a Get Ready With Me for date night. Staffer Alex from the brand’s social team created a more professional video than your typical IG Story of how to create a date-night look, set against a pink background. Alex highlighted her brows, applied shadow and lipstick and talked a little about why each product is great — it’s waterproof, etc. She included a before-and-after, showing one eye with a finished application of mascara, one eye without.
Maybelline: 5.9 Million Followers
There’s no main color scheme here, but a 50/50 mix of full-faced influencer and product shots, along with some swatches and eye and lip closeups. Influencer how-to videos are featured, like @petitboutdesoleil’s foundation tutorial using Maybelline products. A few weeks back the feed dedicated many posts to its partnership with Gigi Hadid, which was more uniform in color, and promoted the blush-hued packaged products of the collaboration in addition to professional shots of Gigi modeling the looks. A post by @Nikkitutortials features a video cut of herpartnership with the brand that promotes the Maybelline YouTube channel. Shopping links are sprinkled throughout the feed.
NARS: 4.8 Million Followers
Recent coverage in this clean-looking feed focus on lips, with pretty close up pout shots, professional lipstick and models applying NARS lipstick shots, plus a few elevated professional makeup artist lip post regrams, like a recent star-studded glittery lip look created by Rachel Goodwin. There’s less of a focus on heavily contoured, Instagram-brow studded looks here and more of a professional approach, which may be why the brand boasts a smaller following, but its authenticity to high-end resonates with its following, leading to high engagement (20K+ likes on many of the posts, for instance). There’s more of an old-school, print editorial feel here with direct links to buy sprinkled in. A diverse mix of models also adds to this feed’s appeal. There’s less of a focus on IG Stories here.