For many, the news that Glossier laid off nearly a third of its corporate employees on January 26 came as a shock — but the turn of events was hardly a surprise for beauty junkies on Reddit, a goldmine of impassioned discussion of all things makeup and skincare.
A thread on r/muacjdiscussion (an off-shoot of Makeup Addiction Circlejerk, a sub-Reddit dedicated to the good-natured trolling of beauty fads) reads as a chronicle of Glossier's recent struggles, foreshadowing a full-fledged downfall.
Not so long ago, Glossier — a darling of the early direct-to-consumer boom — boasted a fervent, cult-like following for its unfussy products, packaged in equally minimal tubes and bottles.
Fan favorites including Boy Brow (tinted brow gel) and Cloud Paint (liquid blush) were beloved for their natural, "you-but-better" approach to makeup. As people began tiring of the hyper-contoured, Botox'ed look of the Kardashians and other influencers, Glossier provided an alluring alternative: makeup is for accentuating — not concealing and re-engineering — your features.
The brand's low-maintenance, cool-girl ethos was a well-timed antidote to society's collective burnout from over-lined lips, perfectly angled eyebrows, and cut crease eyeshadow — looks that required a steady hand, a stable of products, and lots of time.
Glossier swooped in, positioning itself as a millennial pink alternative to over-complicated beauty routines and heavy-handed makeup. Don't use all that makeup; you're beautiful, Glossier said. But you should have perfect skin, feathered eyebrows, and a marble bathroom filled with natural light, screamed Glossier's social media.
In effect, Glossier was beauty's Girlboss Supreme, flanked by Audrey Gelman of The Wing, and Leandra Medine of Man Repeller.
As Reddit user blondiecommie summed up: "I always thought Glossier was selling an aspiration rather than a makeup product; aspiration to be an upper class, beautiful, successful $girlboss who spends 5k a year on her lewks and looks ~effortlessly~ cool."
The strategy worked, for a while. But in June 2020, heightened discussion of racism and inequality began to break down the faux-feminist facade of girlboss culture, bringing Glossier down with it.
That summer, a collective of former Glossier employees came forward with allegations of racism and inhumane work conditions in the company.
Weiss issued an apology, but the damage was done. COVID wrecked havoc on virtually every sector, but I'd guess that employee backlash had something to do with Glossier's decision to permanently shutter all of its brick-and-mortar stores in August 2020.
Other Redditors are arguing that Glossier's newer products haven't hit quite as hard as they used to. "Imo, the more recent launches didn’t deliver in quality (I.e. Skywash) and they’re pulling away from being a beauty and skincare company," peachjellytea wrote, questioning the company's decision to push merchandise such as hoodies and bags.
Hauteburrito added that, since Glossier's inception, a host of equally minimal beauty brands have entered the chat, and at a more accessible price point. (Merit, Kosas, Jones Road, and Tower 28 are a few examples).
"A lot of other brands have piled on to the minimal beauty trend in recent years, so Glossier isn't as special anymore," aggressive-teaspoon wrote very presciently on an 11-month-old discussion titled: Is Glossier hyped until now, or has it died down a little?
EmpireAndAll also mentioned the fact that Glossier is absent from major beauty retailers such has Sephora and Ulta: "I think being DTC is what is their downfall... Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and many others realized — if you already have the internet crowd you can still expand to stores and Glossier never came around on that."
Factor in Glossier's failure to expand internationally, and you've got a perfect storm.
In the words of Natasha Bedingfield, the future of Glossier is unwritten — but if you'd like a preview, just ask Reddit.