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Emily Dougherty lipstick asmr
courtesy of Instagram/@emilydougherty

Emily Dougherty creates soothing ASMR videos of lipstick being smashed up

No lipstick was wasted in the making of these videos

From Instagram clips of people destroying their lipstick to those pimple popping videos that exist in the dark recesses of the web, we all have those things that make us tick. Beauty Fetish is a regular column where we uncover the weirdest beauty trends the internet has to offer and meet the people behind them.

A blade comes down, slicing into the lipstick on the screen. Product is smeared across the pristine white surface, colours mixing like paints on an easel. Red and blue swirl together, Dior and MAC become one. This mesmerising video is the work of beauty editor Emily Dougherty, who posts satisfying lipstick smashing clips on her Instagram, which have quickly gone viral. Although a long-time fan of ASMR content, Dougherty initially hadn’t planned on joining the growing internet community. “Originally the videos were just to show the magic of make-up artists,” she says. “That they can take two lipsticks that you wouldn’t think go together, mix them and you get a third epic shade. But then it evolved into a space where people could come and relax.” Now heralded as beauty ASMR royalty, people flock to Dougherty’s calming videos to help them destress, relax, and even fall asleep – an unintended side-effect that Dougherty has found a happy, and welcome, surprise. “There's so much darkness and so much negativity out there - it feels nice to have a happy little corner that people can go.”

Having cut her teeth at the beauty desks of Elle, Nylon and Harper’s Bazaar, the now editor in chief of NewBeauty has long been of fan of make-up and isn’t afraid to to play around with it. “Make-up was always something fun, never a job, never corrective,” she says. “This is the way that beauty should always be: always a joy, a moment of self-reflection and affirmation.” And for those who are concerned about the needless destruction of the make-up, don’t worry – no lipstick was wasted in the making of these videos. “People get so angry. I've gotten death threats!” Dougherty says. “I always try to take the time to connect with them via DM and let them know that nothing goes to waste. I depot all of the mixes into little vitamin containers or pill packs or make-up palettes, and then use them for reference. It's like a Pantone guide, but for lipstick.”

We speak to Dougherty to find out more.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up
Emily Dougherty: I grew up in the biggest town in Idaho, so I felt very big-city even though my hometown was quite rural and remote. We didn't have a big department store or mall—no place to buy MAC or Dior in the entire state! Things in magazines seemed very far away, another world. When I started working in magazines, my first big job was Harper's Bazaar – I made sure to include beauty products that you could buy everywhere. This was before service-based beauty journalism became big: I wanted to include as many tips from the top hair and make-up pros as possible: if the reader couldn't afford to buy a product, they could still feel like they gained something by reading the piece.

What's your earliest beauty related memory? Growing up, how did make-up inform your identity?
Emily Dougherty: My mom's little tiny Avon sample lipsticks. I kept them in a little tiny wooden box. I wasn't allowed to wear make-up but I was allowed to play with it at home, so I'd put the lipstick on and then take it off, put it on and take it off. The ritual of application always had a sense of transience, of play. Make-up was always something fun, never a job, never corrective. I didn't wear make-up to change or hide anything -- it was pure play. This is the way that beauty should always be: always a joy, a moment of self-reflection and affirmation.

How has your relationship with make-up evolved?
Emily Dougherty: There's a school of thought that we should use make-up to look consistent from day to day -- for example, that we should use concealer to cover dark circles or spots. And I definitely respect the power of make-up to transform us and give us confidence and strength! But for me, personally, I'm not as interested in using make-up to cover things up or hide anything: if I have dark circles because my 3-year-old kept me up all night, I'm okay with everyone seeing them. I'm more interested in the joy that make-up can bring -- I'd rather spend five minutes putting on turquoise eyeliner than covering up a pimple.

What is it you do and why do you do it? Have you always wanted to work in beauty? How did you get into the industry?
Emily Dougherty: I ask this myself every day. I lucked into this field -- I studied comparative literature as an undergrad, and planned on going back to school to be a professor, but then got a job as an assistant at Fairchild Publications, they published W and WWD. I was so impressed by all of the brilliant editors and writers and never looked back. And then I fell in love with beauty -- it seemed so much more challenging as a writer to say something smart and new about red lipstick than to say something smart and new about the latest translation of Wittgenstein.

I didn't even know you could work in beauty when I was young. In Idaho when I was young, girls could grow up to be nuns or bank tellers. There were so many vibrant, brilliant women -- mostly all stay at home moms --  that inspired me as I grew up, but, at the time and in that conservative bubble, there weren't many career opportunities for women.

How has it evolved since you started out?
Emily Dougherty: We all used to be beauty detectives -- it was about discovering new under-the-radar products and techniques, spending a lot of time in the stacks at the NY Public Library, tracking down medical journals and a lot of phone calls with university skincare researchers around the world. It wasn't as easy for editors or readers to find high-quality information. Now, there's information everywhere -- the challenge is filtering out what's real and what's fake. When I was at American ELLE and even more now, as the editor of NewBeauty, my goal is to cover the complete spectrum of beauty without judgement -- no matter where my reader is in their journey, whether they want an eye cream or an eye lift, we present them medical-board-vetted information that is as straightforward, safe and unbiased.

Lets talk about your lipstick smashing videos, where did that whole idea come from?
Emily Dougherty: I was obsessed with ASMR -- I had played around with a few versions at work as a way to show off seasonal product launches -- Opening and shutting lipstick tubes, running fingers across the tops of combs. I depot lipsticks to save space and thought a depotting video could be fun. And then I also mix shades -- make-up artists always combine two or more backstage or on set and the end result is so magical. I thought I would do a short series showing my favourite make-up artists' favourite mixes. And then it really took off!

Who do you do it for?
Emily Dougherty: I am a people pleaser, so I really like hearing that the videos help people relax, fall asleep, destress. And to see people connecting with each other in the comments, sharing and supporting each other. That's been incredibly wonderful.

What do you think smashing up products or watching videos of people smashing up lipstick says about our cultural attitude to beauty and beauty content?
Emily Dougherty: I did consider trying to make slime-centric beauty videos -- imagine some of the epic pigments that Pat McGrath used at Dior couture over the years, folded into a glowy, gorgeous slime. But once you put make-up into slime, it really is ruined, and I couldn't stand ruining make-up. Just in NYC, you think of all the food waste -- I walked by a sign yesterday that said throwing away one egg is a waste of 55 gallons of water. I'm happy people are getting angry about waste in general, and hopefully, that energy can go towards changing all of our consumption habits.

Why are people so obsessed with ASMR beauty?
Emily Dougherty: It's so lovely. What could be more wonderful -- getting to relax and think about beauty.

What is the future of beauty content?
Emily Dougherty: I do believe that we will continue to seek out trusted experts -- magazines like NewBeauty and people like Caroline Hirons or Stephen Alain Ko -- to cut through all of the marketing noise and share what really works. For the past five or so years, consumers have been more attracted to the vibe of a brand than if the products actually work, so I'm happy to see that the pendulum is swinging back towards what works and what's safe.