Internet, this is what we get for destroying print media.
When I was an insecure preteen facing beauty qualms, I’d buy a copy of YM, Seventeen, CosmoGirl or one of the other dozen or so magazines catering to girls at my local 7-Eleven. These magazines taught me how to curl my hair, how to make a DIY anti-acne facial or how to pluck my eyebrows into perfectly thin rainbow arches (hey, it was the early 2000s).
Of course, these teen-centric publications weren’t all good. They were laden with ads and could be perceived as preying on their readers’ insecurities. But at least they were being curated and edited by grown-ups who actually knew how to give the readers what they wanted.
Today, the CosmoGirls of yore have largely folded. Teen media is in flux. Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie comes to mind as an example of quality online media created with teens in mind — but it caters to the old souls of the tween and teen population. Its high-minded readers are more likely to look to Twin Peaks than Pretty Little Liars for style inspiration.
Now, instead of poring over glossy magazines, teens are increasingly enthralled by their smartphones. Vining their own Jackass-like stunts and idolizing strangers who look good in flannel seem to take up most of their media diet (not to mention a little harmless sexting).
When it comes to beauty tips that were once the domain of teen mags, there are, of course, YouTube stars like Michelle Phan giving girls legitimate beauty advice. But there’s also wikiHow’s treasure trove of totally batshit crowdsourced beauty advice listicles.
The names of these wikiHow posts read like your teenage cousin’s most pathetic Google searches: “How to Be a ‘It Girl,’” “How to Be Close to Flawless,” “How to Look Amazing and Skinnier in Anything,” and “How to Be Attractive Without Makeup” (it only takes 27 steps).
They’re full of tips ranging from the no-shit variety (“remember to not look trashy”) to the head-scratchingly bizarre (“shave or pluck your face if you have hair there”). They’re edited by users with weird screennames reminiscent of the days of AOL (example: Mappledumplings) and many of them have hundreds of thousands of pageviews.
We’ve assembled a list of the most tragic, least helpful beauty advice you’ll find on wikiHow. It’s truly the blind leading the blind out there. The following advice is sourced from aforementioned lists as well as the following: “How to Be a Leading Lady,” “How to Be Pretty Even If You Are Unfortunate With Your Looks” (this one has a whopping 740,000 views), “How to Become Prettier Every Day,” “How to Be and Feel Beautiful All the Time,” “How to Be a Hot Latina” and “How to Be a Stylish Girl.”
If you need more evidence that the site’s crowdsourced how-tos sometimes act as a pathetic stand-in for the teen media of yore, here are a few other articles: “How to Control Tears,” “How to Create Your Own Character to Act Like,” “How to Determine if You Are a Tall Girl,” “How to Know What Is Cool” (this involves drinking two liters of milk per day) and “How to Remove the Redness of a Pimple.”
And teens, if you are truly jonesing for some grade-A beauty tips, step away from the computer and pick up a good old-fashioned magazine. At least the pictures are more fun to look at than the one you see above.
• “You may want to take a trip to the salon and ask for a framing around the face.”
• “Have a flattering and nice haircut.”
• “You don’t need to change your hair completely, but if you want to, you can.”
• “Try to get a name brand purse. Try wearing aeropostale, hollister, etc.”
• “Wear a ruffled miniskirt once in a while to drive the boys nuts.”
• “Wear colors that you think will make you look good.”
• “Instead of wearing boring trousers, try out skirts (not too short!) and tights or leggings, but don’t look trashy.”
• “Don’t keep wearing red and black, use similar colors like orange and grey.”
• “When you wear an outfit that is colorful, wear white or gray shoes to bring out your outfit. If you wear a white or gray outfit wear colorful shoes.”
• “If [your clothing] is fur, leather, or anything else made from animals, donate it. That is not stylish, unless you’re into that kind of thing. A nice leather jacket can make you look really cool.”
• “Do not wear the same shirt 2 days in a row.”
• “Look for basic pieces. Two or three well-fitted pairs of jeans, some cute shirts that fit well, cute sandals and flats, sneakers for active days, maybe a few skirts or dresses if you like. All of these things are quite fashionable.” (Just wear clothes, basically.)
• “Buy lipgloss.”
• “You never want to over do make up just do a pinkish blush gray eye shadow mascara and a light pink lip stick or gloss.”
• “Having clear skin makes you look as if you care about your skin.”
• “Shave or pluck your face if you have hair there. Don’t go as far as false lashes, and make it look natural, yet noticeable.”
• “Add Vaseline to your lips and lightly add pink to your cheeks for a rosy glow (then add a little Vaseline for a ‘glow’).”
• “Make sure fingernails are NEVER dirty. Wear nail polish. If you’re not a fan of color on nails, wear clear nail polish. This will not only make nails stronger, but will add shine which looks classy. Try dipping them in olive oil each night, this will help build strong nails and heal cuticles. (Be sure the olive oil stays on your cuticles for 2-3 minutes.) Why not jazz them up a bit with a sensible but pretty pastel shade? A French manicure is always most effective. False nails are over-rated and unnecessary in the opinion of many.” (Speak for yourself, wikiHow.)
• “Remember that the models today are far from the look that guys love… Let me introduce you to a new word: ‘Thick’… Having a thick figure means you have boobs, a booty, and thighs, but yet your stomach region is still slim or completely flat.” Oh, is that all?
• “If your stomach isn’t completely flat, don’t worry, all you have to do is some crunches and a few sit-ups.”
• “If you tend to drink soda and eat junk food almost every day, stop.”
• “With girls make sure not to trust each and everyone of them.”
• “Remember to be flirty, cute, and sexy around [boys].”
• “Ignore what other people say to you.”
• “Get good grades, as your grades tend to shape your personality.”
• “Remember this little quote: Boys will want it when you make them chase it.”
• “You need to realize how lucky you are, there are people out there disfigured, or missing body parts and stuff.”
• “A leading lady (which is a term from the movies) has poise, confidence, grace, and strength… A leading lady believes that she is precious.”
• “Having a lovely scent can actually make you more attractive to others around you!”
• “Be polite to people. This looks a lot more attractive than frowning and mumbling.”
• “Look for your passions and then release them!”
• “Being beautiful means helping others and remembering that as bad as your life is, there are so many people living in their own hell.”
• “If you have very crooked teeth, consider braces.”
• “Blow your nose, don’t pick it.”
• “Deodorant is highly recommended.”