How DID this mother become one of beauty’s most powerful women?
How DID this mother-of-four become one of beauty’s most powerful women? She’s 49 and no skinny minnie, yet Caroline Hirons’ blog is loved by millions — and can make or break a product
- Beauty therapist Caroline Hirons, 49, has received 100 million views on her blog
- Her influence has led to the ‘Caroline Effect’ across the beauty industry
- She has the power to shift a product in a way no celebrity-endorsed advert can
- She shared the progression of her career from beauty counters to YouTube
- Caroline’s content is especially popular with the 34 to 65-year-old age group
- She revealed her company’s profits last year was in the region of £180,000
Caroline Hirons is characteristically matter-of-fact when discussing the sort of young woman who, typically, makes a living from beauty blogging and YouTube tutorials.
‘They’re mostly half my age and half my weight. I often find myself thinking, “I’ve got bras older than you, love.” ’
The mother of four, who turns 50 next year and isn’t twiglet thin, is the antithesis of the tangerine-coloured, duck-face-pulling millennial who dominates social media. And that’s precisely why she’s struck such a chord with older women all over the world.
‘I do speak for the older woman in a way some of the younger girls don’t. I don’t talk down to people and I’m trained in beauty therapy. In my videos you’ll see me with my hair in a bun, jeans and trainers on. I don’t look immaculate. I’m not a Barbie doll,’ she tells me when we meet at the shoot.
Beauty therapist Caroline Hirons, 49, (pictured) found success as a beauty influencer after setting up a blog for fun in 2010. She shared the progression of her career from working on beauty counters to running a company with profits of up to £180,000
Indeed she isn’t. Barbie would never joke about tripping over her own boobs when she removes her bra at night, or admit she’d rather watch Strictly with a cup of tea than go to a glamorous party.
But Caroline has become something of a phenomenon. Her beauty blog, which recently reached a milestone of 100 million views, is so influential there is now a term in the industry known as the ‘Caroline Effect’. In the same way that an outfit worn by the Duchess of Cambridge or Sussex will become a sell-out, a cosmetic or skincare product will fly off the shelves if Caroline rates it.
Just one example: Clinque’s Take The Day Off Balm. A poor seller, the company was on the brink of discontinuing it in 2013 before Caroline entered it into the ‘Hall of Fame’ section of her blog.
Overnight the company experienced a huge spike in demand, leading to a 1,432 per cent increase in sales. Today, the balm is Clinique’s No 1 seller.
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Caroline is an angel and a demon to the beauty industry. An angel in that she can shift their products in a way no celebrity-endorsed advert can. And a demon as she loves to be mischievous, often reviewing a product without tipping the brand off first. ‘I don’t want to give them an opportunity to mess around with the price. My priority is the customer, I’m not here to make the brands money.’
Caroline’s passion for customer service comes from years working in retail and engaging with women. She still describes herself as a ‘shop girl’.
‘I grew up surrounded by products,’ she says. ‘My earliest memories are of me watching my nan take her make-up off and being enraptured.’
Both her mother and grandmother worked as make-up counter girls for brands such as Coty and Guerlain. ‘I remember being taken into Liverpool by my mum to see my nana in her lunch break. All the counter girls would make a fuss of me, and I can still recall how glamorous they were and how wonderful they all smelt.’
Caroline (pictured) began her career in beauty working the Aveda counter at Harvey Nichols in London before progressing onto Space NK in the late Nineties
Caroline’s first beauty counter job was as a Saturday girl for Aveda at Harvey Nichols in London. One Saturday she ended up by herself on the counter and took more money than the whole team usually did.
‘I’d ask customers about their lives, their kids and have a joke with them,’ she says. ‘I was a mum of two at the time and relished any opportunity to not talk about Thomas the bloody Tank Engine! People don’t like the hard sell. I never pushed a product on someone for the sake of it. It’s far more aggressive these days, of course, which can be intimidating.’
Caroline was working on the Space NK counter at Harvey Nichols in the late Nineties when she encountered Sylvie Chantecaille, founder of luxury skincare range Chantecaille. Caroline wasted no time in telling Sylvie of the problems with her company and was offered a job on the spot looking after the brand’s UK business interests.
A stint with Liz Earle followed before she set herself up as a freelance consultant working with American brands looking to get a foothold in the UK market.
But all the time there was a voice in her head asking: ‘I have a wealth of experience, I’m good at what I do, so why am I an employee?’
The first step towards creating her empire came in April 2010 with the launch of her blog. She was 40, married, her youngest children were just eight and three. She started to blog in her spare time while still working as a consultant.
Little did she realise the monster she would create. ‘It was a bit of fun,’ she says. ‘I never thought it would become a career. I wasn’t in the least bit techie either, but six months later it became clear what I was writing was resonating with readers.
‘My biggest following is among the 34 to 65-year-old age group. They like that I speak to them plainly and hold their hand through the process.’
Caroline (pictured) gets recognised wherever she goes as her content appears on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter
Visitors to her blog will know it’s a mixture of the fun and informative, with reviews, how-to guides, special offers and videos. The one thing Caroline is deadly serious about is total transparency when it comes to endorsements.
‘You’ll never see me trying to hide an advert. I will do a paid partnership, but I am upfront about it. For example, The Body Shop may ask me to talk about their new range, so I will do that and get paid for it. But what I won’t ever do is guarantee I’ll love their products.
‘You can’t buy my praise. I also won’t ever agree to delete my follower’s negative comments about a product.’
Does she ever get offered bribes, I wonder? ‘I know dodgy business goes on, but I think people know me well enough not to try now. I do some consultancy work and I’ve fired some brands because they’ve assumed hiring me as a consultant will get them access to my blog. Not so.’
How popular are beauty tutorials?
40 per cent of British women watch beauty tutorials online
Caroline’s blog draws followers from across the globe.
‘British women feel strangely guilty about spending money on skincare,’ she says. ‘They’ll covet a Tom Ford lipstick (£40), but gasp in horror if I recommend a £30 moisturiser.
‘Parisian women are a breed apart. Other French women are pretty normal, but the Parisians will spend a fortune. But they also smoke, drink and don’t eat.
‘New York women want all the treatments going and love European therapists. I’ve noticed a move towards hands-on facials and away from the high-tech machines.’
And on that note she’s off again. ‘This machine will blast oxygen into your skin,’ she mocks in her best Upper East Side accent. ‘No it won’t. That literally can’t happen. Shut up!’
Caroline (pictured) who began her YouTube channel in 2014 recalls screaming at her son in her first uploaded video
Her third biggest following comes from American women, who love her straight talking. It’s this feisty bravado that she also brings to her YouTube videos which, to date, have garnered 13 million views.
‘I came really late to YouTube, not until 2014,’ she says. ‘On my very first video my son came home and I screamed at him to shut up. I uploaded it anyway and people really identified with me. I’m older, I look like them. I’ve got kids who drive me mad.’
The extra 470,000 followers Caroline now attracts via YouTube, Instagram and Twitter means Caroline gets recognised wherever she goes. She can’t shop for make-up in Boots or department stores now as a quick trip for a lippy can become an hour-long marathon of selfies.
At her meet-and-greets the women couldn’t be more frenzied or excited if they were meeting George Clooney. At a Dublin event last year she managed to upstage society girl Millie Mackiintosh who was making a personal appearance the same day.
‘As I arrived this woman rushed over with a walkie-talkie to usher me off the floor,’ she says.
‘At first I thought she was angry because I hadn’t used the staff entrance, but she told me it was for security reasons. They’d put out 120 seats and 950 people had turned up.’
Caroline (pictured) says people rush over when they see her to ask for beauty advice and to take a selfie together
So what is it that women want from Caroline when they see her? ‘A selfie, especially the younger ones,’ she says.
‘But people want advice too. They’ll ask me about their rosacea or under eye bags.
‘Some of them will have a cry, too. I have to go “full mother” sometimes. I’ll say to someone with acne: “Look, nothing you buy over the counter is going to help you. Save your money and spend £200 on an appointment with a dermatologist.” I love that I can give people more confidence.’
Today the Caroline Hirons empire is a family affair. Husband Jim, 55, a musician, is listed as a company director, but is hands-off with the business.
Her two eldest sons Ben, 27, and Daniel, 24, work for her full-time. She lives in West London with youngest son Max, 14, who has already told her he intends to be head of IT, while daughter Ava, 16, is at beauty college.
Beauty blogging has earned Caroline a comfortable lifestyle, although she insists she’s not in the league of the big hitters.
‘There are bloggers like Chiara Ferragni who got in early and now have multi-million dollar businesses. That would be nice . . .’
While she isn’t raking in millions, Caroline is still doing nicely and has come a long way from her shop girl days. Her company records show her earnings shot up last year with profits in the region of £180,000.
Caroline (pictured) revealed she wouldn’t have a facelift or Botox but has had her eyes done
‘My success has meant I don’t stress as much. Neither my husband nor I come from money and it has taken some serious graft to get here.’
With her earthy attitude it’s easy to understand why Californians will flock to meet this bold, British woman, who isn’t fazed about hitting her half century.
‘Well, I don’t love that I’m getting saggier, but what can I do about it?’
Botox? Fillers? A facelift? ‘I couldn’t have Botox. I spend my life rolling my eyes and raising my eyebrows in exasperation,’ she laughs. ‘I wouldn’t have a facelift either. I did get my eyes done though — blepharoplasty — I’ve always been up front about that. I had terrible sagging on my lids, so bad it was starting to impact on my vision so I had them sorted out.
‘But, look, I’ve got a 27-year-old son, I can hardly start pretending I’m 30 can I? I’d look stupid!’
One of the most influential beauty bloggers, followed and worshipped by millions of grateful women? I don’t think anyone could accuse Caroline of being stupid.
Caroline’s mid-life skincare top picks
A one-stop shop for all your cleansing needs.
Wonderful hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Brilliant for eye wrinkles, dark circles and puffiness
One of the best acid exfoliators — start with P50W if new to acid toning.
Lightweight SPF to protect your skin in winter.
Best for dry skin.
Not cheap but the best Vitamin C antioxidant on the market
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