This Is How Nyx Cosmetics Became One Of The Biggest Beauty Brands On Social Media

Any beauty brand today worth its weight in lipstick understands the power of social media. YouTube is becoming the new makeup counter. Instagram "likes" can translate to sales. Hell, even the word "selfie" squeezed its way into the Oxford English Dictionary. No company, however, knows this better than Nyx Professional Makeup.
The drugstore staple has the same unwavering "in" with top beauty vloggers that Martin Scorsese has with Leonardo DiCaprio, and it's all for one reason: Social media has been part of Nyx's bloodline since the beginning of, well, social media. "We were one of the first to embrace it as a platform for makeup to share, create, and express," says Nathalie Kristo, the brand's general manager. "Our success is all from word of mouth — people seeing us in tutorials, then trying it themselves. We've built a big beauty community because of that."
A big community, indeed: With 2.4 million shout-outs on YouTube, Nyx is one of the most-mentioned on the site; on Instagram, that number is multiplied by 10. Ahead, see how Nyx became the beauty brand people couldn't shut up about — and turned that into its (pretty damn smart) business model.
1 of 11
1999: The Beginning

Founded by Korean transplant Toni Ko at age 25, Nyx (pronounced "nicks") helped fill the void of on-trend finishes in quality formulations at drugstore prices. "[The brand] was always about providing professional-quality products that are affordable, which no one was really doing at the time," says Kristo, adding that Nyx was named after the Greek goddess of the night. Another fact fact: Its first products included a line of slim lip and eyeliner pencils (in six and 12 shades, respectively) — which raked in $2 million in wholesale that first year on the market. Say it with us: Damn.

Nyx Slim Lip Pencil, $2.80, available at Nyx Cosmetics.
2 of 11
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
2007: Signing With Ulta

For years, the brand sold directly to makeup artists and professional beauty partners at trade shows, but sales really kicked off the moment the ink dried on its deal with Ulta. "That was the first major retailer we went to," Kristo says. "When we started at Ulta, our range was a lot smaller — it was just our lip and eye pencils." As demand grew, so did its product selection. (Which, for the record, extends to about 2,000 SKUs today.)
3 of 11
2007 - 2008: Discovering An Untapped Market

Before there were 32 million makeup tutorials on YouTube and the term 'baked' became a word people used to describe a setting powder application technique, the world of social media influencers didn't exist. But 10 years ago, Nyx noticed an uptick in sales of its white Jumbo Eye Pencil and traced the boost back to a string of how-to videos. "This was at the start of YouTube tutorials," Kristo says. "People were using the Jumbo pencil as a highlighter or an eyeshadow base or de-potting it. These [vloggers] were democratizing professional makeup and bringing it to the masses. It became a different kind of word of mouth."

Hundreds of beauty videos on the milky shadow-liner hybrid quickly followed, inspiring Nyx to double down on its social media efforts — a bold move at the time. "We don't do traditional advertising, so we relied on people finding us organically on social media and vloggers using Nyx makeup in their videos," she says. "That's what got our name our there and our products into people's hands. [The Jumbo Eye Pencil] is still a favorite today, especially during the FACE Awards." And what is that, you ask? Funny you mentioned it...

Nyx Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk, $3.15, available at Nyx Cosmetics.
4 of 11
2011: The Birth Of The FACE Awards

Think of Nyx's first-of-its-kind competition like the American Idol for aspiring makeup artists: People "audition" by submitting beauty videos for consideration, which are then selected by a panel of judges. The only way finalists advance is with the public's votes — all with the endgame of winning Beauty Vlogger Of The Year. "We saw every day people creating this amazing content online and doing incredible makeup artistry," says Sarah El-Annan, the brand's AVP for integrated marketing and PR. "The FACE Awards became a platform to celebrate them."

In 2011, there were 200 people at the inaugural show in Pasadena, but in the years that followed, the awards have helped catapult talent like Patrick Starrr and Madeyewlook (both of whom returned this past year to host and guest-judge) into social media superstardom. "We really wanted to give back to the community that has been so dedicated to us, so loyal to us, and help them grow their careers and followings," El-Annan says. "That's what FACE has always been about."
5 of 11
Six years later, and the FACE Awards have grown globally — spanning a whopping 43 countries, says El-Annan. "We went from [an attendance of] 200 people to 6,000 people this year, with hundreds of thousands of people who are watching it on the livestream, which is an incredible amount of growth," she says. "The competition is insane, too — this year there were 16,000 videos submitted."

The fact that people lined up outside and filled every seat in this year's venue means it'll only grow from here. The proof of its impact: 2017 winner Jessica Kalil bumped her Instagram following by 10,000 just days after taking home the trophy.
6 of 11
2012: Leading The Lipstick Category

You couldn't ask a social media star at a cocktail party what lip stains they swear by without hearing Nyx's name at least once. The brand has become synonymous with the lip color category, making its mark with its Soft Matte Lip Cream. It's so popular, in fact, that one tube sells every four seconds, the brand reports.

Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream, $6.50, available at Nyx Cosmetics.
7 of 11
2014: Going Global

Ko sold the company to beauty giant L'Oréal for $500 million (!), which made getting products in people's hands outside of the U.S. easier. "That really allowed us to internationalize the brand," Kristo says. "At the time, we knew that Nyx was quite well known around the world, but not well distributed. Even in countries where we weren't distributed, Nyx was one of the top searched brands online, because social media has no borders. Now, because we have our teams on the ground, around the world, we can bring the brand to fans faster."
8 of 11
2015: Setting Up Shop

As a way to bring its 2,000 product range to fans offline, Nyx opened its very first brick-and-mortar beauty store in Santa Anita, California — with a digital twist. "Social media is at the heart of the store," Kristo says. "You can come in and learn how to do your makeup through YouTube tutorials, you can search reviews through a product hashtag. You'll always see influencers there interpreting the looks. We have a lot of digital features, so it really reflects our brand."

Today, Nyx has more than 150 stores worldwide, with 35 here in the U.S. — and growing. (You can find a location near you by clicking here.)
9 of 11
2017: The Future

Diversity is more important than ever, especially in the beauty space, which is why Nyx is making it a point to ensure everyone is covered. "We launch hundreds of products every year, and are very careful that all of them come in a wide range of shades," Kristo says. Take its Total Control Drop Foundation, for example, which comes in a whopping 24 shades for every skin color, undertone, coverage preference — the works.

So what's ahead for the drugstore staple? "Even more personalization, colors, customization," Kristo says. "Next month we're launching a brand-new mobile app with a sophisticated loyalty program." More information to be announced on that front — but if there's anything the brand can sell, it's loyalty.

Nyx Total Control Drop Foundation, $14, available at Nyx Cosmetics.
10 of 11
Related Video
11 of 11
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!