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.
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.
Caroline’s passion for customer service comes from years working in retail and engaging with women. She still describes herself as a ‘shop girl’.
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.
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.
The first step towards creating her empire came in April 2010 with the launch of her blog. 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.’
Visitors to her blog will know it’s a mixture of fun and informative, with reviews, how-to guides, special offers and videos.
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.