Search for “ASMR ” on YouTube and you’ll find what seems like a niche community of enthusiasts, and personalities across genres are giving this trend a different spin.
In 2016, there were over 5 million ASMR videos on the platform, and it’s spreading as video creators began adopting ASMR’s signature breathy whisper. By 2018, the whispers got louder as publications such as the New Yorker, BuzzFeed, the New York Times and The Washington Post wrote about it.
Jennifer Allen coined the term ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, in 2010, and its various techniques are intended to stimulate relaxation, relieve stress and induce sleep.
On YouTube, beauty vlogger Symphani Soto taps her fingers on a glass bottle of primer before patting it into her skin during a makeup tutorial. ASMR Darling silently dusts pink blush on to her cheeks. Cardi B slides her cat claw-like nails against a microphone while purring her catchphrase, “Okurr."
All these sounds create a tingly (and sometimes sensual) sensation for viewers. And beauty YouTube’s renditions range from the traditional ASMR to pure comedy.
Sophia Chang’s 700,000-plus subscribers come to her channel for all things beauty and lifestyle, but her short ASMR series is a crash course on this trendy genre. Most of her videos are skin-care tutorials that employ classic ASMR tactics for a calming effect: She narrates in a breathy whisper, rubs the microphone with her fingers while her toner sets, taps the packaging of each product with her nails and sloshes the liquid in their bottles. Overall, Chang’s tutorials create a soothing and intimate experience.
Manny Gutierrez, also known as Manny MUA, is as known for his over-the-top-humor as he is for last year’s drama on beauty YouTube. His channel features beauty product reviews, makeup tutorials and YouTube challenges with his signature quirks. But his snappy commentary is even better when whispered over a mic. During this ASMR rendition, Gutierrez lets the expletives fly between bilingual wisecracks and self-deprecating jokes about his skin. Most of all, his twist on the genre highlights the oddly satisfying sound of a brush stroking someone’s cheekbone or a sticky lip smack.
Karen Yeung is a Los Angeles based vlogger with plenty of fashion hauls, makeup challenges, K-beauty reviews and pop culture inspired looks on her channel IAMKARENO. Yeung is known for her polished production and trendy style, but her ASMR video on Fenty Beauty’s galaxy product line stands out for its sound quality and commercial-worthy edits. Unlike the typical whisper-laden ASMR video, IAMKARENO’s includes no narration. She carefully samples each product as she completes a full makeup look, similar to a Get Ready With Me tutorial popular on YouTube. With one exception: The visuals are set to the sound of faint, celestial white noise punctuated by the sounds of Yeung applying makeup.
If you’re new to ASMR and don’t find the videos compelling, watching Aina whisper-read through negative comments from her social feeds might change your mind. Aina has been on the platform for 10 years and has made her mark with hilarious tutorials, blunt reviews, and creative makeup and wig combos. This time, we get a different spin on her usual style: “Mukbang,” a style of video popularized in South Korea that features a host eating a large quantity of food; the classic ASMR whisper; and snappy commentary. Instead of a tutorial on her stellar blue eye makeup, we watch Aina read comments and interject funny comebacks. In response to a user who tweeted, “Jackie Aina looks like horse,” she grabs the mic, pulls it closer to her mouth for dramatic effect and belts out a breathy “NAAYY!" Known for speaking bluntly about the beauty industry, Aina also addresses the often racist responses she gets for speaking out.
The channel of Texas native Chynaunique features videos of makeup hauls, eating textured foods, ASMR videos done in public places and role play. In this video, she pretends to visit a friend to help her apply fake eyelashes. She narrates each step of the application as if she were speaking to a friend, all while adding staples of the ASMR genre. For example, she gently taps her acrylic fingers on each product and clicks her tongue as she explains how to apply eyelashes. Chynaunique ASMR is for the budding enthusiast who might enjoy beauty-inspired role playing, but is still exploring which techniques, called “triggers,” they enjoy.
Thirteen-year old Makenna Kelly is an ASMRtist with over 1.4 million subscribers. Typical of YouTubers, Kelly blends genres such as food, beauty and ASMR for a competitive advantage. As she cheerily taps her manicured acrylic nails on a James Charles eye shadow palette, Kelly narrates a review in whisper and even eats an edible replica of the palette. The “Mak” stands for “meaning, acceptance and kindness” and her popularity is as controversial as it is endearing. Viewers leave comments and even pay to see Kelly employ these techniques, but it has also fueled discussions about YouTube’s child safety policy. Her channel is both a point of discussion about young creators and an introduction to popular ASMR techniques.