Virtual Makeup Try-On Apps May Replace Testers in Stores — Report

Is it just me, or did anyone else spend hours on those virtual hair try-on websites as a pre-teen in the late 2000s? I remember days wasted after putting my hair up in a slicked-back pony, nestling next to my bedroom window to catch the best natural light, and snapping selfies straight on with my mouth smiling but closed, because braces. After I spent an hour taking 50 photos with my Nikon Coolpix, I’d pick my favorite one and upload it onto the website. My medium brunette, virgin hair could be transformed into a cute redheaded lob, luscious blonde curls, or, if I was feeling really daring, a hot pink pixie cut. Of course, I’d have to spend a couple of minutes stretching out the hairstyles to fit my giant head, but having the ability to experiment with pink hair without being grounded was liberating.

Pre-teen Daley could never have imagined how incredibly advanced, powerful and influential this technology would become 15 years later. We no longer need to try on another celebrity’s hair color in order to see how it would look on us — thanks to augmented reality (AR), we’re able to see how any color of the rainbow looks on the hair we already have. But the progress of virtual try-on experiences didn’t stop with just hair. There are now multiple AR and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered apps that allow users to test out makeup products, skin-care products, and even nail polish with an easy click of a button, right in the palm of your hand.

How Makeup Try-On Apps Have Evolved

The AR and AI beauty experience has come such a long way, in fact, that beauty brands are teaming up with these apps to offer a virtual experience of swatching, rather than needing to head to a store to try them on and purchase. Instead of visiting a makeup brand’s website, scrolling through images of models wearing different foundation shades, and then having to guess which shade matches your skin tone the best, we can now, thanks to AR, virtually try on different shades in an app and purchase a product directly from the app’s store. “YouCam Makeup invites a level of discovery and experimentation that is not possible through physical try-on — for example trying on 30 lipsticks in 30 seconds,” says Alice Chang, CEO of Perfect Corp., the parent company to the YouCam Makeup app. “The speed, accuracy, and ease at which you can discover and play with beauty within the app not only helps users make more confident purchase decisions, but also encourages users to experiment and have fun, trying new styles and expressing themselves in a safe, empowering, beauty-loving digital world.” The company offers so much exploration, in fact, that there are 180,000 SKUs and over 250 beauty brands worldwide to try on across all of YouCam’s apps, partner websites, and partner apps.

Virtual try-on apps have opened doors for big beauty brands found only in drugstores, too, where swatching samples are either limited or nonexistent. L’Oréal Paris Makeup Genius app, powered by Modiface, allows folks looking for more affordable drugstore makeup to try on their products in the comfort of their own home. “Since physical testers are typically not available at our points of sale (and where they are available, most people may not want to use them), [our app] enables a user to ensure they have the perfect shade before making a purchase,” says Vivianna Blanch, vice president of integrated consumer communications at L’Oréal Paris.

While yes, many of these apps have virtual try-on technology that can rival physical try-ons, including differentiating between differing textures like matte, glossy, high-shine, and sheer, there are still some beauty categories that cannot be tested through a phone, including fragrances. “The only sense we believe virtual try-on is not able to fully recreate is smell,” explains Chang.

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