Virtual Make Up: Good for the Industry, Bad for the Ego?

Companies are using face recognition technology to create makeup try on apps which, though they have their benefits, may also lead to problems with self-esteem and self-worth.

Makeup try on apps have become increasingly popular in today’s society as a way to streamline the cosmetics shopping experience. When used for utility, however, these apps may damage young women’s perception of beauty.

Going to a department store, making an appointment with an artist at your favorite makeup brand’s kiosk and having your makeup professionally done before deciding on which products to buy are part of a process that has been handed down from mothers to daughters for generations. Trying on makeup before you buy it is crucial to finding the right products for your personal style, but that tradition is quickly coming to an end as new facial recognition technology and virtual reality apps let you try on makeup with just a click of a button.

Photo: YouTube/Vicki Logan

Apps like L’Oreal’s MakeupGenius and Sephora’s Virtual Artist offer instant makeovers using real products, all without ever stepping foot in a store. When you open the app, you’re prompted to take or upload an existing selfie. From there, you can browse through a library of different makeup trends, products and expert-curated recommendations, trying them on as you see fit. Once you’ve applied your makeup, you’re able to see the look from different angles, purchase the makeup needed to recreate your look, or simply share your made-over face to social media. You can even scan products in the store and see them applied to your face in real time – no makeup artist or attendant needed.

Makeup brands and department stores aren’t the only companies capitalizing on this new technology. Brands like uCam Makeup and ModiFace also feature this try on technology, though they position it as a way for users to edit and improve their selfies and photos before posting to social media. These apps also include auto-beautification features, which instantly smooths the user’s skin, removes blemishes, erases imperfections and even slims out your face before applying a makeup look.

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It seems to be a direct antithesis to the once-trending hashtag #Iwokeuplikethis, and experts are now speculating if this sort of augmented reality could lead to problems with self-esteem and self-worth in teens and young adults. Once the makeup is applied in these apps, the user can compare their photo to the original by holding your finger to the photo. This creates a sort of sinister result, as you begin to crave the edited face in your phone rather than the one you see in the mirror. There’s something loathsome about the original shot when compared to its radiant, blemish-free counterpart, and poses another argument against the photo editing apps that are so popular today.


In spite of this, virtual try on technology is a game changer for both the online shopping industry and the way we choose products and brands. Makeup brands and department stores have considered apps like these part of the natural progression of technology, where we are slowly but surely moving away from in-person shopping experiences. For them, virtual makeup is a way to empower buyers to make product decision without the hassle of trying it on and the nervousness of buying a product you’ve never used before. Bridget Dolan, VP of Sephora’s Innovation Lab, says:

“Augmented reality can help a client buy a product by allowing her to try it on, boosting her confidence that she knows how to use it, or giving her an experience that informs her about how and why it was created.”

Whatever the reasoning, makeup try on apps are here to stay, and we’re living in an era where luxuries, beauty and glamour are available at the touch of a button. The traditions are changing, new ways to experience beauty are emerging and the culture of makeup, beauty and self-love will continue to evolve and transform.

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