Makeup and the Machine: How Glam Squads Are Using AR Technology in the Time of Virtual Photo Shoots

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Alice Chang, CEO and founder of Perfect Corp., saw what she refers to as “a serious spike” in consumer usage of the YouCam Makeup app early on during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Beauty consumers were pretty much forced to rely on their digital screens during this time spent at home, and we saw record-high activity,” she says. “This includes a 32-percent spike in daily virtual try-ons for complete looks and featured products in the app, and 57-percent more calls through the on-demand Beauty Advisor 1-on-1 service, which offers interactive video beauty consultations virtually through your phone.”

Additionally, the app’s data reveals a whooping 70-percent increase in average time spent watching in-app livestream shows, including a 26-percent increase in unique viewers per show (which, subsequently, jumped to almost 50 percent when the live show hours were extended during the month of April).

While the “start of all this” and the corresponding spring months may seem like a distant memory, celebrity makeup artist Jillian Dempsey says, not surprisingly, now, more than ever, people want to find safe ways to see shades and tones on themselves virtually—versus going to a physical store—and she sees no sign of that slowing down this September.

To that end, Dempsey recently teamed up with YouCam to create FYFE Beauty app and the Shade Arcade customized designs for lips, cheeks and eyes, which she says allows users to have fun with “fast” try-ons.

“I design the opacity and patterns for the app users to try on and I work just as hard to make the color look correct—just as I would if I were there as your personal makeup artist,” she says. “It allows me the creative outlet as a designer for my clients so I can deliver the best results as if they had the makeup on. I used it as a tool to try on looks for my clients before a big event, even pre-COVID.”

“It is incredible choosing lip shades for brides, too. You know what you can eliminate right away for that big day. It is absolutely genius!”

Similarly, celebrity makeup artist Sean Harris also says he’s been using virtual AR apps to investigate how certain lip colors will look on his clients. 

“However, there is still nothing I trust more than my own eyes with my client in person.”

When it comes to technology’s place at photo shoots, celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman is in the same school of thought.

“As far as shoots go, I already see Photoshop doing a lot of makeup work, but because video is getting more and more important in social media marketing, I don’t see AI taking over in this area in the immediate future. I think that camera technology is advancing far more quickly than makeup programs and, because of that it will be a while before makeup application is completely eliminated from shoots.”

One arena Dorman says she definitely sees as being very app-driven is in the beauty-tester space.

“I think we’ll see things like virtual mirrors becoming more commonplace. It can’t replace experiencing the texture and wear of a product, but it can make deciding on colors easier.”

At the end of the day, Chang says, the benefits associated with virtual makeup application not only curbs the very of-the-moment heightened concerns surrounding health and hygiene, but invites a level of experimentation and discovery that physical try-ons do not. 

“How else can a beauty shopper try-on 30 lipsticks in 30 seconds, or browse through false lash styles or a rainbow of colors in seconds. Hyper-realistic virtual try-ons deliver on a convenient, effective, and fun way for shoppers to try before they buy, helping them make more confident purchase decisions—a win-win for both the satisfied consumer, and the brands and retailers who have experienced fewer returns and increased customer satisfaction.”

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