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Virtual beauty contests were once gimmicky but are now helpful

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When it came to beauty products, the phrase “try before you buy” used to necessitate a trip to a local store.

You would apply a small amount of highlighter from a tester pot or tube to your face before looking in the mirror, or you would rub some eye shadow on your eyelids.

However, with the pandemic closing High Street stores over the last year, an increasing number of beauty fans have been flocking to digital testing apps and websites to see if a particular blusher or lipstick color suits them.

Typically, you select the product to test, look into your selfie camera, and it appears digitally on your face on the camera screen.

Amy Kean, a 38-year-old resident of Margate, Kent, claims that from her consumer experience, augmented reality (AR) technology has significantly advanced in recent years.

The head of business consultancy Six Things Impossible claims, “It used to be very gimmicky… but now it is actually useful.”

Like many other users of augmented reality tools, Amy Kean enjoys turning the filters all the way up.

When purchasing makeup online in the past, it was frequently a leap of faith. For instance, it can be really challenging to find the right foundation shade, but recently I was able to virtually test how it looked on half of my face compared to without on the other side with one brand.

Ms. Kean, who has also been experimenting with hair dye filters on Instagram, claims she will keep using augmented reality to try on products from various brands before purchasing them.

She adds that it will take some time before physical beauty departments tempt her back due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Because you must now wash your hands before entering the store and you cannot test products, the in-store experience is not what it once was.

Even when stores are open and product testing is permitted, it can be challenging to choose which shade to go for when faced with countless numbers of different colored lipsticks and other cosmetics.

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With its recently released Lipscanner app, French giant Chanel is attempting to make the process of purchasing a lipstick simpler. It allows users to scan a celebrity’s photo from a magazine, and the app then chooses the Chanel lipstick that is most similar to the star’s shade.

The user of Chanel’s app can order a lipstick that matches the hue of their preferred handbag.

The app can also mimic the appearance of real-world apparel and accessories, such as replicating the color of a leather handbag.

Users can virtually try on the lipstick before buying it to be shipped to them using artificial intelligence (AI) software that makes it work.

According to Cedric Begon, director of Chanel’s Connected Experience Innovation Lab, the company used tens of thousands of images to train the app’s algorithm. The Lipscanner app also considers a user’s skin tone and lip shape when advising on the best lipstick for them.

While the ability to smell perfumes through a phone or computer may currently only exist in science fiction, the perfume industry is beginning to embrace interactive digital platforms.

Ninu Perfume is an upcoming spray canister that connects to an app so that users can create their own perfumes or aftershaves.

The tiny aluminum tube contains three different perfume cartridges, which the user can combine using an app to create, according to the manufacturer, more than one million unique scent combinations.

The rechargeable battery-powered device has an AI-powered app with a Siri-like virtual assistant named Pierre who makes perfume mix recommendations based on your personality and notifies you when your recyclable cartridges are low.

Most of the AR beauty apps ensure that they also work well for people of colour

The co-founder of Ninu Perfume, Marko Matijevic, claims that not all fragrances are appropriate for all occasions or times of the year. Through artificial intelligence, Nino is able to mix the best possible combination for the situation based on your preferences, the season, and the outside weather.

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In addition, the device is constantly learning, says Mr. Matijevic. For instance, he claims that the app will inquire about your fragrance following a date and encourage the user to respond to a survey about whether it was too strong or too sweet, for instance.

Therefore, as time goes on, the app will learn to provide the ideal blend.

While some beauty brands have built their own AR and AI systems, others have enlisted the help of specialized technology suppliers like the US company Perfect Corp. Brands like Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, Madison Reed, and Ardell use its systems.

According to Perfect Corp’s vice president Adam Gam, “We’ve definitely seen an increase in people requesting our services [due to the pandemic].”

“And some of the technology is superior to real life, like the ability to try on 30 different lipstick shades in 30 seconds. These technologies are unquestionably here to stay.

But when everything eventually returns to normal and we can all go back to our local beauty salons and departments, will such cutting-edge, virtual testing still be popular?

The smells, sounds, 360-degree pleasure, and general excitement of beauty shopping cannot be replaced by technology, according to Jane Cunningham, a pioneer in the beauty industry and proprietor of the website British Beauty Blogger.

But some of these AR gadgets today are truly amazing. When they first started, they were a complete joke, but now they are excellent, if not completely reliable.

“Some products respond well to virtual testing, such as lipstick and eye shadow. Most companies also pay close attention to having virtual colors that are appropriate for people from all ethnic backgrounds.

Regardless of your skin tone, however, foundations and blushers are much more challenging for the apps to use. The latter will make you look like Pikachu! Therefore, I believe that people will use both physical and virtual tools for beauty.

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The creator of the cosmetics line Kohl Kreatives, Trishna Daswaney, claims that people with dark skin may find using AR apps “challenging” because they rely so heavily on the environment’s lighting.

According to her, skin tones can have warm or cool undertones, and for those of us with darker skin, this can vary depending on the parts of our faces.

Lipsticks, for example, do not pick up the pigment in your lips, so they cannot accurately depict the color saturation as if it were on your skin.

The AR filters may “blur and smooth the skin creating further irrational expectations and beauty standards,” Ms. Daswaney further warns.

The lighting conditions are “very dependent,” according to Trishna Daswaney, on whether people with darker skin tones can successfully use the apps.

Samantha Dover, a global beauty analyst at Mintel, concurs with Ms. Cunningham that customers will likely continue to use online resources in the future in addition to visiting physical stores again.

The investment [in AR systems] is assisting consumers in their online decision-making, but technology has not yet replaced the experience of trying out new products in a real-world retail setting, according to the expert.

When a customer scans an item in their closet on their phone before entering a store, they want to find the right lipstick to match it, but they also want to understand the texture and finish of the lipstick. A drive-to-store engine, then.

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