Beauty brands are using everything from artificial intelligence (AI) to augmented reality (AR) to keep their customers engaged in a fiercely competitive market. But do such innovations actually work or are they simply marketing hype?
1. Personalisation and AI
According to Mr Balooch: “50% of women complain that they can’t find the right shade of foundation for their face, and women with darker skin tones have been crying out for more choice.”
But putting thousands of shades on shop shelves would be “impractical”, he says.
Instead, L’Oreal subsidiary Lancome has come up with a custom-made foundation machine called Le Teint Particulier, which promises to find the “exact match” for your skin using AI.
Available at Selfridges and Harrods in the UK, Lancome’s consultants first work out your facial skin tone using a handheld colorimeter – a type of digital scanner.
The results are then run through a computer, which uses a proprietary algorithm to choose from 20,000 different shades.
Finally, the computer’s findings are sent to a machine that mixes the foundation for you, there and then in the shop.
2. Virtual ‘try on’ apps
As we do more of our shopping online beauty brands are increasingly using augmented reality (AR) to enhance the experience.
Improvements in image recognition and face tracking tech is making these digital overlays more accurate.
Take Sephora’s Virtual Artist, which lets customers virtually try on thousands of shades of lipstick and eyeshadow through their smart phones or at kiosks in stores.
The app works by measuring where your lips and eyes are in real time, then tracking those facial feature points so it knows where to put the cosmetics.
It can also walk you through make-up tutorials digitally, and colour match shades to your skin.
Sephora says more than 200 million shades have been tried on through Virtual Artist since it was launched in 2016, and a host of other brands, from Garnier to Germany’s DM, have launched “try on” apps, too.
But some reviewers warn the apps are no substitute for trying on products for real before you by them.
Maghan McDowell, innovation editor at Vogue Business, agrees they are not “100% accurate” but says customers still find them useful.
People mainly use them to experiment with new looks and styles, but they are buying products through these apps, too.
3. Printed make up
Will we ever see robots put on our make-up for us? A number of gadgets released in the last few years suggest we might.
Take the Opté wand from Proctor and Gamble (P&G), a make-up printer unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The wand scans the skin and precisely applies tiny amounts of make-up to hide age spots, burst blood vessels and other blemishes.
Its tiny built-in camera takes 200 frames per second, while a microprocessor analyses this data to differentiate between light and dark areas. A micro printer then applies the foundation to your skin.
P&G, which hopes to launch the product by 2020, says the printer’s precision means it needs relatively little serum, so people’s make-up bills should drop.
Imagining where the trend could go, design agency Seymour Powell has unveiled a printer concept that would allow make-up looks seen online to be downloaded and printed directly on to the face.
Combining 3D-printing, facial recognition technology and AI-powered image analysis, the Élever would allow brands and influencers to sell make-up looks direct to consumers.