The business of beauty turns into augmented reality

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Driving the news: Hair, skin and makeup companies used to focus on acquiring smaller brands with cult followings, but now they’re also chasing AI and AR firms that can help them develop personalized customer experiences.

Why it matters: With COVID keeping people away from cosmetics counters, the latest thing in “beauty tech” is the VTO — or virtual try-on. Customers love playing with these apps so much that companies see big revenue boosts after introducing them.


  • What they’re saying: “People don’t necessarily want to travel to a store to just try stuff before you buy it,” David Ripert, the CEO of Poplar Studio, told, a digital magazine.

  • L’Oreal led the charge by buying ModiFace, an AR specialist, in 2018 and using its patents “to create a number of virtual try-on tools that consumers can experiment with across a number of their brands,” Vogue Business reports. L’Oreal has its own technology incubator with a team of 30+ physicists, engineers, UX specialists, hardware designers and data scientists.The beauty conglomerate uses AI to let people craft customized lip colors, chat with a professional colorist on live video before buying an at-home hair dye, and try on makeup shades in a virtual mirror app called Makeup Genius.

Between the lines: With VTO, beauty companies are able to turn the sales experience into a form of entertainment, which lifts sales.

His company created an AR campaign for a Maybelline lip gloss and one for NYX Professional Makeup that used an AR face filter to let people try on Halloween looks on Instagram and Snapchat.

Yesterday’s high-pressure sales pitch at a department store counter has morphed into an at-home digital game where shoppers can feel like they’re at a slumber party trying on different “looks.” “We see at least 38% of those who go through our color quiz, and then explore our hair colors using our AR Virtual Try-On Tool, convert to purchasing,” said Tyler Wozny, senior vice president of the hair color company Madison Reed.Perfect Corp., the AI and AR vendor that built Madison Reed’s VTO platform, went to the big CES tech show last week in Las Vegas to show off how brands could use its technology in the metaverse.

The bottom line: While virtual try-on technology is rapidly becoming table stakes for beauty brands, nothing can substitute for sampling a product in the flesh, where it may look very different on your non-virtual skin.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Jan. 13.


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