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The best of virtual beauty, from digital try-ons to the apps you need to download

Virtual beauty was becoming big business before the pandemic, but then Covid came and gave it a ginormo nudge forward as brands tried to reach us in our homes. Now we're back to (almost) normal, those innovations remain a seriously convenient addition to our lives. We're all for face to face consultations and in-store swatching, but for at-home browsing and shopping, or for brushing up on beauty tips, recommendations and skincare intel, we're still 100% here for the ease and accessibility that virtual beauty offers.

Just as well that beauty's major players have shown huge resilience, generating intelligent innovations and introducing new ways to offer services remotely. Numerous brands have been getting in on some virtual action, changing the way we consume beauty forever. We've seen an emergence of more try-on tools to help us find and swatch shades from the comfort of our sofa. AR has enabled us to superimpose hair colours, foundation shades and lipsticks onto our own faces live or using a picture, so we can try before we buy. Genius.

Comprehensive apps have launched that offer us full-spectrum skincare advice, or insider makeup tips in the palm of your hand.

And more of us are connecting with experts on virtual chat boxes at times that are convenient to us, to talk through recommendations. Others have tapped into virtual communities that encourage experimentation and conversation on the fly, such as The Inkey List's #AskInkey where you can submit questions to the experts under the brands Instagram posts.

Scroll down for some of the best beauty experiences you can tap into from your phone…

Beauty apps

Skin Rocks by Caroline Hirons

Aesthetician, Caroline Hirons, has become a dependable source of advice among skin enthusiasts and now she's pouring all of her knowledge into a first-of-its kind skin app with Skin Rocks. The free app was a natural extension for Caroline, who is inundated with skincare questions on a daily basis. Now her followers can feel as though she's coming along with them on their skincare journey as the app guides you through advice on the best options for your skin type and concerns.

It's a guide, community and skincare edit with articles on myth busing, spotlights on trends and brand offers and advice on the ingredients to know. Product recommendations are broken down into simple categories and based on the info you input about your skin and preferences so that they're bespoke to you. Speaking exclusively to GLAMOUR, Caroline explained: “there isn’t an app like it out there, that’s why I made it. Considering myself and my team are completely immersed in the world of skincare and we don’t use an app, it proved to us that there was a gap as soon as I had the idea.” As for what she's most proud of, Caroline says, “it was a given to me that we would show skin conditions across all skin tones and it’s embarrassing that in 2022 that this is not the standard that the industry holds itself to.”

Anastasia Beverly Hills' Brow App

Combining virtual try-ons with online masterclasses, Anastasia Beverly Hills' Brow App is designed to upgrade our brow game. The free app first asks a series of questions about your brows (how comfortable you are doing them, what shade they are currently, how sparse or full they are, and what your preferred brow look is), before enabling you to virtually try on the brand's brow shades. Based on the data you input, it will also recommend a brow shape (mine was "petite arch") and it will superimpose different brow shapes onto your own so you can give medium arches, bushy brows and ombre brows – among others – a spin.

The Golden Ration Method walks you through how to shape your brows to best enhance your bone structure and where to start, arch and end your brow for the most flattering finish.

Once you've worked out the best shade match and shape, you can browse the ABH Look Library for tips on how to create natural and polished brows, bold and ombre brows, soft and structured brows, feathery and refined brows or fuller-looking dimensional brows. You can click on each to watch a masterclass on a model, before heading to the Brow Mirror for a step-by-step on how to apply it yourself. Each step comes complete with a video diary from Anastasia herself sharing her tips for using each product correctly to get the most out of your brows. And you can shop the products then and there.

Virtual beauty product try-ons

Chanel LipScanner App

Chanel's newly launched lip scanner not only enables you to virtually try on the brand's lipstick shades, it allows you to to find a colour-match to objects or pictures you already love. When you go on the app, you're given the option to scan a colour, or upload a picture from your library. I was able to capture a picture of the red roses I received for Valentine's Day, then tap the screen to pick up the exact shade of red on the petal, before the app analysed its shade range to present me with a match (Rouge Allure Velvet Extrême in 116 Extrême, if case you were wondering). Next, I could superimpose the colour onto my lips to see how it would look. It allowed me to turn a thoughtful gift into a memento I can keep, wear and feel extra special in. Likewise, if you spot a pic in a magazine that's right up your street, you can scan it, try it and buy it in a few taps.

Revlon Virtual Try-On Filter

Revlon were aware their customers have been unable to swatch products as easily recently, since beauty testers have been removed from stores since last March, so they created their new filter to enable you to try before you buy.

Provided you have Instagram, Revlon's try on tool couldn't be easier to access. Head to @revlon_UK, look for the face icon in the toolbar underneath their highlights, then click on "Eyes" or "Lips" to try the filters on your face. They allow you to try dozens of lip and eye shades to see how they'll work on you.

I gave it a whirl and discovered a new fave eyeshadow shade (881 Sienna in the brand's ColorStay Velour Shadow Stick) and summer lip colour (Cherries on a Cloud in the Kiss Cloud Blotted Lip format).

The role of makeup has changed for many over lockdown. Now that we're working from home more, rather than using it to make us look more presentable, many of us are turning to makeup for experimentation and escapism. It's why online scrapbook, Pinterest, has seen a surge in users looking to explore makeup trends and try new shades and products. Alongside scrolling through inspiration, the phone app (it doesn't work on laptops yet), offers users the ability to virtually "try on" similar lipstick shades to those shown in the pictures. If you land on an image of the perfect Christmas red and want to know whether it would suit you, you can tap the camera icon to superimpose it on your lips, and swipe through a list of suggestions from the likes of Charlotte Tilbury, Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, MAC and Clinique.

MAC Virtual Try On Tool

With one of the most extensive makeup collections of any makeup brand, MAC has pulled out the stops to make its products more accessible and shoppable than ever. It’s Virtual Try On Tool enables you to try on over 200 options from lipstick, to eyeshadow, to mascara. You have the options to wear it live, upload a picture or swatch it on one of their models.

L’Oreal Paris Virtual Try On

Ever wondered what you’d look like as a redhead, bleached blonde or with a lilac rinse? L’Oreal virtual tool does the hard work for you to save you from any dye fails. I’ve discovered I’d have to load up on the bronzer if I wanted to switch to frosted pink, but burgundy is a real contender.

BareMinerals Mineralist Hydra Smoothing Lipstick

Fronted by Hailey Bieber, this is the first vegan lipstick from the brand, created using 40% less ingredients than a traditional lippie, to keep it simple and sustainable. There’s 25 shades to choose from (including minimalist nudes and maximalist bolds) but, if you’re unsure of which to pick, you can head straight to the website, click on the shade you’re considering and opt to “Try On” by clicking underneath the picture. From there you can see it on yourself live through your laptop or phone camera.

Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Lipstick Try-On

Though it existed prior to lockdown, Estee Lauder’s lipstick try-on tool has seen a 133% increase in usage during lockdown as users utilise it to discover their perfect shade. Without making your way through a stack of cotton pads, you can work out which shades to swerve (pale shades don’t work on me) uncover your perfect red (mine’s Power Trip) and discover a new hue you’d never considered (hello, Insolent Plum).

E.L.F Cosmetics Virtual Try On

Not sure what foundation shade to choose, to contour, blusher, eyeshadow or even brow gel. This virtual assistant's got you sorted.

Virtual skin consultations

Guerlain Digital Appointments

Guerlain is offering its customers tailored 1-2-1 beauty masterclasses with its expert consultants on everything from skincare routines, to makeup application and fragrance matching. You can opt for a 30 minute video chat, or a 15 minute phone call at a time that suits you.

FaceGym PT sessions

A full 35 minute workout for your face, FaceGym is the beauty insiders secret to lifting and sculpting complexions with nothing but your bare hands. You can catch up with a personal trainer who'll complete a skin consultation with you, before warming up your 40 face muscles and teaching you 'face cardio' (signature muscle massage techniques to lift, tone and contour as well as bespoke movements tailored to your personal face training goals). This helps to stimulate circulation and improve lymphatic drainage. It'll cost you £45 for a 1-on-1, or you can join the 15 minute IG Live masterclasses for free.

Caudalie Virtual Skin Consultations

Caudalie are offering complimentary 20-minute video chat consultation with their dedicated team of beauty experts which you can book through Facebook. They'll teach you which of the brand's products best suit your skin, how to combine products for a personalised skincare routine and top tips on which order to apply products for best results.

Deciem At Home

Deciem – the parent brand of cult skincare brand The Ordinary – has found a genius way to keep its store staff employed and its customers looked after. The new At Home initiative enables you to chat with store staff (who are able to stay in the comfort of their home), from the comfort of yours via video, text or phone chat, or the website chat box. They can guide you through the extensive (and somewhat confusing) list of products to find the one that’s best for you. So if you’ve always wondered what the difference is between granactive retinoid and retinol, now’s the time to ask.

Clinique Virtual Skin School and Makeup Masterclass

Clinique has set itself up on Eventbrite, where you can head to enrol yourself in skincare or makeup school thanks to one-to-one virtual consultations with the brand’s top experts.

111Skin Your Virtual Aesthetician

The brand’s founder, Dr Yannis and his team of aestheticians are on hand to deliver a bespoke skincare consultation at a time that suits you. Through the website you can access the calendar and book a free one-on-one 20 minute web conference with a leading expert to discuss skin concerns, how to develop a routine, and personalised product recommendations. And, if you’re gearing up for any post-lockdown cosmetic and non-surgical treatments at his Harley Street clinic, you have the opportunity to address any concerns from Dr Yannis himself ahead of time.

ByTerry Virtual Beauty Consultations

ByTerry is offering 20 minute virtual appointments with it's world class beauty experts, where you can receive advice on colour matching, get educated on the skincare infused benefits of the brand's products, and learn tips specific to you (like how to cover under eye circles, or how to boost glow). Appointments are available to book now in either French or English.

Foreo Skin Consultation

If you're bamboozled by which tool is best and which mask to try or have general skin queries around pigmentation, ageing acne or under-eye circles, you can book in for a consultation with the brand's specialist.

Westman Atelier's Clean Beauty Concierge

Looking to update your makeup bag with more natural formulas, Westman Atelier, the makeup brand from top MUA, Gucci Westman, is offering 10 minute slots with its makeup artists to talk through tips, tricks prep, application and shade matching as well as "clean" switches to slot into your makeup routine from Westman's brand and beyond.

Trinny London Virtual Appointments

Trinny's team of pro makeup artists are available to take you through a 30 minute 1-2-1 virtual appointment for £25. They'll walk you through the brand's Match2Me tool to help you find your perfect foundation shade and share all of their top application tips.

Philip Kingsley

In-clinic consultations with Philip Kingsley's trichologists will normally cost you £220. Now their hair experts are on hand to offer advice virtually over the phone or via video in a 30-45 minute consultation on everything from scalp health to hair loss for £150. You'll need to fill in a comprehensive consultation form and send over pictures of your hair and scalp 48 hours prior to your appointment.

Independent pros

Independent pros running their own clinics, like dermatologist, Dr Barbara Kubicka, and aesthetician, Dija Ayodele are also offering one-to-one Skype and Zoom consultations, workshops and masterclasses. Dr Kubicka's £50 sessions are redeemable against ClinicBe products from her website or future in-clinic treatments, whilst Dija's webinars start from £35 and cover queries such as how to build a capsule skincare collection, which tools to use at home and how to tackle hyperpigmentation.

At-home fragrance swatching

Floral Street ScentSchool

The clever people behind London-based fragrance brand Floral Street came up with a fun new way to find your next favourite scent from home. Order their ScentSchool box, £24, and you'll get a discovery set with mini version of eight of their most-loved fragrances, a set of 'touch-and-smell' cards that correspond to the hero ingredients from each scent, a pack of fragrance blotters, and a code to join a ScentSchool event run by the brand's scent experts. These virtual demos guide you through your testers one by one, and you'll learn loads about how the ingredients are sourced, how unexpected scents work together and some secrets of the brand's expert 'noses'. With perfumes from Wonderland Peony and Electric Rhubarb to Arizona Bloom, you're bound to find your new fave, and there's an option to add a gift voucher of 10ml, 50ml or 100ml fragrance to your order so you can buy it once you've chosen.

Chat Box

Bobbi Brown Always On Artistry

Bobbi Brown’s army of pro makeup artists are normally kept busy making over models on shoots, educating counter staff, dishing out expert quotes to journalists and leading masterclasses for customers, now they’re dispensing their wisdom virtually by hanging out on the brand’s live chat. You can type out any question you fancy, you can upload a picture to benefit from their personalised recommendations, or if you’ve not got time to chat, you can email them and receive a response within 48 hours.


The Inkey List has long tried to make itself as available and helpful to its customer as possible. #AskINKEY began before lockdown on Instagram as a way for customers to get a quick response to queries. Now, it’s been extended to a live chat function on the website, or you can get in touch via Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or over email. I asked for the best serum for dry skin on the website chat box and in less than two minutes I had an in-depth response with product recommendations, alongside an explanation of how they work.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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