Future face: augmented reality is changing the way we look

AI, e-makeup, augmented reality — discover the rise and rise of algorithmic beauty 

close up shot of a robot next to an image of a girl
Left, the Honda P1 prototype, which, when he was unveiled in 1996 was the first humaniod robot capable of independent walking. Opposite, Jumpsuit, £5,535, by Chanel. Images originally featured in the September 2017 issue Wallpaper* (W*160)
(Image credit: press)

Today, augmented reality, which means taking digital elements and overlaying them over the physical self, is rapidly redefining the beauty-scape — with creatives, brands and retailers now blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality more than ever before.

‘I wanted to create my own vision of beauty from the future,' explains 3D-makeup artist Ines Alpha, whose clients include Dior and Selfridges. ‘It’s pretty new that we’re using 3D and digital elements as makeup. I consider makeup to be something that transforms your face, be it an Instagram filter or what I do. It’s how makeup has been used since the Egyptians: enabling humans to transform into a character.'

The rise of the ‘digital double' could also help form hybrid, and less prescriptive beauty standards. Parisian-based makeup artist Cécile Paravina, who recently worked on a project in collaboration with Frederik Heyman – involving 3D scanning and adding elements of styling, hair and makeup post-production in order to push the aesthetic – is excited about the new ways of consuming beauty, where the IRL and URL self coexist. Paravina says AR could be a powerful tool for brands to ‘offer guidance and knowledge to those who want to experiment with their visual identity; be it a physical or a virtual one.' 

‘At some point in the near future everyone will want to try on makeup using augmented reality before buying it,' agrees Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of digital studio Holition. ‘For instance, we created an AR magic mirror for Charlotte Tilbury, where you can see yourself wearing any of her looks in store and dial them up or down, depending on the intensity. A lot of this is about trying to understand everyone at an individual level – because we’re all different.'

Even the biggest names in beauty have taken note of the trend and are already making their first forays into tech. L’Oreal’s Perso, launching globally in 2021, is an AI device that analyses your skincare needs to create personalized products on the spot. Elsewhere, Sephora’s ‘Virtual Artist’ mirror simulates makeup on a person's face. ‘I think it's effective for colour makeup like lipsticks but trickier for categories like mascara,' says retail editor Kati Chitrakorn, who trialed Sephora’s new ‘try-on’ technology in Los Angeles last summer. ‘These new forms of data give brands the opportunity to understand their customer in a deeper way. The biggest challenge for brands, however, is making sure there's real value in the experience.' 

So, what does the changing face of beauty look like in, say 30 years time? ‘It is possible new and old ideals of beauty will ultimately blend and influence one another,' Cécile predicts. ‘Masahiro Mori’s Uncanny Valley could be the next aesthetic canon.'