Do you remember a few years ago, when the whole “virtual makeover” thing hit the streets harder than a hungover Real Housewife of Atlanta after an all-night party? You uploaded your picture and then told the website to apply various shades of makeup, haircolor, hairstyles, etc., and almost without exception the results looked like you had put on a cheap, ill-fitting wig, smeared dirt on your eyelids, rubbed a child’s watercolor palette somewhere in the general vicinity of your face, and then slept on the whole business? My favorite incarnation of this is the “HairMixer” application on Facebook, where I discovered that a) I can’t pull off Paris Hilton’s hair (much as I might want to), and b) I look disturbingly good with Anderson Cooper’s hair. I’m not really sure what that says about my foxaliciousness, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing good.
Overall, I’d have to give these sites a pretty firm thumbs-down. They’re fun to play with, certainly, but their accuracy leaves much to be desired.
Just when you hoped thought this trend was going the way of the dodo (which I believe involves a left turn at Albuquerque), Estée Lauder has decided to dip its pedicured toe in the water with the Let’s Play Makeover tool, and I’m surprised and pleased to say that this is the best virtual makeover tool I’ve used (although I wish the name didn’t make me feel so much like a six-year-old).
The basic idea is the same as all of the similar sites: upload a photo, and then do things to it. However, the folks at Estée Lauder have taken remarkable care to allow you to actually map the products onto your face correctly, so that your lipstick doesn’t end up on your chin and you are still recognizable under what you’re wearing. It’s very sophisticated; I’m impressed. For best results, you should use a photo of yourself in which you are facing the camera straight-on, with good lighting and no makeup. They recommend that the photo be reasonably high-resolution; although they say not to, I used a picture taken with my webcam and it was just fine.
In order to get greater precision, they do ask you to map more points on your face than other sites do, but since this helps yield better results, it’s a worthy investment of an extra two minutes. The best part, though, is the number of options you get. You choose your skin tone in terms of both light-to-dark and warm-to-cool, specify the amount of coverage you want from a foundation, can tell the computer how you like your eyeshadow applied (lid only, lid and crease, or lid, crease, and brow bone), and can control how much of each product is applied to your face. It’s exceptionally elegant. Of course the selections you make also offer to let you buy the products in question with one click of a button, but you can’t blame them for trying to sell product!
You can save the looks you make, clear your look and start over, or apply one of their “one-click” looks, which are pre-loaded assortments of products that reflect current trends. Of the two currently on the website, one of them was horrendous on me, but the other was surprisingly good.
Now whenever you play with something like this, you have to keep in mind two things: a) if you go to the store and buy the product that looked great on you in the mockup, there’s no guarantee that it will look exactly the same, since you are both dealing with a photo taken of you in particular lighting, etc., and looking at the colors through your computer display’s gamma settings; and b) finding the right products does not relieve you of the obligation of applying them with some modicum of skill if you want to approach the mockup. But there is one thing in particular for which I think this tool is exceptionally useful: testing out possible colors in The Quest for the Perfect Red Lipstick. Although I wouldn’t rely on this for exact shades, you can see whether in general you look better in reds that tilt orange or those that tilt blue.