It seems like only yesterday we were able to freely peruse makeup counters, hunting for a particular product or just having fun examining different brands.
Trying on makeup before you buy is imperative; firstly to see how it looks on your skin, but also to get a ‘feel’ for it. You could happen upon the perfect foundation match online, for example, before realising the consistency is too thick.
Makeup is expensive – unless you’re shopping with some of the best cheap makeup brands that we highly recommend! – and nobody wants to spend £35 on a bottle of foundation they hate after one application.
Unfortunately we can’t solve the problem of being able to feel the product – unless you’re able to get a sample from the brand’s website – but we can at least help you find your perfect lipstick shade or discover a foundation shade that works for you, through the use of good old technology.
That way you can tick one of the boxes before treating yourself.
Many brands now have virtual makeup counters, allowing you to see which products suit you and your skin tone before making a purchase and we’ve put the best ones to the test.
For each of the sites, we tried to virtually experiment with products we either own, or have used, in real life. That way, we could tell just how accurate (or not) the different make up tools are.
If you’re going to try on various makeup products, where best to go than Chanel’s makeup range.
The luxury French makeup brand’s virtual try on tool lets you experiment with a variety of lipsticks, eyeshadows and eyeliner.
The good thing about the online tool is that you can build your makeup; so starting off with your lips, you can match your eyeshadow to the shade you’ve used to see what actually looks good together and finish it off with a slick of black eyeliner to pull the look together.
The lipsticks went on well enough; we don’t think it will ever be a perfect application virtually, but shades we would tend to go for looked good on and it was a firm ‘no’ to colours that would have looked the same out of place at a store counter.
The eyeshadow palettes went on well too; perfectly blending to show us what the colourway could look like if applied properly. It was also good to see how the colours would look against our skin with a lip paint in place too.
Virtual try on tools are not limited to high-end brands – far from it. The high-street makeup moguls also make it possible for you to try on makeup products and see full beauty looks with just the use of an uploaded selfie or webcam.
When using the Maybelline Virtual Try On, we went for a full look; brows, foundation, eyeliner – the works.
The brows went on really well, as did the eyeshadow, surprisingly. The eyeliner was a little more dramatic looking than in real-life (we tried the Master Precise liquid pen, which we’ve used before IRL) and the lipsticks had an OTT nature about them.
READ NEXT: How to do eyebrows
That being said, we’d find the shade shown on a product listing enough to decide whether or not to purchase a lipstick.
In the picture above, we tested the Maybelline Master Chrome highlight (it’s a favourite of ours) and we don’t think the virtual try on did it justice. The same goes for the mascaras.
The Maybelline Falsies collection is one of our favourite cheap mascaras and it was hard to tell just how good it was from virtually trying it on.
The foundations and concealers were a fair colour match, being very obvious when something was not right but, as with every other online tool in this list, it’s not possible to fully blend any of the products to see the most accurate look.
We were quite disappointed with the Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) Virtual Try On tool; firstly you are only able to try on a small selection of the brand’s huge range of products. Furthermore, you have to try them on individually.
A bare face with bright red lipstick has never been a great look so we found we’d have to put on a full face of makeup in real life, but leave off the one product we wanted to test in order to get a true reflection.
READ NEXT: The best lipsticks for all skin tones
What’s worse is that we’ve used YSL lip stains and paints before and this virtual makeup tool is not the best advertising for the products.
Trying another product we’ve used in real life, so as to be able to compare as much as possible, we opted to try on the famous Touche Éclat concealer.
Yet this was barely visible on our skin in any of the shades so not a strong win from YSL…
MAC’s virtual makeup tool makes it easy to sample some of the brand’s bestselling makeup products online, but it’s limited to a small selection of its lipsticks, eyeshadows and mascaras.
The lipstick coverage area didn’t fully fit so this might cause a bit of a problem for some customers but the shades were fairly accurate in application.
We tried the nation’s favourite nude lipstick; Velvet Teddy and, apart from missing a lip liner accomplice, it looked pretty similar to the real-life version.
READ NEXT: Best mascara
We also tried a red lipstick shade (as this would prove to be more difficult to apply in real life, as well) but it showed up smooth and natural-looking. Far better than YSL’s attempt!
In terms of the mascaras, we tried the False Lashes Extreme Black mascara and although it was hard to see the depth at times (it is only a webcam after all), this mascara went on far more naturally and effectively than Maybelline’s.
Again, with mascara, it’s all about building and layering without creating clumps so it is a harder product to virtually try on. This tool will givesyou a good idea, at the very least.
Regarding the eyeshadow palettes, we tried the DazzleShadow Extreme – a glittery eyeshadow with a metallic finish.
A fairly seamless virtual application but, again, we preferred Maybelline’s ability to try on more than one product at the same time. We’re caught looking a little bit like the White Witch from Narnia here, without eyeliner or mascara for balance.
FURTHER READING: What is mascara made of?
NYX Professional Makeup’s virtual try-on works very similarly to Maybelline’s – you can even split your face in half to see a before and after shot.
We’re not sure we think the lipstick application is that accurate; again we’ve used the liquid lipsticks before so we have previous reference.
The eyeshadow, mascara and eyeliner all seem fair via their virtual try on, being able to see the products clearly with smooth application.
The options for face were slim; only offering blush, highlighter and setting spray.
The first was hard to see on the virtual applicator and we’re not really sure how seeing a setting spray virtually would work but the highlighter delivered a strobe light effect on the cheekbones, allowing us to compare our makeup look with and without this product.
FURTHER READING: Why we love NYX Professional Makeup so much
Charlotte Tilbury’s virtual makeup tool is a little restricting because it’s only available for mobile devices.
Again, not everything is available, and if something is out of stock, you can’t try it on either – although this is, in some way, a positive.
A difference could be seen when we tried on the lipsticks but it was a very subtle change when applying makeup such as the bronzers or highlight.
READ NEXT: Best highlighters
We aren’t sure we would purchase the Beauty Light Wand (we tried Goldgasm) as there wasn’t much to see, however the lipsticks did show up nicely and we’re a huge fan of K.I.S.S.I.N.G Stoned Rose…adding that one to the basket.
Once more, there were no foundations or concealers to try on, making it hard to create a ‘full look’ of makeup as you might do in store but at the prices Charlotte Tilbury sells for, this can at least let you get an idea of whether they’re worth the money or not.
Amira Arasteh is a freelance journalist and content creator. Find her making sense of beauty trends, tips and topics – when she’s not stuffing her face with the best food in London or travelling the globe