Recap: Last 5+ years of Digital Beauty Technology (BeautyTech)

It always fun to try to predict the future but this time we shall look into the history of different digital beauty experiences or BeautyTech as we call it today.

The industry, vendors and companies using BeautyTech have changed within last 5+ years significantly and the industry could be probably put on the top of the Gartner’s hype cycle if evaluated separately. During 2019 has happened a lot as YouTube has been launching AR, L’Oreal has built experiences in WeChat and Tmall and even Amazon has participated in the AR makeup virtual try-on by adding capabilities on their site. Makeup Virtual Try-on is becoming commodity and more personalized solutions than ever are available today to the consumer.

But what brought us here and who were the first players offering and implementing the technology?

Early PC solutions of Beauty AR
Old PC software of Beauty AR

If taking a look into even further history, the early days of BeautyTech were heavily focused around augmented reality -experiences. The first solutions started immersing early 2000 when we saw some early PC solutions around 2D AR hair colouring and first web-based makeup virtual try-on solution by Makeover Networks (RIP). Not really a breakthrough technology at this time yet, especially if looking at Amazon reviews of this PC solution.

old modiface makeup virtual try-on
Old Modiface

In early 2010 a radical shift started happening when experiences started moving away from uploading a photo (with need to adjust your landmarks and not offering the greatest user experience) to modern video -experiences. Even the first live video makeup try-on experiences found their way to Cannes most innovative digital experiences shortlist. Also the earliest vendors of makeup virtual try-on were founded, such as Modiface in 2007 (acquired by L’Oreal) and GlamST in 2013 (acquired by Ulta). The lack of powerful enough mobile phones still prevented the technology to breakthrough fully and were mainly run on computers and/or special devices.

In 2013-2014 were the year of early adapters in AR and especially the makeup virtual try-on started to gain traction and the technology (and hardware) started to be powerful enough to augment realistic experiences in stead of gimmicky tools. These years e.g Sephora launched their first 3D live video makeup try-on and L’Oreal launched Makeup Genius. Also more skin diagnostics -focused solutions started seeing daylight with still mixed results in terms of accuracy and repeatability. Most skincare focused solutions were heavily around "beautification", so just covering your wrinkles or making your skin perfect like babies - not really offering much more than fun for teenagers.

old makeup try-on solutions

Earlier years, the main focus for beautytech had always been around augmented reality experiences but the years of 2014-2017 started bringing wind of changes as a variety of different types of solutions emerged (like we at Revieve). These years started bring more focus on recommendations, ingredients, personalization - where many players are taking advantage of still today. Makeup virtual try-on -solutions started becoming more and more common (+realistic), different guided-selling solutions emerged and technologies started helping consumers with their conscious choices.

skin diagnostics by revieve
Skin diagnostics by Revieve

2018 was the year where major players started to really launch solutions. We saw Target, Ulta, Alibaba, Facebook and others launch AR- solutions to bring makeup virtual try-on to their customers. For us at Revieve as well, we saw 40+ companies from retailers to brands starting to really build digital beauty solutions in many formats - increasing our growth significantly. 2018 was also the year of acquisitions as players like Shiseido (Giaran) and L’Oreal (Modiface) acquired BeautyTech companies.

Hope you liked our brief recap on the history of BeautyTech. We also have a veteran Michel Zampa who's been working around BeautyTech since 2003 who's happy to share his insights with you straight from Montreal!


Who’s the writer and Revieve?Miikka is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Revieve, working with the leading beauty brands and retailers, helping them to build new digital beauty experiences across different channels. At Revieve we build white label Digital Beauty Advisors (with market leading mobile skin diagnostics, AI-driven product recommendations and 3D live video makeup virtual try-on) for skincare and makeup.

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