App promises a better makeup job, from a selfie

The people behind TryItOn make their years of beauty experience available via new technology

The TryItOn app in action (Courtesy)
The TryItOn app in action (Courtesy)

For women who have the time and inclination to patronize top-tier department stores, shopping for makeup can be an adventure. Well-coiffed model types professionally apply samples of mascara, lipstick, foundation, eyeshadow, and other must-have items, ensuring that a customer walks out with a perfect look.

For the two-thirds of women who don’t have the time or inclination for full service, there’s the cosmetics department of discount mass chains like Walmart and Target – and for them, said Rami Orpaz, there’s TryItOn, the world’s first general-purpose app that shows women exactly how they will look after applying a specific makeup product – virtually, on their mobile device.

Orpaz is CEO of EZ Face, a veteran Israeli company that has been in the beauty tech business for years, supplying virtual makeup kiosks to stores around the world.

“Customers use our computers at a kiosk to see how they will look with a specific brand and shade of lipstick or any other makeup product,” said Orpaz. “The trend now is to virtualize services like these via apps, so we decided to come out with TryItOn, an app that is even more accurate than the kiosks.”

The app, which is free to download, connects to a database of over 25,000 beauty products, which includes information on ingredients, colors and shades, application techniques, and other important aspects of makeup application. To use the app, customers take a selfie, scanning their faces in the store, with algorithms that pay special attention to an individual’s pigment. A user then scans the UPC of the product they are interested in, and the data about that product is matched to the data about the user’s face – showing an as accurate as possible rendition of what the user can expect to look like if they actually apply the product.

According to Orpaz, TryItOn is 95% accurate – meaning that the actual application matches the image on the screen 95% of the time.

“It takes three seconds, but will save a huge amount of time and money for both customers and retailers,” said Orpaz.

At least 15% of makeup products are returned each year – and other than dispose of it, there’s really nothing a store can do with a partially used lipstick tube. That, of course, doesn’t take into account the large number of customers (about a quarter, industry statistics show) who are dissatisfied with what they have bought, trying it on once and never using it again.

With 85% of adult women in the US buying and wearing makeup on a regular basis, you might think that a product like TryItOn isn’t all that necessary – after all, women are going to continue buying makeup, even if it isn’t a perfect fit. But there’s a lot of competition in the makeup business – and in order to compete, manufacturers need to bring up as much brand loyalty as concerned.

“A woman will try a product once or twice, but if her friends tell her it doesn’t look good, she’ll move on to another brand. With our app, brand loyalty becomes a much stronger factor in the purchase decision,” said Orpaz.

In fact, said Orpaz, it turns out that many makeup-wearers don’t trust themselves to judge how good they look; they’re much more confident if a trusted other (friend, parent, etc.) confirms their feelings. TryItOn lets users share their made-up virtual face on all popular social networks, a feature that Orpaz said that app users are very happy with.

An app like TryItOn wouldn’t have been feasible even two or three years ago; it’s only due to advancements in smartphone technology and vision technology that a truly accurate image can be created using a smartphone app.

“We map the face, using advanced algorithms to get precise information about the eyes, lips, cheeks, etc.,” said Orpaz. “What’s unique about TryItOn is our use of color to accurately portray the skin pigmentation, taking into account both the features of the user’s face – how rough their skin is, etc., along with the features of the product – matte, gloss, opaque, etc. Matching up the specific qualities of these products with the skin tone and other features of users is a very advanced technology. We are the only company in the world doing this.”

EZFace is headed by Ruth Gal, a former CPA who decided that beauty was more important to her than financial statements and started the company in 2000. The company has developed technologies that are being used by some of the world’s biggest beauty firms, including L’Oreal, Maybelline, Sephora, and many others.

With TryItOn, said Orpaz, the company’s advanced beauty tech “will become available to women around the world who don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the beauty services at Bloomingdales and similar department stores and beauty salons.”

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