Think: Insta-makeup-meets-Silicone-Valley-tech-lab, Il Makiage is the digital makeup scrapbook with a concept that’ll no doubt raise eyebrows. They reckon they can get our foundation shade bang on, without ever seeing our faces, by using an algorithm. Sounds implausible, right? Bear with…
There seems to be a disconnect when it comes to our makeup. Digitally-minded millennials consume and upload beauty trends online. But as far as buying the stuff? We head offline and in-store to seal the deal.
It makes sense – our laptops and smartphones can offer up inspo at the touch of a button and update us on incoming launches that tap into our individual tastes. But can they rival the physical experience of sniffing out a new signature fragrance, or seeing (and swatching) foundations to make sure we’ve got the shade right? Hmmm. One brand that’s confident they can help with that last part, is Il Makiage, the American beauty brand that’s racked up a colossal fan following since it launched a year and a half ago, to become the fastest-selling beauty brand in the states.
“We have a 94% success rate with matching our foundation online,” Oran Holtzman, the brand’s co-founder and CEO, tells me confidently via Zoom from New York. “I challenge you to give it a go.” OK, you’re on. It’s presented in the form of the 90 second PowerMatch quiz, which asks a comprehensive set of questions including what your skin type is: “Dry – married to my moisturiser,” “Oily – I live for blotting papers,” “Combination – each part of my face has a mind of its own,” and “Balanced – yeah, I’m blessed.” It asks what kind of coverage you’re craving, from lightweight to full, what type of finish you fancy, from velvety to luminous and how you like to apply, whether it’s with your fingertips or a blending brush. What follows is a series of four faces. You click on the one that looks most like your skin tone and it narrows things down with another set of faces, repeatedly, until you finally click on the skin tone that most resembles yours.
The technology behind it comprises a year of development, hundreds of thousands of data points, 700 skin tone combinations and machine learning – which means it gets more and more accurate each time someone uses it. Handy, since over 10 million users have taken the quiz so far.
It’s worth mentioning that despite asking our preference on finish and coverage, the brand currently has just one foundation on offer (perhaps they’re doing a spot of market research?), albeit in 50 shades. Even so, the “Woke Up Like This” foundation (£34) has sold out five times since launch and accumulated over 90,000 reviews making it the single most-reviewed beauty product online in the US and the brand’s undisputed best seller. Not bad for a formula that you never get to see IRL before you take the plunge.
Beyond the algorithm, the brand has utilised the technology that’s native to us to give a more rounded experience. Instagram-style inspo is scattered across the site. We can browse and scroll as normal, and if we see something we like, every product is listed and shoppable in a single click.
The Mineral Baked Blush (£29) has developed a fan following, as have the buttery Color Boss Squad eyeshadow quads (£33) and brazenly-named “F*ck I’m Flawless” concealer (£24). All in all, there’s over 500 product SKUs to pick from that cater to maximalism, minimalism and anywhere in between. “Il Makiage speaks to ‘high maintenance’ women,” co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Shiran Holtzman explains. This is no derogatory thing. It’s for women “who know what they want.” And, if you don’t? Lucky for you, they’ve hired hundreds of makeup artists who’ve lost their usual gigs during the pandemic, to provide customers with free access to one-on-one tutorials and consultations.
Really, it couldn’t have been better timed for the current climate. We can’t hit up our favourite makeup counters to replenish our stash, even if we wanted to, therefore, we’re looking toward forward-thinking technology and innovation to give us confidence when choosing something new. As for whether it works? Well, you’ll have to try it for yourself because it launches here on Thursday.