Testing out a new makeup technique can be messy, time-consuming, and expensive.
But beauty brand Sephora is trying to alleviate the struggle with a new feature on its app called Virtual Artist, which uses artificial intelligence to virtually apply makeup, teach you new makeup techniques, and show you how various looks would appear on your face.
It wouldn't be Sephora without some shopping involved, however. If you find a look you like, the app lets you know which products were used - at that point, you can then add them to your shopping basket and buy through the app.
I tested out the Virtual Artist to see how clever its artificial intelligence actually is. Several selfies later, here's what I found.
First, you'll need to download the Sephora app. To access the Virtual Artist feature, click on the menu button and scroll down until you see it under the "Get Inspired" tab.
When you open up the feature, you'll have three options to play around with. I decided to test out the product try-on feature first.
You'll be presented with three different options: lips, lash, and shadow. It's probably best to try it without any makeup on to get the full effect, but it will still work if you have some eye makeup on like I did.
I tested out eye shadow first and was blown away by the sheer number of options to try on. When you choose a color, the app will show you which brand it is, how much it costs, and lets you add it to your basket. You can also see the other colors that come in the palette were you to purchase it, which is helpful.
Next, I selected some false eyelashes. There were fewer options here, but a few pairs that looked relatively subtle...
...and a few pairs that didn't.
I then tested out lip color, and here is where the app disappointed me a little. The bright colors showed up well and gave me a good picture of what it would look like in real life.
But the darker colors looked very faint.
I have very thin lips, and the app seemed to have some trouble properly applying my lipstick. It frequently went way outside the lines, which looked terrible (and made me feel a little self-conscious).
A second option within the app is the "Looks" feature, which lets you try on pre-made makeup looks to see if they would work for you. Spoiler alert: they mostly looked very bad on me.
But if they do work for you, you can see all of the products used to create the look at the top of the app. You can also use a built-in split screen feature to see the before and after.
The final — and arguably the coolest — feature is the virtual tutorial.
Here, the app will show you, step by step, how to apply popular looks that are often challenging to do yourself, like contouring and winged eyeliner.
I decided to test out the contouring tutorial, since I've never been able to figure it out on my own. First, it needed to analyze my face shape. Unsurprisingly, it told me I had an oval face.
Then it told me all the tools I'd need to accomplish the look.
The app then walked me through each step in the process, showing me what products to apply and where to apply them. The difference with this tutorial and those you can find on Pinterest is that it's customized for your own face, so you can see the literal spot on your cheekbones to apply bronzer, for instance. That's all thanks to AI.
The end result was...just OK. While the app gave me visible cheekbones for the first time in my life, it also made my forehead look a bit dirty. Here's hoping I'll do a better job in real life.