For as long as I’ve been writing about make-up my advice has always been to try before you buy. I’ve been caught out too often by a lipstick that looks amazing in a photo shoot but washes me out, and I’ve always loved the physical process of seeing how products look, feel and smell on my skin.
Now, though, trying testers or getting a beauty consultation in store feels less of a treat and more of a high-risk activity. In fact, everything about the previous beauty model has ‘no-go’ written all over it. So beauty brands have responded to our Covid-19 anxieties by offering ‘virtual make-up appointments’, where trained representatives of the brand – who might usually be working on the shop floor – help tailor their products to your skin and the look you want to achieve.
But do they work? I approached three of my favourite brands to find out.
Mecca Cosmetica founder Jo Horgan and her team were one of the first beauty brands to offer virtual make-up consultations for customers.
The appointments take place over FaceTime and my one-on-one call was the highlight of a rather dull lockdown Wednesday. I spoke with in-store make-up guru Jen Horsley, whose positivity and extensive knowledge of products made me feel like a VIP as she walked me around an empty MECCA store in Melbourne.
She showed me different products for my base (fresh and dewy), cheeks (creamy and peach), and for my brows (totally disaster atm) that included Westman Atelier, RMS, Stilla, Hourglass and Chantecaille. She sampled them on her hand and even applied them to her own face to demonstrate the right technique and finish, which was really helpful.
Jen also had access to my MECCA purchase history, which she used to supplement her own questions and ideas. Apparently, other customers have blue-tacked their phones to mirrors during calls so that she could talk them through a step-by-step winged liner or smoky eye.
The products Jennifer chose were spot-on.
The gel-based Chantecaille Just Skin had a hydrating, light-weight finish on my ‘blah’ iso skin. And the combination of Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Sunshine Drops and Stila Convertible Colour Blush in Lillium gave me the subtle WFH glow I was after. My fair brows also appeared much fuller with Hourglass Brow Gel.
This would be such a useful service post-lockdown to new mums, women recovering post-surgery or those living outside major cities. Fortunately, MECCA intends to continue the consults post-Covid.
British fashion celebrity and TV personality Trinny Woodwall’s beauty brand only launched in Australia late last year and I hadn’t yet given it a go. The stackable, take-anywhere clear pots designed to be applied with fingers have gained traction online and with her loyal fans: Her TrinnyTribe.
Rather than a screen consultation with a real person, I completed a short but detailed facial-description survey that was designed to help me find a whole look.
The questions were intriguingly specific: to discern eye colour, “have a mirror handy and in good light hold something white against your eyes to get your true colour,” and for hair, consider “whether your hair is natural or dyed, whether you have highlights or balayage, focus on the colour that frames your face”.
The stackable, clear pots are a hit with her TrinnyTribe
My personalised Trinny London look was emailed instantly with a list of five products for a prescribed look that could be dialled up for night and right back for day.
The products arrived a few days later and the BBF cream was a true match and a perfect no-make-up, make-up base. It almost feels like a moisturiser as it’s white on application but colour corrects the minute it’s on your face. The Just A Touch concealer/Foundation not only works a treat but is super heavy duty (a little goes a long way).
I loved the convenience of the pots and how simply rubbing and blending with your fingers created so many looks. One swipe of the Eye2Eye pot in Queen gave an easy, everyday eye look and a few more would have been perfect for night (if I had anywhere to go). With all these products, a little goes a long way.
It was hard to choose which virtual make-up service to try with M.A.C’s new menu of online services.
From Complexion Perfection ($49 for 30 minutes – redeemable for product) to Eyes on You (also $49 for 30 minutes – redeemable for product) to the one I picked: Ask M.A.C (free for 15 minutes).
I dialled in via FaceTime to chat with Global Senior Artist, Carol Mackie, who I’ve interviewed several times but haven’t had the chance to ask my personal burning beauty questions! Like MECCA, artists take calls in store and offer product recommendations.
We covered so much in the short time. For my dry, combination skin, Carol recommended a do-it-all foundation (MAC Studio Fix Fluid that’s medium weight, long lasting and helps to control oil; and an everyday lipstick that’s somewhere between a tinted balm and lipstick – she even nailed my favourite shade without any hints! (MAC Lustre Lipstick in Syrup).
Carol also gave me some of her favourite backstage products (which she’s never without), from their best-selling lip primer, Prep + Prime Lip to the instant pick-me-up Prep + Prime Fix+ spray that can be used as a primer, make-up setting spray or refreshing mist throughout the day.
Feeling buoyed by the consult, I even splashed out later that night on an out-there (for me) burnt orange lipstick I’ve wanted forever. I really liked the matt, earthy tone… I just wish I had somewhere to wear it now!
So, were these virtual consults a success?
YES! They were fun and made me feel less bogged down in the mundane. They offer a more intimate experience than shopping online, and possibly a more realistic experience than you receive in store, where you walk out with a fab face of make-up applied by a professional and a bag full of products that you don’t really know how to use yourself. Instead, you’re excited for the tactile experience at-home and to test out the tips that you’ve just learned.
I predict more beauty buying in the next few months, because we all need a little pampering right now. Virtual consults are a great opportunity for that.