Best Virtual Beauty Apps for When You Want to Avoid Stores and Long Lines

I can’t remember the last time I stepped into a Sephora. I’m sure it was January or February when I was blissfully unaware of what was to come a month or so later. I probably ran in for a tube of mascara or lip gloss before an after-work dinner, not realizing I would soon be sharing a dinner table with…myself…for months to come. Ah, the good ‘ol days, right? To that same point, I’m not exactly pining to wear makeup every day, though the best virtual beauty apps are keeping my love for eyeliner and BB cream alive.

Augmented reality has taken flight in recent years with the development of not only apps that give you the ability to “try on” makeup and hairstyles without leaving the house, but also track UV exposure, like the La Roche-Posay My Skin Track UV Sensor. Plus, with the undeniable impact of the pandemic on our shopping experiences still taking shape, I’d hardly be surprised if virtual apps replace the in-store testers we’ve grown accustomed to in the future.

In a sense, it seems we’re getting farther and farther away (and more comfortable) from in-store shopping and using these gadgets for a myriad of reasons. Right now, most of us have little choice with stores offering only limited hours or no hours, period. Others aren’t comfortable just yet with leisure shopping. Some are simply tech-savvy and want to feel more empowered with their beauty choices. And then there are those like me who are motivated by curiosity, boredom, and the threat of germs everywhere.

Surprisingly, these virtual beauty apps have made this no-makeup makeup loyalist actually like lipstick again. Like enough to wear outside the house with nowhere to go? Probably not. But once the occasion calls for it, I’ll probably throw on a red lip now that I’ve found a shade that looks good on me without ever leaving the couch. That being said, whether you miss in-store samples or want to see what you look like with that lipstick shade you were always too chicken to wear in the company of friends, here are a couple of (free) try-on apps to download and play dress-up with.

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sephora virtual artist

Courtesy of Author.

Available for both Android and iOS, Sephora’s virtual makeup app is straightforward and easy to use. I love that I can use it on my desktop or phone. And if you have the app, there are exclusive perks, including tutorials customized to your face and virtual arm swatching. But tread lightly: combined with all the other app perks, especially if you’re a Beauty Insider, it could be dangerous territory for your credit card.

youcam app

Courtesy of Author.

YouCam is both a try-on app as well as a photo editor that allows you to nix blemishes and such (a feature I have mixed feelings about). Like other virtual tools, you can either upload a selfie or use your camera for live applications. There’s also the “Beauty Advisor 1 on 1” feature that allows you to chat with an advisor for figuring out your foundation match and the best colors for your skin tone, among other things. My favorite part is the before-and-after at the end that allows lists every products you’ve tried on. As you can see, COL-LAB’s eyeshadow palette, Benefit’s brow pencil, and Pixi Beauty’s lip colors are my jam. (And if I could ever figure out how to apply them IRL, Ardell lashes would be included, too.) I’m not fully convinced by this bob, though.

ulta glamlab app

Courtesy of Author.

Ulta’s resident virtual try-on experience also allows you to mix and match thousands of face products (foundation, eyeshadow, brow tools, etc.) to find a combination that makes you feel your best. There are several features that allow you to get really micro and weigh the pros and cons before purchasing a product as well. They include a split-screen feature so you can see what makeup looks like on only half of your face. Ulta’s GLAMlab also includes one-on-one beauty consultation and a really cool feature that detects your skin tone to recommend your best shade.

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