When people talk about skin care, they wear white coats and serious expressions: This is science, guys! But makeup is about creativity and experimentation—dabbing and daubing, learning new application techniques. And it’s fun, because at the end of the day, it all comes off.
The next level of playfulness in makeup? Bespoke products. These aren’t particularly new—remember Prescriptives, the custom foundation brand that was all the rage in the 1980s, before quietly closing in the noughties—but they’ve recently made a roaring resurgence.
It’s always hard to determine exactly why something becomes trendy. Perhaps it’s because we’re all tired of looking the same way and owning the same things (thanks, social media and mass production). Stemming from that is the rise of Etsy, which has taught us we can get anything from leather goods to lightsabers with our names on them. Specific to makeup, there have also been technological advances that add a touch of the Jetsons to the arty experimentation.
Of the big beauty companies, L’Oreal has been the most adventurous in this space. Its Lancôme brand launched the Le Teint Particulier service in the U.S. a couple of years ago (no news yet about it coming to Canada). Go to a counter to have your skin tone scanned with a special device, then a machine creates your perfect foundation shade—you can customize the levels of coverage and hydration. BareMinerals (owned by Shiseido) offers a similar service, but again, in the U.S. only.
The most high-tech take on the trend hit counters earlier this year in the form of L’Oreal brand Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Sur Mesur. Buy the device from YSL’s website, plus a set of three cartridges in four colour families: red, orange, pink, or nude. Then download the Rouge Sur Mesur app and design a shade (you can take a selfie and try on shades, scan an object like a piece of clothing to select a hue, or see how colours will look in different lighting). Decide how much lippie you’d like to make—for example, just enough to test or enough to wear several times—then click Create. This releases colour from the three cartridges that you then mix with a brush and apply.
The device won an Allure Best of Beauty Breakthrough Award earlier this year—the magazine called it “the future of beauty”—and it’s expected that L’Oreal will roll out the technology on other items soon. In the future, we might be able to mix a new foundation if we get a tan, or even match hair dye perfectly.
Of course, you could argue that turning all this into technology removes the playfulness from it. And there’s also the commercialization of something that used to be virtually free; after all, we could always smoosh together a couple of lipstick shades to make a new one, without needing to pay $459 for the privilege. But there’s childlike joy in that hi-tech device, too (need I mention the Jetsons again?), and the idea of matching a lipstick to a dress or bag makes me smile.
If you’re looking for a less technological touch, try the Lip Lab service. It was launched in fall 2016 by the now-defunct Canadian company Bite Beauty, which shuttered earlier this year but kept its custom lipstick service open. If you’re close to one of the nine real-life labs throughout North America, you can consult with a colour expert who then creates a lipstick for you; otherwise, schedule a video appointment. Use the service to make lipsticks that complement your skin tone or match a particular outfit, or even to duplicate an old shade that isn’t manufactured anymore. Recipes are kept on file so that once you’ve made the perfect lippie, you can keep re-creating it.
I tried it a couple of months ago when my beloved Bite Beauty Virgo lipstick bit the dust. It was a limited-editition product from 2018 in a perfect-for-me blue-based-red shade, and I had worn it down to a stub. The online consultant chatted with me about what I wanted and told me she still had the colour on file. I was able to dictate the lipstick’s finish, flavour, name, and even the font for engraving the tube.
A week later, my lipstick arrived, made by hand in Toronto and—if not quite unique—still perfect for me. It’s an ideal way to try out the customization trend, although that swanky and pricy device is still calling my name.
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