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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Log In, Glow Up: We Tried a Virtual Makeup Class

Brick-and-mortar stores have had to come up with creative ways to reach customers during the coronavirus pandemic. For beauty retailers, that means connecting with their customers virtually.

Brands like Ashley Adams Beauty, Noleen Sliney, and Blushington, which offered in-studio and on-location makeup applications pre-pandemic, are now offering a variety of lessons over Zoom. I tried an hour-long course from Blushington and spoke to various makeup artists and beauty companies to see whether virtual classes are worth it, or if you're better off watching a free YouTube tutorial.

Updated August 17: We've clarified that the founder of Glamsquad, Jason Perri, answered our questions through a spokesperson.

Going Virtual

You might not wear as much makeup if most of your time is spent at home, but for some, it's still a necessity. For me, makeup has always been a way to relax. Makeup artist Jennifer Duvall of JennySue Makeup says (in a Medium article) that putting on makeup allows her to have an outlet for creativity, a regular routine, and it helps build focus.

Duvall transitioned to private virtual lessons early in the pandemic. She's been pleasantly surprised by the results. "I thought I could only do my private makeup lessons in person, which looking back now, actually limited me to just locals in and around Athens and the Atlanta, Georgia, area," Duvall tells WIRED. "Already I have worked with women as far as Illinois, Arizona, to Rhode Island."

Strangely enough, virtual lessons can also feel more hands-on and interactive. Where Duvall might have done half a client's face in person before the pandemic and guided them the rest of the way, customers now have to make up their entire face themselves while watching Duvall through a screen. The extra practice, she believes, helps them learn quicker.

"It’s also been really fulfilling to interact and connect with women from all over, which is why I love doing makeup anyway," Duvall says. "Especially when everything seems so tense and unpredictable right now, applying makeup is something we can control and can be a form of art therapy and self-care."

YouTube is a great free resource, available at any time of day, with a seemingly endless supply of makeup tutorials and product reviews, but private virtual lessons with an expert are more personal and go a step further. Unlike the in-store experience, where beauticians will use their own pro-grade tools, virtual classes force you to use what's already in your home, making it easier to re-create specific looks later on.

"One-on-one services and lessons allow for complete customization and personalized attention," says Glamsquad founder Jason Perri through a spokesperson. Glamsquad is an Uber-like service that offers on-demand beauty services with a focus on makeup, nail, and hair care. "Our [in-person] makeup tutorials, for example, allow clients to choose the specific skill, trend, or feature they want to learn, and Glamsquad's beauty pros will demonstrate the technique on one side of your face and guide you in finishing the other."

Glamsquad had to cease its operations early during the pandemic but also began offering virtual lessons. It has begun sending beauty experts back into people's homes, though both clients and beauty professionals are now required to wear a face-covering during service. Makeup is still prohibited, and beauticians are required to wear gloves and a disposable apron. They must also get a Barbicide certification and follow Barbicide's Covid-19 protocols.

Virtual one-on-one services might actually improve on the retail store experience. Depending on where you lived pre-pandemic, you may not have received the best beauty advice. Some Mac or Sephora employees might be professionals, but many are just people who like makeup, and they may not know the best tips for a diverse clientele.

Beauty Works

I took a virtual lesson with Blushington, a makeup store with locations in Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City. The company offers 30-minute classes for $25, hour-long classes for $50, as well as packages and group options. You can choose from a few categories, like a crash course in skin care, learning how to do everyday makeup, or focusing on just your eyes. Or you can opt for a custom lesson if there’s something specific you really want to know, like finally mastering that popular chiseled look without looking muddy and cakey.

I’m no expert, but I've been wearing makeup since middle school. I like to think I’ve got the basics down, including eye shadow. But my Blushington teacher, Sloane, showed me a technique I’ve never seen before. Instead of putting my transition shade directly on my crease and following the natural curve, she suggested I put it just above the crease and make almost a straight line out for my slightly hooded eyes. It instantly made my eyes look bigger and more refreshed.

Could I have Googled "How to apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes"? Yes, but I didn’t even know I had hooded eyes. Plus, my instructor—a professional makeup artist—was able to spot a mistake and tell me how to fix it as I applied. She also hyped me up and made me feel beautiful every step of the way. You can’t get that kinda hype with a pre-recorded tutorial.

With most virtual lessons, you'll show the instructor your own products and process, sharing any concerns you have, along with your skin type. I showed Sloane which products and tools I use (most of them were different from hers), but she was still able to walk me through the makeup application process based on what I had. The artist may recommend products to fill in some gaps in your routine—Sloane suggested a redness-reducing hydrating primer for my acne-prone dry skin, but it never felt as forced as the experience in physical stores. She sent me an email with a list of products she used so I can refer back to them once my own products were empty—a small detail but something I appreciated.

Plugging in specific products are another way some companies can recoup the lost foot traffic since the pandemic began. Blushington also sells beauty products from various brands, and if you take a class, you receive a 20-percent-off coupon for its online store.

If You Stick With YouTube

Being able to pay for a private makeup lesson is a privilege. These services are still expensive and out-of-reach for a lot of people, especially at a time when millions of people are unemployed. YouTube remains one of the best places to go to improve skills without having to spend a dime.

If you're on the hunt for help, try to find a YouTuber you like and trust with the same skin type as you. I gravitate toward those with dry skin, because the products they like are more likely to work for me. You'll also want to make sure you like their makeup styles and that they offer products and tools that fit your budget. Here are a few YouTubers to start with:

  • RawBeautyKristi is my go-to. She uses only cruelty-free products and favors those that are budget-friendly.
  • MakeupShayla was the first influencer that popular drugstore brand Maybelline collaborated with.
  • Jackie Aina, Arnell Armon, Darcei Amanda, and Sabina Hannan are extremely talented women of color cutting through the often very white beauty world. Sabina, who wears a hijab, has several videos on how to style them, including a tutorial for a hijab and makeup look for Eid al-Adha.
  • Ellis Atlantis is a drag queen who won the TV show Glow Up: Britain's Next Make-Up Star.
  • The Golden Rx (aka LABeautologist) is an aesthetician in Los Angeles with a huge fan base online. While she doesn't quite do makeup, her skin care advice is unmatched. Makeup looks better when your canvas is clear (something I'm still working on).

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