Style & Beauty

Virtual Beauty: Online Makeovers

As the pandemic has taught us, you can’t always get out to the salon—but you can achieve makeup mastery from the comfort of home

By Lola Augustine Brown


This year has shown us how technology enables us to do many things without even stepping outside our homes. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and smart tech are revolutionizing how we buy things online, from clothes and kitchen cabinets to lipstick and luxury beauty products. While we may miss the exquisite pleasures of getting a makeover at a department store or luxuriously sampling lipstick shades on the back of our hands, virtual beauty apps and options enable us to still have a little fun with makeup, even in these challenging times. Here are some of the best ways to indulge your love of beauty products from the comfort of your couch.

L’Oréal Paris Virtual Try On
What it does: This super-smart augmented-reality tool on the L’Oréal Paris website allows you to see yourself wearing an array of hair colours, eye makeup, and lip colours. Using your computer’s webcam, you can do a live try-on. The product is superimposed on your face onscreen and it really looks like you’re wearing the makeup. You can change expressions and move your head around to see how each product works with every look and expression in your arsenal. If you’ve ever wanted to see how you’d look sporting fuchsia, teal, or copper hair, here’s your chance to do that, risk-free.

If you don’t have a webcam, you can upload a photo of yourself instead and the tool will put the colours onto that image. If you fall for one of the products, the “Buy Now” link on the page offers various Canadian retailers’ websites from which you can buy that item and have it mailed directly to your home.

Where to find it:

Sephora Virtual Artist
What it does: Functioning in the same way the L’Oréal Paris tool does, the Sephora version gives you access to a much larger range of makeup brands, including Armani Beauty, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), and a few dozen more. You can see yourself sporting virtual fake lashes that give you Sophia Lauren eyes or select “surprise me,” which adds a fun, random makeup item to your visage. There are also entire makeup looks created by Sephora makeup artists that you can try, which may help you discover a completely new and exciting style. When you find something you like, just hit the “shop” button to be brought to the main Sephora site (you may need to click the Canadian flag at the top of the page, though, as the tool automatically directs you to the US site to shop).

Where to find it: or download it as a free app for your phone (available for Apple and Android phones)

M•A•C Virtual Try-On
What it does: Given that the brand is known for a vast range of colours and innovative makeup looks, it’s no surprise that the M•A•C website enables you to virtually try on more than 200 shades of lip and eye colour. All you have to do is find the colour that appeals, click the “Try It On” button underneath its image, and give the site permission to use your webcam (alternately, you can upload a photo or choose one of the model faces available). Head there for sumptuous and sexy lip colours, pretty shades for eyes, and all manner of dramatic tints. (M•A•C is a favourite of stage and screen makeup artists because of the huge range of colours to suit all occasions, from light natural styles to futuristic looks you might find in a Star Trek episode.)

Where to find it:

Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Virtual Try-On
What it does: When you’re browsing makeup on the Shoppers Drug Mart dedicated beauty site, the “Virtual Try-On” button appears below the product image on select brands such as Lancôme, Urban Decay, and YSL. If you like what you see, just add it to your shopping basket. Though not as comprehensive as the Sephora tool in terms of the brands it showcases, it uses the same technology to show you whether you can pull off that certain lipstick or eye colour.

Where to find it:

Garnier Color Match
What it does: Using the camera on your phone, this app shows you how one of the myriad of Garnier hair colours would look on you and also makes suggestions for products and colours to try. Using this app is ridiculously easy—you just install it and go. There’s a “Shade Finder” quiz built into the app that asks whether your hair is already coloured, how much grey there is, and which colour you prefer (you may even be able to choose items with or without ammonia) to help you select a product. This app is fun to play around with, as there’s everything from the lightest blondes to dramatic reds, greens, and blues, and plenty of pink shades, too.

Where to find it: as a free app for your phone, available for download to Apple and Android phones

Grace Makeup for Midlife
What it does: The fabulous Toronto-based makeup artist Deborah Williams has a series of makeup-tutorial videos on her website that are easy to follow and tailored for mature women. If you want to improve your makeup skills, then these are a wonderful place to start.

Where to find it:; choose “Makeup Tutorials” from the top menu

YouTube Tutorials
What they do: There are millions of makeup-tutorial videos on YouTube, but the majority are focused on young women, thus not all that helpful to the rest of us. Thankfully there are some truly inspiring mature makeup divas serving up fun and useful makeup lessons on their channels.

Check out Melissa 55 (, a 65-year-old bombshell grandmother who has more than 100,000 subscribers to her beauty channel. Angie ( has a channel for the “over-50 woman who’s looking for style, beauty, anti-aging, and health how-to’s from an actual mature woman” that more than 700,000 people subscribe to. Marnie, a.k.a. MsGoldGirl (, has heaps of videos offering education and beauty-product reviews for her 100-thousand-plus subscribers. You can probably find someone to teach you anything on YouTube, but these three accounts are a great place to start.

Where to find it:

Photo: iStock/artursfoto.