The ugly side of L’Oréal’s mission to bring augmented reality to makeup

L'Oréal announced plans to integrate its ModiFace AR tool with Amazon.


June 4, 2019

Yesterday, the French beauty business L’Oréal announced plans to integrate its ModiFace augmented reality (AR) makeup tool with Amazon, which will enable millions of additional shoppers to “try on” lipstick in live selfies.

But no amount of makeup can cover up this ugly business strategy 

L’Oréal acquired ModiFace last year to boost digital sales, and indeed, according to last year’s annual report, “increasingly realistic simulations… have a strong impact on sales.” 

But while filtered faces pull in a pretty penny for L’Oréal, they also cause an ugly increase in body-image disorders and unnecessary plastic surgery among kids, according to a body of medical research.

A more powerful way to profit from perpetual insecurity

The problem is that many of ModiFace’s apps don’t merely show consumers what makeup would look like on their faces… 

They also use self-described “emoji effects” and “AI … that automatically optimizes the glow, texture, and tone of your skin frame-by-frame” to sell customers unrealistic, digitally altered versions of themselves that have pixel-perfect skin and alien eyeballs.

ModiFace CEO Parham Aarabithe insists that this particular app is more limited than others it has made in the past, saying, “All it does is to show different colors on the lips.”

But previous ModiFace apps — versions of which are used in 75 of the 100 top beauty brands’ apps and now funded by the world’s largest cosmetics company — have looked remarkably similar to Snapchat.

Researchers have already documented the harmful impact of Snapchat’s selfie filters on the mental health of kids. 

But ModiFace’s filters are far worse: Not only do they distort people’s perception of themselves, but they also profit from that distortion by selling a solution to it.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to clarify that, while other ModiFace apps use emoji effects and other filters to distort the face, the company’s new partnership is designed only to show different colors on the lips.

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