Virtual Try-on

Makeup Research: What Makes AR Cosmetics Look Real?

When working on Tint, we put a lot of effort into making the products look as realistic, as possible. This included partnering up with professional makeup artists to learn more about the nuances of applying cosmetics and the most important factors to consider. Now that Tint is out, we decided to share some of the research.

Our Approach

The entire purpose of this beauty study was to gain information that would help us make digital products as close to physical ones as possible.

Banuba has a robust face touch-up technology. However, in the case of Tint, it is only used to remove distortions caused by the camera. A virtual try-on product should show the person as they are and let them see how makeup interacts with their skin without trying the physical product. This is why doing such research was crucial to achieve the user experience we were looking for.

For our makeup research, we have interviewed MUAs with 3-10 years of experience. These were the products we primarily focused on:

  1. Blush
  2. Concealer
  3. Contour
  4. Eyebrow pencil
  5. Mascara
  6. Eyeliner
  7. Eyeshadow
  8. Foundation
  9. Lip gloss
  10. Lipstick
  11. Highlighter

The purpose of this work was to gather information that would benefit a commercial product, so the size of the group was enough. 

The questions were mostly structured around how makeup should be applied in various situations and how this application depends on the subtype of the specific product (e.g. matte and glossy lipstick). 



This is what we’ve learned in our makeup research and applied in Tint.


The main purpose of blush as a product is to simulate the natural blush, so personal taste plays a large part in applying it. However, there are certain factors that especially affect the digital versions:

  •  Product type. You can apply more layers of liquid blush without compromising the natural looks and durability of the makeup. However, it is also prone to losing texture when there are too many layers.
  •  Pigmentation level. The degree of pigmentation determines the number of layers that can be applied (lower pigmentation equals more layers). 
  • Skin condition. Skin type (e.g. dry/oily) and skin defects (wrinkles, post-acne marks, etc.) have a major impact on the way the applied makeup looks. The defects take an extra effort to cover. 

MUAs told us that to achieve realistic looks, the pigmentation level is more important than thickness. This goes double for models with skin issues. 


Concealer is applied to hide eye bags while preserving the natural look of the face. For the virtual one to accurately simulate the physical product, we paid close attention to these things:

  • Pigmentation level. The higher it is, the less chance there is of skin being seen through.
  • Skin condition. Concealer is prone to sticking into the wrinkles. The digital version should avoid similar effects. 
  • Layering. The trick is to place enough product to cover the skin yet not too much, otherwise it will look unnatural. Professionals prefer using a more pigmented concealer to extra layers.


This category also includes bronzer and sculptor, as the principles are the same.

Once again, the main characteristic to watch for is pigmentation. Too many layers can make a person’s skin look like it was covered in plaster, so this approach is usually taken only for staged photos to balance out camera distortions.

Eyebrow pencil/marker

Firstly, eyebrow pencil and eyebrow marker are applied a bit differently, as a marker makes thinner lines. 

Secondly, pigmentation once again matters. The lower it is, the harder it would be to create contrast. This means the pencil would be less obvious.


This product type is tricky:

  • Brush matters. The brush that applies mascara is at least on par, if not more important than the product itself. 
  • Similarity. In this category, there is little difference between products from different companies.
  •  1-2 layers. Most users put on just one layer of mascara, two, if they prefer a more expressive look.
  • Pigmentation level. Once again, this is the factor that has the most impact on the product looks.



These are the things that affect the looks of the virtual product the most:

  • Product type. Liquid eyeshadow covers the skin better than its powdered counterpart.
  • Pigmentation level. The most important factor in determining the looks of the product on a person.


The purpose of this product is to even-out the skin tone of a person’s face. This is what is the most important in its digital version:
  • Product type. A matte foundation would look different from the glossy one.
  • Pigmentation level. The determining factor in the product look.
  • Layering. The vast majority of users put on just one layer of foundation, sometimes thickened in places where there are skin imperfections. The best practice is to use less product but choose one with higher pigmentation.

Lip gloss

Lip gloss differs from most products on this list. This is what affects its looks:

  • Product amount. One thin layer will look like lip balm, but the more you put on, the brighter it would be. However, you can only apply so much lip gloss before it starts flowing down. 
  • Glitter piece size. This will change how bright the lip gloss will look.
  • Pigmentation level unimportant. This parameter only matters for colored versions of this product.

Key takeaways

After reviewing each product category, this is what our makeup research showed us.

  1. Pigmentation level turned out to be the crucial element influencing product looks. It affects almost all product categories. However, there is no reliable way to gauge it when buying something online. Certain companies list it as part of product descriptions, but the actual results may vary. 
  2. The makeup study also showed that high price or brand name don’t guarantee high pigmentation level either. After all, this could be by design. In addition, the product in the palette could look different when applied to someone’s skin.

This makes realistic virtual try-on especially important for consumers, as well as manufacturers and retailers. Feel free to request a demo and see the results for yourself.

Enhance Your Store With Virtual Try-On  Get free trial