This Is How Makeup Counters Could Work In A Post-Corona World

As early as March, some makeup counters moved to "touch-free" beauty experiences.

Thinking about how we’ll operate in a post-corona world can boggle the brain. Living our lives forever at a distance doesn’t seem possible, but many experts in their fields are figuring out how the things we take for granted could work.

Take makeup and in-store makeup counters, in particular. Testing a new eyeshadow; dipping your finger in and out of a face or lip palette to swipe different colours across the back of your hand; getting a full in-store makeover to see how a brand looks on you (or because you’ve got a fancy event that evening). They’re all part of the fun – but also a total germ-fest.

As early as March, makeup counters across the world rapidly changed their ways. One Jo Malone counter in the US told customers it had moved to a “touch-free beauty experience”. Is this the future face of make-up buying?

Joyce Connor, a professional makeup artist, tells HuffPost UK that even before UK lockdown, many makeup counters had removed their testers.

“I think this will be ongoing coming out of lockdown,” she says. “I personally never swatch testers on my face. You never know how many people have put their fingers into the products.”

The Cosmetic Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA), which represents companies involved in making, supplying and selling cosmetics, says it’s working with counter staff to provide new guidance on makeup testers.

This will include a phased approach to the re-introduction of counter services, with sellers encouraged to embrace different, safer approaches to ensure shoppers don’t miss out, it says.

Connor predicts that sales assistants may swatch products on to customers using disposable applicators and that small samples could see a resurgence in popularity – despite the recent push against both in the fight against plastic.

“People may be able to ask at stores for guidance and take the samples to test at home,” she says, adding that these could be “more acceptable” for those worried about hygiene, even if it doesn’t answer environmental concerns.

The expertise of the person behind the counter will also count for a lot. “As a makeup artist, I can guess skin foundation colour by eye,” says Connor. “I also think most future customers will stick to colours they already know and love, rather than trying out something new.”

The CTPA insists that “immersing” in make-up and other cosmetic products is an “important part of the purchasing journey”.

“Safety is the number one priority,” a spokesperson told Huffpost UK, “so in the short term, cosmetics will be presented in a different way. This could be through simple alternatives such as displaying colour on a white tile, or through advanced methods such as digital displays or digital personalisation so the person can really understand how the product will suit them.”

Digital could be the way forward, agrees makeup artist Evie Skinner. “Technology is already in place to allow people to try on makeup ‘virtually’, she says, citing Temptalia’s online makeup library and you could wish for to MAC’s new try-on function on their website,” she says, adding that the Findation site matches 44,000 foundation shades based on those you own in other brands.

As Skinner points out, digital consumers increasingly take recommendations from influencers on Instagram who share their favourite products and combinations and “people will buy these off bat without trying them on”.

Back in the physical space, retail counters will initially operate on a ‘no touch’ basis, says the CTPA spokesperson – with makeovers only reintroduced when it’s safe to do so. “If the consumer wishes to apply the tester to their skin, this should take place via a disposable applicator or single-use product, with strict procedures in place to ensure this process does not risk the transmission of the virus,” their guidelines suggest.

Connor agrees makeovers will be more difficult. “Staff may have to wear some form of PPE and use disposable applicators to apply makeup,” she says. “This is likely to mean that customers are less likely to get their makeup done in store and opt for a one-to-one approach with a makeup artist.”

Either way, it’s likely that beauty fans will be sticking to the shades, palettes and products they know and love for the foreseeable future.