In a bid to stem the bleeding from a lack of business during the COVID-19 lockdown, agile beauty salons and stores pivoted to offer their services virtually. But is it really possible to get results through a video call? I put three virtual appointments through their paces, with varying results.

Jocelyn Petroni Virtual Skin Consultation

First cab off the rank is a FaceTime appointment with one of the most in demand facialists in the country, Jocelyn Petroni. Earlier this year I had decided to start being a serious grown up about my skin and had scheduled in monthly facial appointments with Jocelyn and her team, so that I could really judge the benefits of a committed skin treatment regime. I had bookings in my diary up until December, so when they, along with countless other beauty businesses across the country announced that they had to temporarily close due to social distancing measures, it was a very sad day. Within no time at all, though, Joss and her team had rolled out their Virtual Skin Consultations for $300, redeemable on product. I received an invitation to try it, and suddenly, there she is, ringing me on my FaceTime.

We have a few false starts as I try to distract my kids who I am TRYING to home school, and find a quiet, well-lit corner to speak. Once settled, Joss asks me about my skin and dishes out some advice. Unfortunately it isn’t very easy to see her, possibly due to our connection, although she says she can see my skin well enough. She diagnoses me in desperate need of some Ultraceuticals Vitamin B Hydrating Serum and La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Sleep Mask, and makes me promise to start taking the Vida Glow Collagen supplement daily. A few weeks later the products arrive on my doorstep in a lovely, crisp white Jocelyn Petroni bag along with a step-by-step routine to follow. And while it certainly can’t replace the human-to-human connection of a facial, it’s very comforting to have Joss talk me through my skincare routine and prescribe the ideal products to match.

MAC Makeup Masterclass

Upon booking on the website, you’re given five options: from a free 15 minute “Ask M.A.C” appointment to a 45 minute Makeup Masterclass, $79 (redeemable on product). Keen to test the limits of this technology with colour cosmetics, I go with the latter. After my last technology fail, it was lucky I was due to upgrade my phone in time. I chose iPhone 11 Pro because the camera is so powerful – the front facing camera shoots in 4K so it should be perfect for this. I even manage to put my phone into a tripod and position myself at my makeup table as M.A.C National Education Manager Ocea McKenzie FaceTimes me for our appointment. I’m immediately relieved I made the effort to set up my phone like this, as Ocea ask me to show her the makeup I currently use and how I use it.

With the tripod set up I have two hands free and I’m able to do my makeup, following along with her as she shows me different tips and tricks. Ocea also has a very professional set up in her home where she’s calling me from, with a ring light and studio backdrop, but unfortunately the video is still a bit patchy in places. I discover that it’s better to turn WIFI off and call over 4G but you need both parties to do that for a quality connection. I was still able to get the gist of what Ocea was doing. She showed me how to seriously amp up my glow by applying Fix + Magic Radiance Hydration Spray before applying my base, and even colour matched me so that I could stock up on Face + Body foundation. The 45 minutes goes quickly and I’m left with a shopping cart full of recommendations and some fun new techniques to try.

MECCA Virtual Services

This time around I’m more cluey with the technology and when Anabelle FaceTimes me from the Mecca Parramatta store for my virtual appointment, the picture is much clearer than any of the other calls I’ve done. She confirms that she also has the iPhone 11 Pro and is calling me on 4G – so thankfully our tech is en pointe this time! The lighting isn’t as good as Ocea’s set up but I love that Annabelle has the whole Mecca store at my disposal. When booking you can choose either skincare (30 mins), makeup, fragrance, or a general beauty consult, and they’re all free. If you order product, your consultant will also include testers and samples so you can try different foundation shades and formulations at home before committing to colours you’re not sure about.

I talk Anabelle through my routine and ask her to fill some gaps with product recommendations. She colour matches me to an Hourglass foundation, swatches some Kosas lip oils on her hands that I’ve been meaning to try, and suggests some shades in RMS Lip2Cheek I hadn’t seen. It’s really satisfying to be able to talk in detail about my beauty routine with someone who knows what they’re talking about, all while having my products nearby to reference and them having their offering to reference. Usually in a shop you’re caught out trying to remember that shade that you like, or to describe why that formulation works best for you. I order the Kosas and RMS products along with a Lilah B cream blush. Along with samples of the foundation shades I’m going to try, Anabelle also throws in a few fragrance testers we discussed that she thinks I’ll like. Can’t wait for my package to arrive. It’s ALMOST as good as being in store. But from the comfort of my bedroom.

VERDICT:

While a novel way to deal with the lockdown situation, virtual beauty consults are still largely hampered by technology. It’s essential that you and your consultant are both using high def cameras in your iPhones and are speaking on 4G to get a clear enough picture. It is fun to invite an expert into your beauty cabinet and get some one-on-one intel so hopefully brands will continue these initiatives well beyond lockdown. As video calls improve and online shopping tries to eclipse bricks and mortar (especially now tester-hygiene is being questioned) this may be the solution to tricky colour matching. Indeed this may be the beauty shopping of the future. But for now, we look forward to a time when we can go back into store and salon once more.

Story by Sigourney Cantelo. Holding photo shot on location at The Parlour Room, hair and makeup by Jess Diez

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