MAC Virtual Try-on Mirror review

It's crazy how well MAC's Virtual Try-On Mirror can mimic makeup

Feeling completely lost with makeup? MAC’s Virtual Try-On Mirror lets you try on various looks without making a mess.

Shopping for makeup can be a little overwhelming. While we do have social media and YouTube creators to thank for the influx of beauty gurus and makeup tutorials, it’s common to think you won’t be able to pull off stellar and dramatic looks. But what if all you needed was augmented reality (AR) to give you that extra boost of confidence? MAC Cosmetics’ new beauty mirror gives users the opportunity to try on different makeup looks in real-time, with the help of ModiFace’s AR technology.

We had the opportunity to test out the MAC Virtual Try-On Mirror at the MAC Cosmetics retail store in New York City. It’s genuinely useful, and it realistically simulates a desired look in a split second.

Easy-to-use interface

The Virtual Try-On Mirror isn’t really a mirror. It’s a display, which sort of looks like an iPad at first glance, and it will only light up when you tap the screen. There’s a camera located at the top, and like your selfie camera on your phone, you’ll see your face on the screen. The frame around the screen acts as a studio light, brightening up your face so you can try makeup on without worrying about awkward shadows, and there’s a knob on the bottom you can turn to adjust the light’s intensity.

Using the menu at the bottom of the screen, tap on a specific makeup category – lipstick, eyeshadow, or blush – slide your finger across the variety of different color options, and tap on the one you prefer. Like a Snapchat face filter, it will then instantly appear on your lips, eyes, or cheeks, and you can see the name and photo of the exact product you’re trying on to the left of the screen.

The makeup filters are applied instantly, without having to wait for it to load.

The before and after tool adds a vertical slider you can slide around to compare how you look with the makeup on and off, or you can use the split screen mode to see half your face without makeup, and the other half with it.

All the products used to create a look will appear in a list on the screen once you’re done trying them out. You can send the list via email along with a photo or GIF of yourself wearing it, or if you want to move to another look, you can favorite specific products which will stay in the “My Faves” section on the screen to refer back to later.

Quick response-rate with ModiFace technology

ModiFace, the company behind the AR technology, has pumped 10 years of engineering into creating a variety of product SDKs — software development kits – meant specifically for real-time beauty-try-on simulations.

We were already familiar with ModiFace’s AR tech after using its Hair Color app. Through live video tracking, the app detects your hair in each frame and adjusts the coloration instantly so you can try out a variety of different-colored hairstyles. We loved how it captured everything from the smallest fly away right down to the texture of our hair.

The Virtual Try-On Mirror uses similar technology for your face, but instead of detecting hair, it focuses on facial tracking and 3D video makeup rendering. The makeup filters are mapped to the face at 30 frames per second, and it’s impressive how well it works. The makeup filters are applied instantly, without having to wait for it to load, and they do a great job of accurately mapping to the face and staying on even as you move your head around.

We did notice it made our face look a tad airbrushed. While it’s great to look completely free of blemishes and wrinkles, it’s important to note the makeup filter won’t look exactly the same as applying it in real life. It does come incredibly close, though, and it’s the best implementation we’ve seen to date compared to other apps.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you’re feeling completely lost and don’t know what look you want to go for, the Virtual Try-On Mirror certainly can help. You’ll find a curated set of 29 custom eyeshadow looks by MAC makeup artists, as well as blush and lipstick. You can also have the specific looks done in-store. We’d love to see an option to virtually try foundation in the future, and even more makeup options.

Ranging from smoky eye or eccentric to bright or more natural, it’s a great tool to visualize what you might look like without any effort. It’s even more useful for those with sensitive skin — sometimes taking your makeup on and off multiple times can cause the product to look different than it would if your skin weren’t so raw. With the Virtual Mirror, it’s easy to jump between looks without irritating your skin. Gone are the days of walking out the store with hands covered in tons of swatches. Germaphobes out there will also appreciate never having to touch anything but the mirror.

MAC Virtual Try-on Mirror
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

The MAC Virtual Try-On Mirror is great to have while shopping in-store, but the technology doesn’t end there. Sephora also uses the ModiFace technology in its app under a section called “Product Try-On.” You get the exact same experience as you would in a MAC store, but from the comfort of your home.

The Virtual Try-On Mirror is available in MAC stores around the U.S. The company plans to implement them in its global retail locations by 2018.

Sephora for iOS Sephora for Android


Google Chrome 70 is finally getting a picture-in-picture mode

Picture-in-picture mode is finally coming to Google Chrome 70 on Mac, Linux, and Windows. The feature not only applies to YouTube but also any other website where developers have chosen to implement it.

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.

Razer Phone 2 vs. Red Magic Phone vs. Honor Play: Which gaming phone is best?

Mobile gaming is serious business nowadays. But which high-powered gaming phone is best for you? We pitted the Razer Phone 2 against the Red Magic Phone and the Honor Play to find out which of the three deserves your attention.

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Social Media

Want internet immortality? Here's how to make the best memes

From Bad Luck Brian to Overly Attached Girlfriend, there's no shortage of memes in the world. But, there's always room for one more. Here's a quick rundown of memes and a guide on how to make your own.

How to take great photos with the iPhone XS, Apple’s finest camera phone yet

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max feature the best cameras yet seen on an Apple smartphone, ready for you to get out and take great photos. Here's our guide to help ensure each shot you take is a winner.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I.-powered cat toys, wallets, food containers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Protect your gear on the go with the 15 best camera bags for every budget

A camera is an investment worth protecting. That's why we've rounded up the best camera bags. Whether you need a rugged backpack to take into the backcountry or a leather messenger that's as luxurious as it is capable, there's a backpack…

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses - something no phone…

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.

NYPD pulls thousands of body cams after one explodes

The NYPD has recalled thousands of body cameras after one of them exploded during an officer's shift on Sunday, October 21. No one was injured in the incident, which is thought to have been caused by the device's battery.

Protect yourself (and maybe capture something crazy) with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.

Free your digital memories, and frame them, with the best photo printers

Printed photos are experiencing a revival at the moment, but you don’t need to go to a special lab. Here’s our favorite options for making quality prints, from pocket-sized printers to wide-format photo printers capable of spitting out…

8 weird, useful camera accessories for your iPhone or Android

With the rise of smartphone cameras comes an explosion of accessories aimed at enhancing your photography skills. Here, we take a look at a few, from add-on grips to entire camera units designed specifically to work with iOS devices.