A makeup routine is personalized, individual, and something you craft and experiment with over years of practice. We can immediately rattle off which foundations work best with our skin. And many of us have toiled over achieving the perfect cut crease or a black winged liner that's sharp enough to enthuse you with immense confidence. But, perhaps soon, we might not powder and sculpt our faces at all. Thanks to advances in technology, and the skill of select individuals, digital makeup is becoming increasingly prominent on social media.
While we've been cut off from testing makeup in cosmetic stores during the pandemic, people have started to experiment in the comfort of their own homes. Using technology, creators have been able to take photo editing one step further, beyond mere retouching. They can now create intricate and unique beauty looks right from their laptop or phone.
Hotin Andreea Cătălina, a 23-year-old student and makeup artist has over 20k followers on Instagram. With both glamour shots and more editorial makeup filling her feed, Hotin has recently begun to explore the world of digital makeup.
"Sometimes what you can do digitally in one hour can take up to five hours to paint on your face," says Hotin. "While working digitally, you can zoom in as much as you want on your photo, so you can add an incredible amount of detail."
Fascinated with her mother's red lipstick at a young age, she quickly found herself drawn to the vast world of cosmetics. Through Youtube creators like Michelle Phan, Hotin learned how to experiment with smoky eyeshadow in the security of her bedroom before revealing her undeniable talent to the world. Throughout her high school life and college career, she continued to push the boundaries of her creative style. "I completely opened up and allowed myself to express all of my creative thoughts freely, usually by bleaching my hair in different colors and wearing more makeup," she says.
Then, two years ago, Hotin started her makeup-focused Instagram account. "I made it a mission to post one look every single day," she says. Though, she quickly found herself unable to balance the enormous workload she had dealt herself. Having been awake late at night and with no natural sunlight to take photos in, Hotin decided to instead design makeup on photos she already had. "What I love about digital makeup is how intuitive it is and how there are endless possibilities."
"Doing any precise makeup application in real life can be tricky since we always move our faces," says Hotin, a statement that will resonate with anyone who has attempted graphic liner.
Though the outcome starkly resembles real-world makeup, the process of digital cosmetics is unsurprisingly different. "I like to start with a picture of myself that already has a base makeup done, usually concealer, skin tint, mascara, blush, or bronzer." From there, and with the original canvas ready to paint, Hotin tends to create a rough outline of the direction she has chosen to embark on.
Hotin compares the rise in digital makeup to Cher's dress-up scene at the beginning of the hit 1995 film Clueless, stating the sheer enjoyment is half the reason people engage in it so much. "There is already a huge market for editing apps and filters, and I think people are just really curious to see how they would look wearing different makeup," she says.
"It was quite difficult to control my brush strokes," Hotin says regarding the initial hurdles of navigating digital makeup. But, she says, "Have you ever sneezed in the middle of doing your eyeliner?" The beauty of digital makeup comes from its effortless ability to be wiped away and restarted in moments. You can play with textures, mediums, and colors without the commitment real-life makeup application brings.
The world of cosmetics is steadily changing alongside the digital world. With augmented reality now fully integrated into our shopping habits and devices an inherent part of our routines, the way we apply and interact with makeup will continue to evolve. Perhaps years from now, we will all operate our digital makeup adorned avatars in the real world.