Voice-enabled Makeup Assistant is here—and Cosmo chatted with four of the app’s users.
For those with low-vision or blindness, putting on makeup is typically a two-person job. Sure, you can learn to dab on concealer or blend out your Drunk Elephant Bronzing Drops with a couple of #GetReadyWithMe TikToks (that is, if the creator talks out their steps versus just overlaying an ~aesthetic~ Mitski song or “My BFF dated my ex” story time). But to make sure your foundation is fully blended and your eyeliner isn’t smudged, you’re likely going to need to ask someone for help—whether it be a family member, friend, or literal stranger—and just hope they give you an honest answer. This is obviously less than ideal, and it gave Estée Lauder Companies an idea: Voice-enabled Makeup Assistant (VMA), a voice-enabled app to help people with vision loss and blindness check their makeup application.
“We identified that there was a huge accessibility gap in the beauty industry for those with disabilities, specifically for individuals who are low vision and blind,” says Lamia Drew, global inclusive technology director at Estée Lauder Companies. So after years of research, interviews, and testing done in tandem with people in the low-vision and blind communities, Estée Lauder launched VMA in January 2023. “Many people told us that when they put on makeup, they would have to send a selfie to a person that they trusted to give them honest feedback,” Drew explains. “The consistent theme really was that many people in this community felt like their makeup routine created a dependence on others and we want VMA to change that.”
I strive to be as independent as I can with everything that I do. So when I got the chance to help develop this app all the way in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I was so excited. It’s super incredible to just have something like this out there. A real game changer.
I think back to when I was in high school and first became interested in makeup. I’d experiment, but certain products like lipstick were challenging. Overall, the hardest part of makeup for me is that I’d have to get people to check it every single time. The older I get, the less I care about it, but when I was younger, I was so easily embarrassed, so I would never want to go out with weird, blotchy makeup. I just remember spending so much time in the bathroom doing my makeup, and then getting frustrated and just asking someone else to do it. Ultimately, makeup was time-consuming and deflating, and I felt like I just couldn’t do it myself. That was something that really bothered me. It felt like it went against my entire definition of independence.