I don’t consider applying lipstick to be a high-tech experience. But this morning, while I was applying a bespoke shade of bright red, I realized that’s exactly what I’d had. I’d taken a photo of my clothes with my phone, and an app had created a few colors to match. Then I got to put AR filters on each of them. I pressed a button when I picked the shade I liked, and the $299 Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Sur Mesure printed a pea-sized amount for me to wear.
- Ingeniously created
- Can create up to 4,000 different hues
- The technological elements are useful.
- Cartridges are used
The YSL Rouge Sur Mesure is a lipstick printer at its core. It’s strange since Yves Saint Laurent is associated with exquisite couture and red carpet galas, not with gadgets and mixed reality. Then again, YSL didn’t actually invent the tech behind this gizmo. That’d be L’Oreal, which happens to own the Yves Saint Laurent Beauty brand.
L’Oreal is one of the world’s largest cosmetics firms, but you may not know that it has invested much in the development of the next generation of beauty technology. It’s developed a wearable UV sensor, a sticker that detects your skin’s pH levels, a water-saving salon hair care system, its own “digital” makeup line, and Perso, a personalized skincare printer, which it demonstrated at CES 2020. The core technology that powers the YSL Rouge Sur Mesure is that device. The only difference is that this equipment prints lip color rather than serums.
The Rouge Sur Mesure is very similar to the Perso demo I watched almost two years ago. The device connects to your smartphone, and then three lipstick cartridges are inserted into the base. Each color palette — red, pink, orange, nude — is represented by a cartridge set, and each tube has its own NFC tag. This tag enables the device to identify each particular cartridge, as well as its expiration date and remaining capacity. You’ll be requested to calibrate the first time you load the cartridges, and then you’re set to go. It takes roughly five minutes to complete the process.
Each color palette can produce up to 1,000 hues, so if you buy all four, you’ll have a total of 4,000. You can either use L’Oreal’s presets or create your own with the companion app in a variety of ways.
First, you can pick a shade from a color wheel. Second, you can photograph an object — say, your pink Kirby plush — and attempt to match the color. Finally, you can take a photo of your attire and the program will generate colors that will either complement or contrast with it. (Those who prefer to be a little more adventurous with their fashion will prefer the latter.) Any shade you like can be saved and returned to later.
The design DNA of Perso and the Rouge Sur Mesure is very comparable. Three cartridge slots are revealed when the bottom base swings out. The top disc is actually a detachable compact, allowing you to take your lipstick with you wherever you go. The retractable lip brush that magnetically attaches to the back of the device is a new feature. Whatever you think of the device’s appearance, you have to acknowledge that it’s both ingenious and functional.
The app pleasantly surprised me as well. I’ve put a lot of beauty and wellness gadgets to the test. A bug-ridden program can frequently undermine a good idea. Many connected gadgets have this flaw: how are you meant to get the hardware to operate if the software keeps crashing on you? The app never crashed on me, even when I lost Bluetooth connectivity. Between directing the app to create a hue and the device pouring the exact amount of lipstick required, there was no discernible delay. The virtual try-on tool, while limited to lipstick, reminded me of Instagram and TikTok beauty filters.
The majority of the fun is in creating new shades. The color wheel was by far the most straightforward method of creating a shade. All you have to do now is tap a point on the wheel, and you’re done. The Shade Match function is a great alternative if you know exactly the hue you want. Whether it works depends on how perfect you want the hue to be. I tried matching the colour to a photo of Taylor Swift wearing red lipstick, but it didn’t work. It was really close, but not quite the right tint. With actual objects, I had better luck. Pat McGrath’s Obsession and Elson 2, two of my fave lipsticks, were photographed. I bought both before the pandemic, so they’re well past their expiration dates. Wasn’t it cool that I could duplicate the colors without having to repurchase them? Yes, But my favorite choice was the Shade Stylist, which generates a palette of colors based on your current outfit. When it suggested a nude-ish pink to “clash” with a green top and black pants, I was hesitant, but it turned out to be a good match. I’ve never been a fan of nude shades previously, but now I’m wondering whether it’s because I didn’t know how to use them properly.
At times, the Rouge Sur Mesure feels like a gimmick. When you look at the price, it’s difficult not to get that sense. Makeup, on the other hand, is usually quite costly. In my makeup drawer, I have at least ten tubes of lipstick. Because I am a sucker for Fenty and Pat McGrath, I paid between $20 and $38 for most of them. The less technical YSL lipstick is also $35–$38 per tube. These aren’t even the priciest lipsticks on the market. It’s arguable whether a more costly lipstick is better – some argue that it is, while others argue that it is just marketing. This device dispenses YSL’s formula, which is more expensive than other luxury brands but not as obnoxious.
All this to say, I’ve already spent $299 on lipstick in the past few years, just in smaller increments. (Seeing that written down will stay with me for the rest of my life.) If you want a lot of variation without having to buy numerous colors of lipstick to mix and match, the price becomes more reasonable.
I’ve also run out of space to keep these tubes organized and accessible. Although this device isn’t particularly compact, it has the potential to save me a significant amount of room. Clearly, the more lipstick you have, the less space it takes up. The primary disadvantage is that it is only available in one texture — velvet cream matte — and that each cartridge set costs an additional $89. You’d have to spend over $600 if you wanted all four.
I’m also unsure about Rouge Sur Mesure’s cartridge-based system. On the one hand, I’ve gone crazy playing with various colors, and all of my cartridges are still at least 97% full. On the other hand, if this device is discontinued, I will have just spent small money on a device that I will be unable to use after my last cartridges have run out. It’s akin to when a cosmetics line drops a hue, but at a considerably greater price.
The Rouge Sur Mesure is unlikely to appeal to the average person. However, when using it, one thing that struck me was how low-tech this high-tech experience seemed. It may be a futuristic lipstick printer, yet it fit well into my regular routine. It was simple to use because all of the diverse aspects came together in an intuitive manner. Although this is a device for early adopters, it is also part of a bigger trend in the beauty business to leverage technology to personalize services.
Ads for skincare and haircare firms that claim to employ technology to make products that are custom tailored for you can be found all over Instagram. It’s a huge promise, especially considering how much money you waste trying to discover products that work for you. I’ve tried a few myself, but based on my observations, it’s still early days. The Rouge Sur Mesure, on the other hand, appears to be the most concrete realization of that vision at the moment. It’s not ideal, but it’s easy to see a future in which you pay a premium for a refillable beauty or skincare printer. It’s already happening as companies opt for more environmentally friendly packaging. This is simply the next phase in that process.