L’Oreal Brings AR Try-On to Essie Nail Polish

The new augmented reality tool is the first to use a smartphone's back-facing camera.

Need to Know

  • Modiface is working with Essie to launch a try-on tool that will allow consumers to see how nail polish shades look on their hands before buying
  • The Essie On Hand tool makes virtual nail polish appear seamlessly on a potential customer’s hand, tracking nail shape and finger movement
  • Essie is making 75 shades available via the tool, which requires a back-facing smartphone camera.
  • Both Modiface and Essie are owned by L’Oreal.


Nail polish brand Essie has become the latest company to launch a virtual try-on option, partnering with Modiface to allow customers to see how nail polish shades look on their hands before buying.

The Essie On Hand tool, which the brand launched on February 19, requires users to point their smartphone’s back-facing camera at their fingertips; the tool then makes virtual nail polish appear seamlessly on their nails, by tracking nail shape and finger movements.

Essie is making 75 shades available within the Essie On Hand tool, which potential buyers can access directly through essie.com; if a shopper likes what they see, they can then purchase the nail polish shade directly through the website’s mobile or web browser. Users can also use a still photo of their hand, or a readily available model’s hand, to see how a selected nail polish shade would look when worn.

“Essie designs and creates all of our products with impeccable nuanced colour and precise and easy application,” Carolyn Holba, general manager for Essie worldwide, said in a statement. “our new Essie On Hand virtual try-on salon is no different! it’s the highest standard in nail try on services to make discovering Essie colours fun, easy and accessible.”

Essie is part of cosmetic giant L’Oreal’s roster of brands; L’Oreal has previously used Modiface’s try-on technology for its color cosmetics, including a partnership with Walmart that facilitated hair-dye try-ons, and one with Amazon Canada that allowed users to try on lipstick from brands including Maybelline and NYX. But the Essie-Modiface partnership marks the first time the Toronto-based AR company has launched an augmented reality tool that uses a phone’s back-facing camera, rather than its front-facing one.

“Modiface has been the leader in beauty tech for over a decade, and thanks to a close partnership with the Essie team, we have again been able to push our artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies to new heights,” Jeff Houghton, Modiface COO, said in a statement. “We are excited to continue collaborating with Essie on reinventing the nail industry.”

Virtual and AR try-on tools have spiked in popularity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as fashion and cosmetics brands sought new, contactless ways to engage customers with their products. In July of last year, Gucci debuted a try-on tool that allowed shoppers to try on and purchase four of the brand’s shoes through Snapchat; the same month, Brookfield, the second-largest shopping mall operator in the US, launched Fit:Match, a 3D fitting tool, at some of its retailers. And earlier this month, Perfect Corp launched an AR try-on tool for eyeglasses.