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For turning screens into applicator brushes.

Brush stroke: The Makeup Genius app lets users digitally apply more than 500 products.

The $30.5 billion cosmetics giant L’Oréal is smartly investing in a future where makeup isn’t sold predominantly amid the hawking din of department store cosmetics counters. Last June, L’Oréal’s US-based tech lab launched its first product, an app called Makeup ­Genius, which uses a phone’s front-facing camera to host the digital equivalent of a counter-side makeover. It recruited the firm behind many jaw dropping visuals in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to create startlingly realistic effects when users move and pucker. “Seeing is believing,” says Guive Balooch, Global VP of L’Oréal’s Connected Beauty Incubator. (Consumers downloaded the app more than 1.4 million times.)

It’s just one of the ways L’Oréal stays au courant. To appeal directly to You­Tubers, L’Oréal gave video star ­Michelle Phan her own line, Em-Cosmetics, and acquired cult-favorite brand NYX Cosmetics after it became favored among a wide swath of video bloggers who routinely mention and wear it—something L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon calls an “inspiration.”

[Photo: Jessica Haye & Clark Hsiao, Hair: Makiko Nara, Walter Schupfer Management; Makeup: Will Lemon, Bridge]