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Computer cosmetics

Love Scarlett Johansson's crimson lipstick but fear you'd look like a transvestite wearing it? Wish you could try out elegant Audrey Hepburn kohl-lined eyes but can't find the time or spirit to do all that endless application - especially knowing that you'd probably have to scrub it off anyway afterwards because it wouldn't suit you? Whether you're stuck in a make-up rut or simply too busy to experiment with cosmetics, Lancome's new Biometric computer model might just revolutionise your beauty routine.

Using high-tech software so precise that it is utilised by the FBI, Lancome Biometric computer programme enables trained make-up artists to digitally enhance a photographed face with virtual cosmetics, so as to determine the most suitable colours and application methods for that person. "We take an extremely high definition photograph," explains Lancome's PR director Maria Chatziamalou, "and then, using the Biometric software, you can 'try out' all different types of make-up in a way that is neither time-consuming nor tiring. When you are satisfied that you have chosen the best outcome, our make-up artists are then on hand to apply it."

With Greece only the third country in the world in which Lancome has launched Biometric, the company's make-up artists are visiting department stores and larger beauty shops to introduce customers to this innovative new technology. Where cosmetics companies have long offered customers a chance to try out new looks courtesy of in-store make-up artists, Lancome's computerised system cuts down time and effort, enabling a customer to find the products that most flatter her within a matter of minutes, just with a few clicks of the mouse.

Eager to try it out, I succumbed to having my photograph taken in a harsh, bright light, then being forced to look at the resulting snap blown up onto a laptop, with every flaw accentuated and every blemish highlighted. Luckily, before I could get too disturbed by my own face, the make-up artist (bless her) moved on from the preliminary questionnaire, clicked the mouse and, hey presto, suddenly I was several shades more tanned and the spots and freckles had been whisked away. Two clicks later, and the dark circles I'd never noticed around my eyes, nose and mouth had vanished and I had healthy, rosy cheeks.

My eyes and mouth took longer, as we experimented with some colours I'd never dared to try in real life (wisely, as it turned out), but within about five minutes the make-up artist was printing out my 'new look', all pinky-violet eyes (I thought I'd look like a sunburnt piglet but in fact it made my eyes look larger and greener than normal) and juicy raspberry lips.

Along with the printed photo (and the real-life application, if desired), each customer is given a list of the products that were 'used', so that she can choose the correct shades next time she visits her nearest Lancome stockist.