Face Value

Classic ideas of beauty have been transformed in the digital era, and in the hands and imagination of 3D-digital artist Ines Alpha, this has been taken to the extreme. With her blend of make-up and technology, she is transforming our notions of what beauty can be.

The idea of beauty, and how we perceive it, is continually evolving. Thanks to certain means such as technology, people are now able to define beauty standards in a totally new way. Phones allow people to have a greater control of their image and what was perhaps considered beautiful centuries ago, or even decades ago, is quickly dissolving into a more inclusive and inventive realm. The greatest painters in history have represented beauty in a way that, although restricted, is perhaps familiar to us, but these standards are changing. Artists around the globe are reconsidering this conventional way of viewing beauty and realising an entirely new beauty trend. One of those artists is 3D-make-up artist extraordinaire, Ines Alpha, a digital artist whose postmodern hybrid of makeup and technology is taking the idea of beauty to the next level.

Ines Alpha began her career working as an art director from 2009 to 2017 in an advertising company that specialised in cosmetics and luxury. During this time she started to experiment with 3D software and to “wonder how 3D elements would look like on a human face, accidentally creating my vision of what would be the future of beauty”. She quickly became freelance, continuing to work on beauty, self-image and face transformation, which led her to be at the forefront of the “three-dimensional digital makeup revolution”. “Working in an advertising company taught me how to present my work, how to make it accessible to everyone and to help people project things that are going to be made in the future” she explains. “But what I am trying to do with 3D makeup,” she continues, “is to push the boundaries of beauty and to have more freedom with my aesthetic, by working on digitalised bodies. It can sound abstract, especially as it presents limitations in terms of using it in the real world, but nowadays people are spending most of their time online and that is their reality. It’s all very digital and it’s all very real. I have always been interested in the idea of creating an augmented reality and 3D makeup is essentially limitless.”

In her art Alpha uses creative ways of mixing beauty with existing digital tools, bringing her inventive ideas into reality and as a result, she has realised a completely new kind of makeup: e-makeup. Can she say what e-makeup, or 3D makeup, is exactly? “It’s simple. It’s make-up but in 3D. You could describe it as elements you add onto your face to transform it, using 3D software. With 3D you can do anything you want,” she explains. “You can create your own reality, play with shapes and textures that simply don’t exist in the IRL world. Using all these new digital tools to experiment with makeup, face-tracking for example, came very naturally to me. The way I see it, makeup is about transforming your face, whether you use foundation, powders, pigments, objects, plastic surgery, filters, or 3D software.” Alpha clearly follows her own rules and has managed to create a particular universe that is inspiring and distinctive. “I think my universe is dream-like because I like to make things that don’t exist in the real world. I like to make versions of reality that are fantastical, and with 3D you can defy the laws of gravity and physics. It’s also super-exciting to imagine that the universe I create could potentially exist in another dimension. And maybe even in the near future as well.” 

By developing e-makeup and creating a distinctive style, Alpha has attracted all kinds of artists and has collaborated with a variety of musicians, models, and brands. She created the visuals for Charli XCX’s latest EP Charli, made 3D make-up augmented reality masks for Nike’s Air Max Plus TN 20th anniversary, and worked with Selfridges on The New Order campaign, interpreting some of their top beauty products in 3D. Other names include Bimba Y Lola, Panteros666 (a frequent collaborator), and @madroni_redclock (“she has her own style, transforms her face into a work of art. Her art could be the make-up of the near future.”). Even the virtual Instagram character Lil Miquela, an AI influencer who has a following of 2 million people, describes Alpha’s creations as “the kind of thing a robot might wear to the Met Gala in the year 3052”.

“I love to collaborate,” Alpha informs me. “To me, there is nothing better in the world than finding the right artistic connection, uniting different skills, styles, and backgrounds. I’m not that keen on working by myself. That’s why I began asking around to see if any artists that I like would be interested in wearing some of my 3D makeup.” For Alpha, makeup is a way of expressing yourself, having fun, and playing around. “I draw inspiration from the people I collaborate with and try to fit their personalities in as much as I can. I like to analyse my collaborators, look for colours, shape, personality traits… I am definitely into makeup that reveals personality” Any dream collaborators? “I would love to collaborate with Björk. That would be a lifetime achievement.” 

Lucky for us, Ines Alpha has also made her work accessible to the public by creating Instagram and Snapchat AR filters, so that “everyone can try them”. She wants people to express themselves and have fun with her designs. “It’s just crazy to see how people can play and tell stories with your creations. I see things I would have never even thought of! I am super happy to be able to democratise my art through different social media platforms and one day I hope that 3D makeup will become a casual look we can see on the streets.” Alpha’s work has undoubtedly opened doors in terms of how we see and experience makeup but it also has a very clear aim: to collectively rise above beauty standards. “They need to evolve.” she urges. “Because we need to live in a world where everyone can feel beautiful.”

Words by Roxanne Nielsen
Artwork by Ines Alpha

Art Credits:
1# Still Life from 3D Makeup Collaboration with @lokidolor (2018)
2# Still Life from 3D Body Makeup Collaboration with @isshehungry (2019)
3# Video of 3D Body Makeup Collaboration with @isshehungry (2019)
4# Still Life from 3D Body Makeup (2020)
5# Video of 3D Body Makeup (2020)
6# Still Life from 3D Makeup Collaboration with @nana_younggrongkim (2018)
7# Still Life from 3D Makeup Collaboration with @kaya_kozo (2019)
8# Video of 3D Makeup Collaboration with @kaya_kozo (2019)
9# Still Life from 3D Makeup Collaboration with @rubyrubygloom (2018)
10# Still Life from 3D Makeup Collaboration with Asung Ko (2019)
11# Still Life from 3D Makeup Present to @lilmiquela (2019)
12# Video of 3D Makeup Collaboration with Asung Ko (2019)
13# Still Life from 3D Makeup Collaboration with @madroni_redclock (2019)
14# Video of 3D Makeup Collaboration with @madroni_redclock (2019)

Music by @panteros666