Considering the fact that the twin crises of the coronavirus and climate change continue to unfold side-by-side, “there is no way you cannot raise the question of sustainability” in coronavirus safety protocols, Gaillard muses. “We’ve seen a lot of brands using glass samples, and that’s great” — glass is infinitely recyclable, whereas the same piece of plastic can only be recycled once or twice — “but there’s always going to be a cap or something that’s plastic, because you can’t do a glass cap. But it’s getting better.”Still, as detrimental to the environment as individually-packaged samples may be, they could help curb another eco-unfriendly beauty behavior: returns. “People in the United States return a lot,” Gaillard says; and in the swatchless wake of COVID-19, consumers may be even more inclined to purchase full-size products and simply return those that don’t live up to expectations. The problem: Many retailers resort to “damaging out” or destroying returned items due to contamination concerns, effectively sending thousands upon thousands of new and slightly-used products straight to the landfill.In this sense, the mindful and calculated creation of as-sustainable-as possible samples could divert some of that waste, according to Gaillard. “We never push clients to buy something, we push them to try something,” he says. “When you sample, you’re less likely to return products.”Artificial Intelligence will thriveThere is one option that’s equal parts safe and sustainable: Artificial Intelligence (AI). “I think one thing that the pandemic has done has been to force different sectors of society to think creatively about how they can still reach their consumers, and we’re seeing a lot of sectors of society using virtual ways of communication with their clientele,” Elbuluk observes.Ulta Beauty is taking the opportunity to push GLAMlab, “our interactive virtual try-on experience in the Ulta Beauty app,” it explains on its site, as “a convenient, safe alternative” to physical shade swatching. Sephora is encouraging the use of its Virtual Artist AR, which can be downloaded as an app on your phone and facilitates at-home “testing,” shade matching, and product education.The L’Oréal Paris Makeup Genius app offers similar features for those looking to digitally sample more affordable, accessible options; and the YouCam Makeup app is seeing “record-high activity” during stay-at-home orders.There may be a beauty box renaissance”I’m probably going to get the majority of my beauty samples from the packets that come in the mail from Nordstrom,” jokes Pierre — but it’s fair to assume others are on the same page. Those not willing to risk in-store sampling or commit to full-size products sight-unseen may start to consider subscription boxes that deliver sample-sized beauty products to your door.With so many no-touch or low-touch alternatives available, will shoppers ever go back to swatching, swiping, and slathering with abandon? “No, I don’t see it returning to popularity in the near future, nor do I feel it would be safe to do so,” Ebuluk states. “It’s really hard to predict how our society will evolve, but we’re not at the point where we’re in the clear from the pandemic. My recommendation at this time would be not to sample.”Read more about COVID-19’s effects on the beauty industry:Done reading? Now, watch Loren Gray’s 10-minute makeup routine:You can follow Allure on Instagram and Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on all things beauty.