Makeup » What’s the Best Lighting for Makeup Application (and the Worst)?

What’s the Best Lighting for Makeup Application (and the Worst)?

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  • Natural light is the best lighting for makeup application.
  • LEDs are the best mirror lights for makeup application since they closely reproduce the natural light color spectrum.

Has it ever happened to you that you just applied your makeup so flawlessly only to walk out the door and notice all the imperfections? Earlier, we briefly touched on why temperature and lighting are important considerations when buying the right vanity mirror. But let’s dig deeper into why lighting matters so much when it comes to proper makeup application and discover the best lighting for makeup.

In this article:

Why Is Lighting Important?

The tl;dr answer is that lighting can act like a magic trick that either blurs or exaggerates imperfections. And while some of those tricks are great for softening texture when you’re taking pictures, they can make it harder to properly apply makeup so that it looks natural when you’re outside.

The temperature (color) that a light emits can change what you think you’re seeing. And naturally, impact how you apply your makeup. Bathroom lighting, in particular, is a common culprit of giving the impression that you applied your makeup properly, only to look completely different when you leave your home.

The Best Lighting for Makeup Application

If you can’t realistically apply makeup in natural (outside) light, then LEDs are the next best thing because it so closely reproduces the natural light color spectrum. So, even if you don’t opt for a vanity mirror, simply swapping out the bulbs in your bathroom from incandescent bulbs to LEDs can be very helpful.

Position Matters

It’s not enough to just swap out incandescent bulbs for LEDs. You also need to be mindful of their placement. Specifically, proper makeup lighting should face you head-on with no overhead angles. This guarantees that there are no shadows, and no chance of you trying to correct imperfections that aren’t there.

The Worst Lighting for Makeup Application

Many offending lights should be avoided if you’re specifically creating a makeup vanity – whether in your bathroom, bedroom, or a studio.

Fluorescent Lighting

As a general rule, avoid fluorescent lighting for makeup application. Just like in the dressing room, fluorescent lighting is not your friend and will lead you to apply more makeup than necessary to compensate for “imperfections” being highlighted that might not be there. Makeup errors, such as over-applying foundation, bronzer, and blush, are more likely to happen under fluorescent light because it washes you out.

Yellow Lighting

Yellow light is great for shaving, but for makeup, it’s a major no-no. Once again, it creates the illusion of imperfections – specifically dark circles and spots – leading to excessive concealer and powder use.

Pink Lighting

Whereas fluorescent and yellow lighting might exaggerate imperfections, a nice rosy light can make you think you need less makeup. While we’re not saying you need to slather it on thick, you also don’t want to leave the house with your makeup looking incomplete. Use pink lights for that perfect Instagram selfie, but stick to cool white light for makeup applications.

How to Choose Mirror Lights for Makeup

Overhead Lighting

Unless you want to see every line, wrinkle or imperfection magnified, avoid applying makeup under lighting positioned directly overhead. Overhead lighting creates weird shadows that can cause you to overcompensate with makeup when it’s not necessary.

Makeup Lighting Dos & Don’ts to Follow

Now that you know which lights to avoid, are there any other tips that can help you score the perfect makeup application? The answer is yes. It turns out that depending on the type of lighting you might encounter, you should switch up your product choice to create a flawless look in any light setting.

Midday Light Tends to Be the Harshest

Yes, the bulk of the daylight hours can be the least forgiving and most likely to highlight any flaws if you have them. And the more product you apply, the more texture you run the risk of creating.

Lighted Makeup Mirror Tips

Cloudy Days

Cloudy days are pretty forgiving because they create soft, diffused lighting that’s the most flattering. While you still shouldn’t be heavy-handed, these days are great for upping your look with a light contour and highlight.

  • Pick foundations that are luminous or dewy and avoid matte finishes.
  • Cloudy days are perfect for big dramatic lashes.

Soft Nighttime Lighting

If there was ever a light that was perfect for any makeup look, nighttime lighting, such as street lamps and exterior lights, is the answer. These lights pair well with almost any makeup application, especially bolder looks.

  • Choose light-reflecting under-eye concealers.
  • Apply contour gently.

Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lighting is a tricky one, as this is a universally unflattering light source that casts shadows.

  • Avoid matte finishes and choose dewy and luminous products to help bring life back to your features.
  • Focus on accent makeup, like blush and bronzer to infuse color.

Late Afternoon Lighting

Also known as “golden hour,” this includes anywhere from 3 PM to sunset and is considered universally flattering and forgiving for almost all makeup application techniques.

  • Avoid heavy-handed applications of any face makeup.
Makeup Lighting Dos & Don'ts

Low Interior Lighting

This can include dimly lit restaurants or night venues like bars and clubs. These spaces are perfect if you want a “go bold or go home look,” as the darker lighting will complement those makeup looks that need to compensate for the generally minimal lighting.

  • Avoid barely-there looks, as the darker lighting will make it appear as if you’re not wearing makeup at all.
  • Highlight is best paired with low lighting because it helps to bring out key areas of your face.
  • If you know you’re going to be spending time in low lighting, it’s okay to be a bit more heavy-handed in your application to counteract the minimal lighting and ensure your look is visible to others.

Photos via @piperarielle, Instagram