Perfect Makeup Application is All in the Lighting

Shannon Farrell
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Photo: ImaxTree

Have you ever left the house and found your makeup looks completely different in the sunlight than it did in your bathroom? You have learned the most important beauty lesson of all: lighting really matters. We all may not be lucky enough to have a professionally-lit vanity to sit at while we do our makeup in the morning, but we can definitely improve our lighting situations.

“Most bathroom lighting has a yellow tint to it,” says Jessica Scantlin, Blushington’s head makeup artist, who we consulted about our makeup lighting woes. “Also, in some bathrooms there are windows that highlight only part of your face, causing the makeup to look a bit different on each side.”

Your best bet is applying makeup in natural light. “The sun gives you the most realistic view as to how your makeup will look because it gives the most balanced light.” Make sure you face the light, whether that’s the sun itself or the window where the light comes in, to ensure that your face is lit evenly.

If natural lighting isn’t available, Scantlin recommends warm white light from a  75-100 watt bulb. “It’s the most flattering as long as you have it covering your entire face so it creates balance.” This incandescent light creates a warm golden color to the complexion which ensures you don’t over-apply bronzer or powder. Also look for the Color Rendering Index (CRI) number on the package. A bulb with a CRI of 90 or higher is similar to natural light. But placement is key: make sure the light shines on your face directly from the front, never the side or (god forbid!) behind you.

LED lights also work, as their illumination is very similar to the sun’s. “Makeup mirrors with LED lights are great if you don’t have natural lighting. You can also carry them with you,” says Scantlin. If you need to highlight a certain part of the face, having the freedom to focus light where needed makes a huge difference.

Speaking of focusing: mirrors that have LED lights often have a flipside that magnifies. Magnification—whether through glasses a la Karlie’s artist, or in a mirror—offers the perfect visual for detailed cosmetic application, like swiping symmetrical cat eyes or lining lips. However, Scantlin warns against using magnifying mirrors when plucking eyebrows. “With a magnifying mirror, you will be able to see baby hair growth and tweeze them instead of the stray hairs.” This leads to over plucking, and full brows are in!

Finally, for an accurate idea of how your makeup will look at night as opposed to day, install a dimming outlet in the room where you get ready. What looks good in candlelight may look very different in a brightly-lit room, and nobody wants to stumble into some bad lighting. What would Cher say?

clueless bad lighting gif

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