What Is the Best Lighting for Makeup?

If you really want to look your best, applying your makeup should be more than just a daily chore. When you’re in a rush, brushing on foundation, blush and mascara can either work for you or against you. It depends on what you can see in the mirror. Even when you have time to spare, if you can’t see what others will see when you step into the bright lights at the office or outside in the sunshine, a disappointing discovery might be waiting for you.

Where do you apply your makeup most frequently? Most of us don’t have a dedicated vanity with professional makeup lighting and mirrors with different magnifications to accomplish our daily work of art. Usually it’s a mirror in the bathroom or bedroom with a light on the ceiling or a lamp on a nightstand nearby. Let’s not get into those daring damsels who stroke on some eye shadow and lipstick while looking into the rearview mirror of their cars at a stop light!

Pretty woman applying mascarra in mirror.

The point is that many of us apply our makeup in lighting conditions that don’t reflect how we will look in the environments where we’ll find ourselves throughout the day. If the place where you do your makeup is poorly lit, or lit with the wrong type of lighting, the result of your daily cosmetic application could be, shall we say… yuck! And, it’s very unlikely that anyone, including your friends, is going to mention it.

Scroll on to discover a key secret for applying your makeup to look your absolute best. The solution is simple, and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Let us show you!

The Problem with Poor Lighting

Light has its own set of characteristics that can play tricks with your eyes. It’s more than just intensity or brightness. Bedrooms are often not the brightest rooms in the house—lighting is usually subdued to promote relaxation and sleep. But there are also other qualities of light that can make things look very different depending on how those characteristics reflect on your skin.

Light has a Color of Its Own

Color temperature is a characteristic of light that can create a tint photographers describe as being either warm or cool. Warm light tends to have a red or amber tint, while cool lighting has a blue tone. Light that is passing through a lampshade can take on and cast the color tints of the shade. The effect of color temperature can throw off your judgment when applying your makeup.

Two images of woman applying makeup. One with warm amber lighting and one with cool blue lighting.
Tonal comparison. Left: Warm tone from incandescent light. | Right: Cool tone from fluorescent light.

Fluorescent lights, if unfiltered, tend to cast a harsh, bluish tone that can be very unflattering. Under this light you might tend to apply too much foundation, blush or bronzer to compensate for the bluish tint. On the other hand, some incandescent bulbs have a warm, amber tone that can make you look great, but you might not apply enough makeup to keep that great look in bright daylight or under fluorescents in the office. Some bulbs, especially in bathrooms, create a yellowish tint that can make you look pale and a little sickly. If you’re in a rush and not thinking about it, you might not notice, but it can alter the way you do your makeup. 

Take a look at the kind of bulbs that light up the area where you apply your makeup. Are they the same as those you will be spending your time under throughout the rest of the day or night? Chances are you will find yourself in a variety of lighting conditions on any given day. So, how do you take those variations into consideration? More about that coming up!

The Angle on Lighting for Makeup

Remember how as kids we would place flashlights under our chins in a dark room to create that horror movie look? Well, that’s the best example to prove that the direction from which light travels to reach your face can have a big impact on what you see. Most bathrooms have a light on the ceiling or above the mirror at the sink. The light that reaches your face comes down at an angle from above creating shadows under your eyes and nose. It can make you look older, which means that you might overdo it on the makeup to compensate.

The Best Lighting for Makeup

The most natural light source for doing makeup is the sun, which is not always found in our bedrooms and bathrooms with any consistency. However, if you can set up a mirror near a window or outside on a sunny day, and let that reflected daylight reach your face evenly without shadows, do it! But, direct sunlight tends to be harsh and, if coming in from an angle, will create lots of shadows. The key to success is diffused, natural light reaching your face evenly at eye level. You want sufficient brightness, not glaring intensity, with no shadows. But, how can you get it without relocating and rewiring the lights in your home?

Two images of woman. One in direct light from above with shadows, the other with diffused, even light at eye level.
Left: Direct light from an angle forms deep shadows. | Right: Diffused light at eye level is more even.


Natural Light, Evenly Diffused at Eye Level

Makeup mirrors have come a long way. Originally, they were simply framed, reflective, glass plates affixed to a stand to sit on a vanity, table or countertop. Today, they are more than just makeup mirrors with lights. Contemporary makeup mirrors are engineered for precision cosmetic application with high-quality LED illumination and frosted bulbs that diffuse the light for accurate reflection under different lighting conditions. Some come with adjustable brightness and different color modes. And, they come in various shapes and styles with designer looks to accommodate just about any room décor. A high-quality makeup mirror is a valuable investment if looking your best is important to you. A carefully selected makeup mirror can give you a natural, diffused light source that you can place at eye level for the most evenly illuminated reflection of your face.

How to Choose a Makeup Mirror

Selecting the right makeup mirror is not rocket science. There are just a few key must-haves to keep in mind. And as we mentioned earlier, it really depends on how important looking your best is to you. This will determine how much you are willing to invest. So, what are the absolute requirements for a good makeup mirror?

Size and Shape

Your first considerations should be size and shape. The larger, rectangular and multi-panel mirrors take up a little more space, but they give you a wider overall viewing experience. Some of them tend to have a very modern look with thin white or black framing that can go with any décor. The smaller round and oval mirrors fit nicely on a vanity or bathroom countertop, and you can get a good close-up view of your face. They come in a wide variety of designs and in different finishes, such as chrome, nickel, bronze and lightweight plastic to accent your décor.

Here’s an example of a rectangular design in single panel and 3-panel styles. The Reflections 1x LED Lighted Mirror features a slim, modern design with 1x magnification and an adjustable stand. It has LED light strips on the left and right that run the full length of the mirror for even illumination with touch-panel low, medium and high brightness control, and it runs off a USB power adapter or 4 AAA batteries.

Conair rectangualr makeup mirrors. Single panel and three-panel models.

Another choice with a rectangular design is the 3-panel Illuminations Sleek Vanity Mirror. It features the same modern styling and adjustable LED lighting features as the Reflections 1x, but with the added right and left side panels that fold up for portability. Both are reasonably priced and fit in with almost any room décor.

Magnification

For that fine, detail work, such as shaping eyebrows and applying mascara, a mirror with a magnified surface can be a big help. Most of the pedestal-type mirrors feature a two-sided glass that you can flip or rotate. One side has the standard 1x magnification, while the other side has a magnified surface ranging from 2x to 10x. The degree of magnification is something to consider. If you have a friend with a 2x, 5x or 7x mirror, try it out to see how much magnification you prefer. A 10x magnification mirror can be overwhelming for some, so try to get a feel for what works best for you. If you would like to learn more about mirror magnification, check out the article A Magnifying Mirror Is the Perfect Makeup Mirror.

The Reflections 1x/10x LED Rose Gold Makeup Mirror gives you a wide magnification span—1x for natural viewing and 10x on the flip side for up-close, fine detail work. It has LED lighting around the full circumference of this circular-shaped mirror with a rose gold finish.

Conair makeup mirrors. Round rose gold pedestak mirror and multi-panel rectangular table top mirror.

If magnification interests you, take a look at the Conair Tri-Panel LED Mirror. You have a 1x main panel for standard viewing, with 2x and 3x foldable panels on the sides for more close-up grooming. High-efficiency LED lighting is adjustable to low, medium and high intensities and it’s battery operated.

Lighting

This might be the most important feature to consider when buying a makeup mirror. Trying to do your makeup in poor lighting conditions can affect your appearance, usually in a negative way. So, to avoid the guessing game or simply hoping to get lucky with your makeup application, get a makeup mirror with lights. Position it at eye level to get an even dispersal of light with no shadows on your face.

You want a lighted mirror that produces warm, white, natural light. Long-lasting, lifetime LED lighting is a good choice as are frosted bulbs that diffuse the light evenly. Some more advanced mirrors have adjustable light intensity and color modes so you can see how you will look in various lighting situations.

The iconic makeup mirror of all time must be the one you see in dressing rooms that actors use to prepare for performances in movies or onstage. You’ve seen them. They have light bulbs around the perimeter because even lighting has always been key to doing your makeup right whether you’re getting ready for your close-up or heading out for a candlelight dinner with your significant other.

That’s why Conair developed the Hollywood Glam Mirror. If you want to check your makeup in a variety of light conditions, this is an excellent choice. The frosted bulbs give you a softly diffused natural light that you can adjust to low, medium and high brightness levels. Plus, you can select lighting for home, office or daylight conditions. It can give you the confidence that your makeup will look good no matter where you go. Comes with an AC power adapter and cord.

Conair Hollywood Glam makeup mirror and Reflections portable spot mirror.

Here’s a lightweight and portable mirror with LED lighting that’s perfect for makeup application, precise tweezing and detailed grooming. The Conair Reflections 12x LED Spot Mirror It features 12x magnification and a large suction cup which attaches to any smooth surface, or use the pullout lever to stand it on a table or vanity. It’s compact enough for travel and runs on 3 AAA batteries.

Apply Yourself for the Best Makeup Ever

Ok, now let’s say you have the perfect makeup mirror and you’re ready to get down to business. What can you add to take your makeup routine up another notch? True Glow® by Conair® has developed a collection of advanced makeup applicators and tools that can improve the way you do makeup.

Start with the True Glow® Warming Eye Massager which uses gentle vibration and heat to massage your favorite eye creams and serums into your skin. Within minutes, you’ll feel relaxed and restored, and the skin around your eyes will feel smooth, rejuvenated and glowing! It is the perfect way to prepare your eyes for the perfect serums and creams.

True Glow Warming Eye Massager and True Glow Glam Heated Eyelash Curler

Now there’s a way to make eyelashes appear longer and fuller in just seconds. The True Glow® Glam Heated Eyelash Curler can instantly add lift and volume for an eye-opening, awakening effect to complement any style you choose. It’s perfectly sized for travel or on-the-go touch-ups.

Conair® Skincare is sending you good vibes with the new True Glow Glam Vibrating Makeup Brush Set. The sonic vibrating advantage evenly disperses your makeup in even layers for a flawless, airbrushed-looking finish. It comes with two heads, a makeup sponge for perfect foundation blending and a brush for applying foundation or powder.

True Glow Glam Vibrating Makeup Set and True Glow Glam Vibrating Makeup Blender

And, for a polished, professional makeup appearance, the True Glow® Glam Vibrating Makeup Blender features vibrating action for smooth, even application. The rounded surface is perfect for larger areas, and the pointed tip makes precision blending in hard-to-reach spots effortless. To learn more about the True Glow® Glam line of skincare tools, check out the article Accessible Glam with True Glow® by Conair®.

The Best Makeup Experience Is at Your Fingertips

All of the mirrors and makeup application tools you see in this article are available for purchase at many major retailers and online at the Conair website. Mirrors, makeup tools and much more can be found in the Beauty + Skincare section. Stop by for a visit. We have lots to show you!

* Relative sizes of mirrors shown in images are not represented accurately. Visit the product pages on Conair.com for actual dimensions of each mirror.