How to create the best makeup lighting

October 29, 2021

Light can be your best friend or your greatest enemy when it comes to applying makeup. If the room is too dark or too bright, you can easily use the wrong colors. 

Since no one wants a face full of poorly blended foundation, make sure that your makeup light is right with these tips.

Set your makeup table in front of natural light 

If you do your makeup in a room with a window that gets plenty of natural sunlight, set up your table and mirror in front of the window, not next to or opposite it. When you position your table in any other position rather than in front of it, you'll get shadows — and shadows lead to uneven blending.

If you can't set up your makeup mirror in an ideal position, cover the window with curtains or blinds when the light just isn't right. Though natural light is flattering, it's better to replace it with artificial light instead of competing with shadows.

Use the right type of light bulb for your makeup lighting 

When your makeup space doesn't have the ideal natural lighting, artificial light is the best solution. But with so many options for light bulbs — incandescent, fluorescent, LED — finding the best setup can take some know-how.

Incandescent bulbs are one of the most used, but not only do they emit heat (and no one wants melted makeup and a sweaty face), their color and temperature are fixed at certain settings. Incandescent bulbs emit a warm white light, which is ideal for makeup, but they're not environmentally friendly and they can be costly in the long run.

Woman looking into a Philips Hue Adore bathroom mirror

Fluorescent lights are, arguably, the most unflattering light for makeup. They're the bane of any makeup artist's existence — they highlight flaws and hide your best features.

LED lights are the clear winner. Energy efficient and often dimmable, LED lights are bright enough to give you a clear view of your face while providing even lighting. An even better choice are smart LED lights that can be adjusted from warm to cool white light (such as the Philips Hue White ambiance line) so that you can get the exact shade of light and brightness you need.

Bulbs for makeup vanity lights

If you want to use a Hollywood mirror or a vanity mirror with just one row of bulbs at the top, it is important that you make sure you are using the right light bulbs.

There are four areas to consider when choosing the right vanity light bulb:

Heat: With so many bulbs, you will want to minimize the heat of the light bulb to avoid melting makeup and a sweaty face.

Brightness: A too-bright bulb may be worse than a dim one. You are looking directly into the direction of the light source, so it should be bright enough to see without hurting your eyes. 

Color: Soft white light, just at the start of turning cool, is ideal for makeup. Since natural daylight is the best type of light, a bulb that matches this color is best choice.

Energy efficiency: A large vanity mirror with built-in bulbs will, obviously, use more energy than a single lamp. 

Again, LED is the clear choice. They won’t emit heat, are easily dimmable, offer a wide range of colors, and are more energy efficient — especially smart bulbs.

Philips Hue Adore mirror placed above bathroom sink

Positioning your LED makeup lights

Just as you would position your makeup table in front of a window, position your LED makeup lights directly in front of your face. This ensures even distribution and eliminates the chance of shadows. If you have an overhead ceiling light — as most spaces do — turn it off while doing your makeup and use only the lights you have set up at your makeup table. 

Bright idea: Save time on installing all those light bulbs and instead use the Adore vanity mirror, which eliminates the need for a bulb and instead provides a seamless ring of warm to cool white light.

Multiple makeup lighting fixtures

If you are using lamps, the type of light you choose depends on the space you have your vanity on or alongside it. The light source should be ideally at face level, as you will get shadows if placed above or below.

A lamp set on the table is the ideal choice if your mirror does not have integrated bulbs. An adjustable head allows you to point the light directly where you need it and eliminate any shadows.

If using a standard lamp, consider placing two instead of just one, with one each in front and at either side of you to cast a more even light across your face. If you do not have space for lamps on your vanity, choose a floor lamp with a light source at face level.