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Why is lighting important for make up application?

By Nikki Lalor For Spectrum
PUBLISHED: November 24, 2017

Why is lighting important for make up application?

As Mariah Carey simply puts, “Bad lighting is toxic”. Every make up artist and hair stylist swears by good lighting and admit the majority of their business budget is invested in good lighting.


Light is incredibly important when applying makeup. It illuminates your face just right to help you make the right choice of colour to apply on your face as well as the amount to apply. You will be able to select the best lipstick and the right eye shade.


But this is only possible when you are using the right type of light. Get it wrong and you’ll probably apply too much. While it may look okay in the mirror, it’s going to be a completely different story when you step outside. This can be a real deal breaker and will definitely affect your mood for the rest of the day.

So, what is the best type of light? Firstly, it’s good to understand that light as we know it is a combination of red, blue and green. When these three colors mix they create white light. This is the type of light that we all need to apply make up in the best way possible.


prism-light-rainbowVisible light (also known as white light) when passed through a triangular prism refracts into 6 main colours i.e red, blue, orange, green, violet and yellow. The separation of the white light into different colours is called dispersion



Nothing beats natural light. It is clear and the even diffusion allows you to see every aspect of your face. With this light, you will be able to apply just the right amount of makeup and select the right colour and shades for the day. 



Natural light through a window is commonly used in fashion and lifestyle photography as it is evenly diffused like a studio soft box light.  


What happens if natural light is not available? The alternative is a white light produced via LED (light-emitting diode). When shopping for a light, find one with a Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of 90 or higher which is closest to natural light. Spectrum offers a great option with their ring lights which have a CRI of 95. Used by top-end professional makeup artists, it has an adjustable colour temperature and brightness setting. And if you leave it on long enough, the light doesn’t get too hot.


The Spectrum Aurora ring light is an LED light perfect for make up artists, hair salons, brow specialists, lash specialists, tattooist. It is used for during studio or salon work and after for photography. It creates a "wrap around effect" eliminating any unwanted shadows for full glow. 


If you are interested in a makeup mirror with bulbs, a 75-100 watt bulb is recommended. It illuminates a golden colour which will prevent over application of powder or bronzer.


The CRI (Colour Rendering Index) is a scale from 1 to 100 that measures the ability of a light source to accurately show the true colours of an object compared to a natural light. The higher the CRI number the better the representation of colours of the object being lit. 


Light Position matters
Lighting should be placed directly in front of your face. Any lighting above your head such as down lighting is not ideal. It will shine down on pigmentation, wrinkles and will cast a shadow causing you to apply too much make up on.


The best way to light up your face for make up application is positioning the light right in front of the face (not above or below) and a white light is best like the Spectrum Aurora ring light with a CRI of >95 shown in the right image. 

Yellow Lighting
Yellow light simply lacks the clarity and brightness needed. This type of lighting can make you look tired and ill and this results in you putting on too much make up. When you step outside, let’s just say you won’t have the same look (oops)!

Rose coloured lighting
Rose light tends to give off a bit of heat which will warm up your skin and appear vibrant and healthy. Due to this healthy glow in this lighting, you may miss some spots and blemishes and forget to apply concealer in these areas.  

Fluorescent lighting
As quoted by lighting expert, Sarah Knight “I would say the fluorescent lighting is the worst.  The imperfections on your face don’t show up properly”. This type of lighting is unflattering and overly bright. It results in over applying your foundation, bronzer, powder or blush.

clueless gif bad lighting meme

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) from the 1995 cult film, Clueless quotes about bad lighting as a reason for her misfortune.



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