Is LED Lighting Good For Applying Makeup?

If you ask any makeup artist or beauty guru about the difference between good makeup application and bad makeup application, the chances are that they will say the same thing: lighting.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on a limited edition Jeffree Star palette or a sold-out Kylie Cosmetics lipstick. None of this matters if you don’t have a flattering lighting setup during makeup application.

Think of your face as a canvas and makeup as your toolkit – how can you ensure that your artistry is getting the foundation it deserves?

LED lights are ideal for makeup application because they are the closest alternative to natural sunlight. They have good CRIs and come in a variety of color temperatures. This means that LEDs will make skin appear radiant and guarantee that you achieve a seamless blend.

If you spend a lot of time on Instagram, you will have seen influencers using Hollywood mirrors, box lights, and ring lights during their daily makeup routines.

While the lighting fixture you choose can help to transform a makeup look, it’s the bulb used inside these fixtures that is the real star of the show.

When selecting a light bulb for your beauty room or makeup vanity, there are lots of different things to consider – lumens, CRI, color temperature, the list goes on.

I know this terminology seems daunting, but I promise it’s simple. Keep reading for some easy tips and tricks on what to look out for!

Why Is Lighting Important In Makeup?

In the infamous words of superstar Mariah Carey, bad lighting is toxic”.

I’m sure you’ll agree that lighting can either be your best friend or worst enemy. Even the best makeup can look cakey under certain lights.

So it goes without saying that lighting has a significant influence on the quantity and color of the makeup you apply.

Without adequate brightness, your skin will appear dull and dark shadows, such as under-eye bags, will be exaggerated. As a result, you’re likely to overcompensate with foundation and concealer by applying more than you need.

Dark lighting will also make it harder to see whether your base makeup is blended correctly. So you may notice yourself leaving the house with a streaky foundation.

Furthermore, poor lighting affects how you see colors. The pink blush that you thought was subtle? Well, it actually looks like clown makeup under natural sunlight.

What Type Of Light Is Good For Applying Makeup?

With that in mind, you may be wondering what kind of light will ensure that every day is a good makeup day?

Let’s start with what to avoid. If you only take one thing away from this article, make sure it’s this: fluorescent lights are the worst type of light to use for makeup application.

You may be drawn to the level of brightness they offer, but fluorescent lights are way too bright for makeup application. Not only will they wash out your skin and make it appear lifeless, but fluorescent lights will also enhance your flaws.

Together this means you’re more likely to over apply your makeup when you don’t necessarily need it.

So what’s the alternative? There’s a reason why so many people prefer to take selfies during the ‘golden hour.’ It’s because natural sunlight is undeniably flattering.

Warm, natural daylight is ideal for makeup application as it provides the most accurate reflection of your face.

Under natural light, your face will appear clear yet evenly diffused, which will allow you to spot any flaws that need covering.

But of course, warm daylight is not available on demand. Is there an artificial light source that can be used as an alternative to sunlight during the evening or on cloudy days?

Warm white LEDs are the next best thing to natural sunlight.

This is because, like the sun, LEDs produce a spread of light that contains visible light, infrared waves, and ultraviolet waves.

If you want to take this one step further, smart LEDs are even better. These bulbs are dimmable and can be adjusted to emit warmer or cooler white light.

This is perfect if you want to test how your makeup will look at different times of the day.

Probably the most popular smart LED light so far is Philips Hue (Amazon). You can easily control it via phone and play with temperatures to see exactly how you look.

Color Rendering Index Role When Applying Makeup

So when you’re purchasing lights for your makeup setup, step one is to look for LEDs. Will any LED bulb be good enough, or is there more to it?

It’s also important to consider the color rendering index (CRI) of the LED. CRI is a measure of a light source’s ability to show colors realistically.

When it comes to makeup, bulbs with a low CRI will not portray colors accurately. This means it will be more challenging to select a foundation shade that matches your skin tone, or lipstick that compliments the dress you’re wearing.

Color is highly important for makeup application. So it goes without saying that the higher the CRI, the better.

As a general rule, I recommend LEDs with a CRI of at least 90 for makeup application, just like this set of bulbs on Amazon. Though preferably, opt for bulbs with a score between 95 and 97.

A high CRI will guarantee that you can see eyeshadow colors accurately, and can spot fine details and imperfections.

What Color Temperature Is Most Flattering?

The final thing to pay attention to is color temperature. That is the warmth or coolness of a white light, measured in degrees Kelvin (K).

How does color temperature impact makeup application?

To put it simply, the warmer a bulb is, the more yellow-toned it will be. Yellow light has an unflattering effect on the skin, making it look lackluster, tired, sick.

If you apply makeup under warm yellow light, you’ll probably find yourself going overboard with foundation and powder in an attempt to neutralize this.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, cool blue-toned bulbs are equally as bad. Blue-toned light will bounce off any red areas on your face, such as acne or rosacea.

As a result, you’re likely to pile on color corrector and concealer to camouflage this. But in reality, when you step into natural daylight, the result is a cakey mess.

Makeup lighting needs to sit somewhere in the middle. In other words, it shouldn’t be too cool or too warm. Therefore, I recommend choosing a bulb with a color temperature between 4000 and 5000K.

Final Words

If you’ve ever noticed that your makeup looks stunning in the bathroom mirror but atrocious in the elevator mirror, the chances are you’ve been a victim of poor lighting.

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Thankfully, the solution is simple: high CRI, white LEDs!

Has poor lighting caused you to have any makeup disasters before? What color temperature do you find most flattering on your skin?

Leave a comment down below!

4 thoughts on “Is LED Lighting Good For Applying Makeup?”

    • Hi Sandra,

      I don’t have a separate article about portable makeup mirror. But I have briefly recommended a mirror in this post.


  1. Hello I enjoyed your blog and I would like to know if you can recommend a lighted makeup mirror that meets the specification of light that you mentioned in your article your article
    Thank you

    • Hi Sandra,

      I have included a link in my article to the mirror light, so you can have a look. As I said before always try to aim for CRI 90+ and warmer colors rather than cold LED colors.


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