The Best Bathroom Lights for Applying Makeup

Illuminate your look with the best bathroom light options.

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If you've ever caught a glimpse of your freshly made face in your rearview car mirror, you know the risk you're taking with insufficient bathroom lighting. If your vanity lighting isn't cutting it, you might think your makeup is looking fly when you leave the house, but as soon as you hit some natural light or harsh office lighting, all those little flaws and imperfections take the spotlight. The best bathroom lighting ensures that you'll be perfection in every light.

Keeping It Natural

When it comes to applying makeup, natural light is almost always going to get you the best results. Natural light from a window or skylight is naturally diffused, even and accurately illuminates your skin tone so you won't end up looking blotchy or discolored. Celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes advocates incorporating natural lighting from a skylight or small window into your vanity lighting for the best makeup applications. His one caveat: Don't apply makeup in harsh, direct sunlight because you'll likely end up caking on more makeup than you need to. If the sun in your bathroom is too bright, get some sexy, sheer curtains to tone down the intensity when it's time to put on your makeup.

Best of the Bulbs

Light bulbs cast different kinds of light, and the wrong bulb will leave you with tricky shadows and unnatural coloring that make makeup a major pain. Interior designer Susan Breen writes in "Creating Your Dream Bathroom" that fluorescent lights can be too harsh, but color-corrected fluorescent lights use a filter that tones down light so you keep the brightness but ditch the risk of overexposure. If you think fluorescents are washing you out, architect Thomas Arnold tells Cincinnati Magazine that a combo of both fluorescent and halogen bulbs set on dimmer switches gives you ultimate control of your vanity lighting for applying makeup.

Where to Stick 'Em

Recessed lighting may be the current trend for modern bathrooms, but flush lights are going to cast wonky shadows on your face when you're trying to get beautiful. Susan Arnold, staff writer for This Old House magazine, stresses the importance of using layers of light to keep everything even. Mounted fixtures above the vanity aren't enough to provide adequate light, but pair them with eye-level sconces on the sides of your vanity and you've created all-over lighting that won't leave a single space on your face in the dark. Still worried you won't be covered? Install a single light on a flexible arm so you can bring the light wherever you need it when its makeup time.

Professional Lighting

Professional makeup lighting is typically built right into the mirror. You probably won't be able to find a mounted makeup mirror with built-in lighting unless you head to a professional trade show, but you can recreate the effect with vertical and horizontal strip lighting around your mirror. Interior designer Diane Dorrans Saeks suggests in "Bathrooms" that you mount strips of small halogen bulbs across the top and along each side of your vanity to recreate the "professional lighting" effect used by makeup artists. Not only will you get even light for the best application, but you can indulge you inner diva and pretend you're in your boudoir dressing room while you get ready in the morning.

Related Videos




"About Face: Amazing Transformations Using the Secrets of the Top Celebrity Makeup Artist"; Scott Barnes; 2010
"Creating Your Dream Bathroom"; Susan Breenl 2006 Cincinnati Magazine; Work Lights; Lisa Murtha; January 1998 This Old House; A Lesson in Bathroom Lighting; Susan Arnold
"Bathrooms"; Diane Dorrans Saeks; 1998

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