Pick the Perfect Light

Pick the Perfect Light

How does a perfectly made-up face in the mirror morph into a clown face in the light of day? Overly bright vanity lights create a washed-out appearance and are often to blame for heavy-handed makeup applications, lighting experts say. Dim lighting can lead to amateurish results as well.

Ideally, vanity lighting should illuminate from the top and both sides of the mirror, as an overhead fixture alone casts unflattering shadows beneath the eyes, cheeks and chin, says interior designer Sarah Barnard, of Santa Barbara, Calif.

Wall sconces or pendant lights 36 to 40 inches apart at eye level provides this balanced light. Fixtures with frosted shades also prevent shadows and cast a flattering, even glow. Generally, light globes with an opening at the bottom direct the light downward for better illumination.

Dimmers make it possible to adjust the relationship and perfect the balance between the ambient light in the room and the vanity lighting.

The “color” and “temperature” of the light source affect what people see in the mirror, too. “Warm, soft lighting is what makes people look good. Avoiding harsh or cold lighting is of paramount importance in relation to your personal appearance,” says celebrity photographer and hotel designer Matthew Rolston, who has “lit” the likes of Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Beyoncé. “Never use cold blue light.”

Rolston disdains fluorescent lighting as “ugly and unhealthful.” However, energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps with a Color Rendering Index of 80 or above and a color temperature between 2700 and 3000 degrees Kelvin (as indicated on the box) are close to the quality of light produced by incandescent bulbs.

There are also LED fixtures and lamps available now with a warm color temperature and “tremendous energy savings,” Barnard says.

A dressing room also requires adequate illumination, including overhead and task lighting, for the activities and decision-making that take place in the space. Add a showy fixture such as a chandelier or swag lamp for glamor and drama.


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