The Best Lighting for Your Makeup Mirror


It can happen to the best of us. You’re applying your make up in the mirror and everything looks flawless – or so you think. Just after you jump in the car to head off to dinner with friends, you pull down sun visor for one last look in the mirror. Much to your dismay, you see that your foundation is uneven and your eye shadow just isn’t quite the color you thought it was. Most likely, these are all symptoms of poor makeup mirror lighting. When it comes to applying makeup, there are a few lighting factors you should always consider.

vanitylighting2Use natural light whenever possible. Natural light is the cheapest and easiest way to get the best lighting for makeup application. If you can, place your vanity stand or mirror close to a window that will allow plenty of natural light to give your face an even, pure wash of illumination. Even though natural light is one of the most unforgiving forms of light in terms of being able to see every imperfection, at least you will know exactly what you’re trying to detract from or enhance.

Look for lighting with a high color rendering index (CRI). How you perceive different colors is extremely important when it comes to makeup. A foundation color may look like it matches your skin tone under a certain light, but if that lighting has a low CRI, you may realize that it doesn’t match at all once you step out into the daylight.  If you normally apply your makeup in the bathroom, make sure your vanity lighting has a high CRI so that you’re able to see the true color of your foundations, eye shadows, etc. As a general rule, try to keep your lighting’s CRI above 80. For lighting with a perfect CRI of 100, you will want to go with incandescent bulbs to light your vanity.

bathroom lightingAvoid using overhead lighting only. Have you ever been in a fitting room and noticed that harsh, overhead lighting accentuates every tiny flaw on your body? The same thing can happen when applying your makeup under a single overhead light. Using only one light source above you will cast accentuate shadows that are created under the eyes or other areas that won’t do your makeup application process any good. One pendant light or flush mount fixture won’t give you the smooth, even illumination you need in order to see all of your face in its best light.

Don’t overdo it on the wattage. When choosing bulbs to use for the area where you usually apply your makeup, remember that high wattage and lumen output does not equal quality makeup lighting. The best lighting for makeup is anything that produces a soft light that isn’t terribly bright. This effect is best produced by lamps that are diffused through shades or glass that you might find on wall sconces or pendant lights.

vanitylightingUse multiple light sources. Even if we can’t all have mirrors surrounded by light bulbs like movie stars do in their dressing rooms, there are still ways to surround your face with light. Using a bathroom vanity fixture with more than one light is one way to achieve more even illumination. But an even better solution is to use light sources on either side of your face. Placing two fixtures on either side of your mirror at eye level will highlight all areas of your face and provide great task lighting.

What are some of your makeup lighting tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comments or write to us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Courtney Silva

Courtney is a Copywriter at 1000Bulbs.com. Check back often for more lighting facts, tips, and updates!

  • Luiza

    This helped me a lot!!

    • Will Parsons

      We’re glad to hear it, Luiza!

  • Will Parsons

    That’s an excellent point. 5000K will give you a much better picture of how you’ll look outside without a negative impact to your appearance under warmer lighting.

  • Alex


    I’m trying to pick out light bulbs for my wife’s vanity setup. I’m going to have lighting above and on sides of mirror since there’s no window for natural lighting.

    The bulb I’m looking at is: 14-Watt (60W) G25 Daylight CFL Light Bulb, 800 lumens, 5000k.

    Could someone let me know if this is the best choice to go with?

    Thank you,


    • Will Parsons

      That bulb fits the bill, Alex. Ideally you want a lamp that is between 800 and 900 lumens at 500K, Just make sure you’re fiving even lighting from around the mirror to reduce shadows.

      • Alex


  • Dawn

    How about one light bulb? Is that enough? And which one should o go with?

    • Will Parsons

      The problem with placing just a single light is that it will cast shadows over your face. So, while you can use a single light as an illuminator, it’s inadvisable because of the number of shadows which change the apparent shape of one’s face.

      Are you looking at having just a single light bulb, or are you considering installing a light strip above the mirror?

      • Dawn

        I have a adjustable lamp that was given to me.

        • Will Parsons

          Then yes, a single lamp can work. While the best thing would be to get a second lamp and place them opposite each other, you can aim the lamp more directly by placing it slightly between yourself and the mirror, which is not normally possibly with vanity lights. The more direct the light is, the less you will have to worry about shadows.

          For the bulb itself you’ll want to go with a high CRI bulb that’s as close to natural lighting as possible. As harsh as a 5000 or 5500K bulb can be, their close enough to natural light to give you a good approximation of what you’ll look like outside during the day.

          • Dawn


  • Ian

    How about LED bulbs? They come in 3000K or 5700K color temperature. Would you advise using these?

    • jbanke

      Hi Ian! Yes, LED bulbs will work perfectly. We recommend a higher color temperature, but maybe not as high as 5700K (4000K-5000K would be ideal). Be sure to check the CRI of the bulb as well – above 80 will make sure your makeup colors are accurately rendered. Hope this helps!

      • Ian