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How lighting affects makeup

Updated July 19, 2017

Correct lighting when applying make-up can mean the difference between looking beautiful or looking like a clown. It's always best to apply make-up in the same light in which you will be wearing it. Most homes have a variety of light sources; however, moving all your supplies to apply make-up in just the right light is not always convenient. There are other ways to apply make-up for a specific lighting source.

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At the Office

Office buildings are lit with harsh fluorescent lights that emit a blue hue. It tends to make colours look sharp. Wear sheer, natural colours and neutral hues.

At Home

Most homes are lit with incandescent bulbs, which tend to have a yellowish-red hue. This light softens colours and helps to hide flaws. Make-up should be a little brighter and bolder than that worn under fluorescent light, but it should continue to remain neutral and soft.


Apply make-up with bold contrasting colours for evening. Most restaurants are dimly lit--some with only candlelight--in the evening. Pale or neutral colours could make you look washed out.

Late Night

Have fun with extremely bold colours and styles. Late night parties and club activity is a time for drama.

Extremely Bright Natural Light

Wear very little make-up and keep it neutral when exposed to extremely bright light, such as the beach. A sunscreen with a high SPF, a little powder, blush, mascara and lipstick is all you need.

Stage, Television and Camera

The harsh lighting on stage, television or in front of a camera can highlight flaws and even cause you to look worse than you normally do. Cyber College has a few tips for applying make-up to look your best in front of an audience. The site recommends that you start with a freshly cleaned face. Oils on the skin can be noticeable under the bright lights. Then, apply foundation with a wet make-up sponge to the face, neck and ears. Use a powder that matches well with your skin tone to further disguise oils. Apply eye shadow, liner and mascara. Curl the lashes or consider using false eyelashes. Be careful when using blush and lip colour. According to Cyber College, some lip and cheek colours can take on a blue shade under the harsh lights. Try a red shade that coordinates well with your skin tone. Apply make-up under the same lighting conditions that you will have on stage or in the studio. If that's not possible, at least check your make-up under those lights and adjust accordingly.

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About the Author

Kelly Woods began her career as a newspaper reporter in 1998. Her beats included education and city government. She currently writes for eHow and Answerbag. She received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Ala. Her Master of Education is from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn.

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