Total Image Consultants

Nurturing Beauty Style Secrets Blog

Are You Getting Dressed in the Dark?

When I travel one of my pet peeves is hotel bathroom mirrors! There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these were designed by men who never have to apply makeup and never look in the mirror.

Invariably, I try getting super close up or several feet back to see if I can get the overhead lighting to be a bit more forgiving. I inevitably give up and go to the mirror over the desk in the bedroom or grab a hand mirror (if it’s daytime) and go to the window.

What’s up with that?

It should not be nearly so complicated to apply a little makeup! I hate leaving the room wondering if I look scary or not!

And, it’s not just makeup that can be affected. If you’ve ever tried matching colors in a dark room or if you’ve ever left the house wearing one navy and one black sock or shoe then you know what I mean. With inadequate lighting colors aren’t always what they seem and often you don’t realize it until it’s too late to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, so many women settle for the equivalent of hotel bathroom mirrors every day when they get dressed and put on their makeup. If you’ve been putting on your makeup in the dark you’ll be surprised by the difference when you have better light and can actually see what you are doing. You’ll apply your makeup faster and seemingly effortlessly compared to squinting and doing various facial acrobatics just to put on your makeup!

Here are a few tips to keep you from looking like you got dressed in the dark:

Use natural light whenever possible. The absolute best lighting for getting dressed or putting on your makeup is natural light. It allows you to see everything absolutely clearly. No more wondering if your blush is blended well or the powder under your eyes is accentuating any lines. You’ll know for sure. It can seem a bit unforgiving at first but if you like the way you look in natural light you’ll love it everywhere else.

Unfortunately, it is not always feasible or convenient to use natural light since not all bathrooms have access to a window and many closets (and even bedrooms) are very dark. Not to mention that on a cloudy day natural light is pretty much unavailable. Whenever you do have access to natural light, use it — even if it means taking a hand mirror over to the window to check your makeup and outfit before leaving the house. Hint: When evaluating your makeup or clothing in a hand mirror in front of a window, always face the window. You’ll get a splash of natural light on your face and can see everything clearly.

Banish overhead lighting. Because it is over your head it casts shadows giving you dark circles and basically make it nearly impossible to see what you are doing – at least with any degree of confidence. It lights the room but it doesn’t allow you to see your face clearly and without that ability you feel frustrated – or just tired after seeing all those light-enhanced dark circles. It’s easy then to overcompensate by applying more under eye concealer than you actually need.

You don’t have to tear out all the existing lighting in your bathroom (although that would certainly be ideal) and start over. Nope, you can keep what’s there but just do your makeup elsewhere. Instead, invest in a lighted makeup mirror and set it on your bedroom dresser or vanity in your bathroom – wherever it’s convenient. They generally have a “daylight” setting and that will give clean, clear, even light for applying your makeup. (Just be sure you don’t position it directly under an overhead light or next to a table lamp or as these can adversely affect the light from the makeup mirror.)

Change your lightbulbs. Even if your bathroom vanity mirror is lit from the side, you’ll want to check on what type of lightbulbs you are using. Most incandescent bulbs cast a yellow glow which is also not helpful in evaluating color and let’s not even talk about most fluorescent bulbs which make us all look slightly green. Can it really affect what you see that much? Let me share an experience I had that drove this point home.

One day many years ago I stopped at the cosmetic counter to buy some nail polish. I wanted a coral color and found just what I wanted pretty quickly. I couldn’t wait to get home to wear it. As I stepped out of the store into daylight I took the polish out of the bag to look at it again. Imagine my shock and disappointment when the color turned out to be bright cotton candy pink not coral as I had thought? I immediately returned the nail polish but this was a real eye opening experience for me. Indoor lights can fool your eye and most store lighting adds a touch of yellow or green to everything in there.

Whether we are talking about applying makeup in your bathroom or getting dressed in your bathroom or walk-in closet, the best option is full-spectrum or halogen lighting which directly mimics natural light.

Of course, we can only control the lighting in our own home not what we find in stores or dressing rooms. It always amazes me that most stores do not pay more attention to how a dressing room is lit. Do we really want to see every inch of cellulite or look overly tired because of the shadows the overhead lights cast? It can be disturbing and discouraging, and I know it results in lost sales from time to time. Or, have you ever danced around the store trying to find a corner where the overhead spotlights don’t cast funny shadows or where it isn’t so dark you can’t see the detail in a fabric? I do it all the time and always wonder why the stores aren’t more aware of this problem.

The solution is whenever possible take it over to natural light to evaluate the color, inspect the fabric, determine how well it matches what you want to pair with it, etc. If the store doesn’t have any natural light or it’s a cloudy day, do the best you can to decide if you like it and consider taking it home to try it on in better light. Of course, you will only want to do this if they have an adequate return policy.

All lighting is not created equal and poor lighting can definitely distort how you see things. Make your life easier and your morning routine more pleasant by adjusting the lighting in your home wherever possible. And, when it comes to shopping be aware that the lighting is not always optimal and give yourself a break when you stand in front of the mirror or are having a hard time seeing a garment clearly. It will be less of a shock when you get a garment home and find out it’s really eggplant and not brown. Blame it on the lighting and return it if it isn’t what you want.


9 Responses

  1. Hi Ginger, just having traveled to Spain and having that exact same thing happen and having some renovations done in the bathroom, I’ve been thinking about this topic. Thank you for the great things to think about. By the way, while on our trip and experiencing the lighting issue, I said to my husband “remind me to put on the master travel list – a hand mirror”!

  2. Would be great to have correct lighting in my apartment. Living in a HRA facility I am not allowed to change light bulbs. The lights in the bathroom medicine cabinet are florescent to cut down energy use. Have one overhead light in the living room and same fixture in the bedroom, both are florescent. So have purchased a lighted makeup mirror that has selectable light settings, day, home, evening and office settings. Also the mirror has a magnifier mirror on one side and a flat mirror on the reverse. The mirrors are on a swivel for ease of change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.