Beauty Tips and Tricks, General, How-To's:

How To: Look Good Under Fluorescent Lights

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of corporate makeup (headshots for companies websites, interviews, internal shoots etc). On these types of shoots, I am usually only given enough time to quickly improve on the makeup people are already wearing. This is not always the easiest thing to do considering how many women are wearing the wrong makeup; not only for their coloring but because they are not applying their makeup for fluorescent lighting that they’re sitting under all day!

Makeup for Fluorescent Lighting: Do’s and Dont’s for Looking Good at the Office

We are stuck inside classrooms from the time we are five years old, until we are 18+.  Then, millions of people move on to work in offices. Considering a majority of most people’s lives are spent beneath fluorescent lighting, it is a shame how unflattering it really is. While candlelight may not be ideal, it certainly would make us look better.

If you work in an office or spend hours in a classroom, these next few tips are dedicated to you.  Don’t worry, you can still look good, despite your unfortunate lighting circumstances.

Avoid Bright Pinks and Bright Reds

Pink and reds are enhanced much more under fluorescent lights, which have the potential to make you look clownish. You can still wear these colors, just opt for deeper shades. If you love pink blush, choose a rose colored one over a fuchsia. If red is your staple lip color, skip the fire-engine red and choose a wine colored option instead.


Warm up Your Face

Fluorescent lights cast a bluish-green hue onto the skin, which can automatically make you sickly and pale. To counter-act this, focus on warming your skin up a bit. Choose a warmer shade of foundation or blush and stay away from anything with a cool, pink base, as it will only look more pink and washed out under the lights. 

emma stone pale 

Skip the Bronzer

Even though you want to warm up your face, I would avoid heavy bronzer. Fluorescent lighting enhances the orange hue within the bronzer, which can make you look like an oompa loompa. Instead, use a natural shade of blush to add warmth and life to your face.

makeup for fluorescent lighting.

Pick Softer Colors

When applying makeup for fluorescent lighting, it’s important to know that fluorescent lights sharpen colors, making them look darker and harsher. Black shadows and liners tend to look extremely hard and can actually make you appear older.  To keep your look soft but still defined, choose a grey, dark brown or even deep green/purple liner instead.


Rethink Cool, Earthy Tones

Beiges, taupes and sandy colors should be avoided while doing your makeup for the office. When seen under fluorescent lights, they have the potential to appear muddy and dirty. Instead opt for warmer browns, peaches and rose colored shades on your lips, cheeks and eyes.


Choose Creamy Products

Fluorescent lights seem to suck the life out of your skin, and they make your complexion look dry and unhealthy. To counteract this, avoid heavy foundations and lots of powder. Try a BB cream, or use a luminous foundation formula (check out my review of Maybelline Dewy+Smooth). Use a cream blush instead of a powder one. I also recommend dabbing some clear gloss over your lipstick to make your lips look plump, and experimenting with highlighters to give your cheeks a little bit of dimension and glow. 

 Catherine Zeta Jones matte 

Other Helpful Tips:

  • When doing your makeup for fluorescent lighting, apply it in front of lighted mirror with a fluorescent (or “office’) setting.
  • Shimmer and glitter finishes reflect strangely under fluorescents. Opt for matte, velvet and satin finishes.
  • Less is always more. If you apply your makeup with a heavy hand, it will look even more cakey and thick under the lights.
  • HD foundations work well under fluorescent lighting because the formulas are designed to look invisible to the naked eye. My favorite is Makeup Forever HD.
  • Experiment! Not all of these tips will work for everyone. Look in the mirror and decide what’s working and what’s not.

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  • Reply Meg March 15, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Hi thot i let u know that i love your blog. So pretty and i love all the pictures you posted here.

  • Reply Jessica December 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    GREAT ADVICE…thanks!!

    • Lindsey
      Reply Lindsey December 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      Glad you found it helpful 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Reply LED lighting panels July 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Those are grateful tips. Now I’ll know what are the do’s and dont’s. Fluorescent lighting gives more power and makes your face enlighten.

  • Reply Christi January 5, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Love these tips, I just started working in an office with those demon lights. I’m normally pasty anyway and catch myself in a mirror at work and look like the night of the living dead. I use a fine line of black around my eyes and smudge it softer but at work it looks like I have two black eyes, horrible. I was using a pretty shade of extended stay lipstick, kind of a light burgundy, not soo pretty in those lights and makes my lips look chapped. Now I use an extended stay sheer copper that makes it look like my lips r healthy and very naturally tinted. And I do t like that shade in the sun light. Go fig. These tips r helpful and thanks so much for posting them in a way that is easy to follow and pictures to show what u r talking about.

  • Reply Kimberlee September 29, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Awesome tips!! I work in all kinds of lighting, but this was great! Thank you

  • Reply Gail Neduzak October 20, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Hi love your Blog..i’m a “soon to be celebrating 70”.but am a mature modern woman..i Like to use a Mineral powder liquid foundation..and powder blush.. green eyes..what color eyeliners do you suggest??’d have to go on my blog to see my skin tone color etc. it is an up-to-date pic. I only use a bisque(sp) color eyeshadow..liner and mascara..What color eyeshadow could i use for a night out?..I love your tips and hope you can help..thx..huggzz..Gail

    • Lindsey
      Reply Lindsey October 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Gail! Im sorry for the delayed comment, I’ve been working and haven’t been on my blog in about a week. I looked at your photo on your blog, you look great! For eyeliner, I like using blacks, greys and browns on mostly everyone. With your green eyes, plums and mauves will make them pop. MAC’s Prunella eyeliner is a beautiful color and it’s subtle. MAC’s Teddy liner would also look great on you. For nights out, I really like soft bronzes and brown eyeshadows. They give off a smokiness, but aren’t super harsh looking. They are also universally flattering. To make your green eyes stand out even more, I’d look for bronzes/browns that pull somewhat reddish such as Laura Mercier’s Chocolate eyeshadow.

      Hope this helps!

  • Reply patricia December 31, 2015 at 1:33 am

    I was wondering do fluorescent lights show people’s real flaws or do they create flaws on people?

    • Lindsey
      Reply Lindsey January 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      It doesn’t create flaws, but the coloring of the light, mixed with the way it hits/bounces off your skin, is what amplifies flaws under fluorescents.

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