I've been to excatly one strip club in my life. How I got there is another story, but once inside, I couldn't help but notice how flattering the lighting was—soft, inviting, pinkish. So complimentary, in fact, that it took me a few minutes to realize that the woman gyrating in front of me was, shall I say, seasoned. Yet from a distance, bathed in that forgiving glow, the ladies of Club 76 in Youngstown, Ohio, looked flawless, angelic even.
The illusion was no doubt due to pink bulbs, a surefire way to make skin look perfect. And now, thanks to the latest makeup, you don't have to set foot in a strip club to get the same effect. "My mom used to have flattering pink bulbs all over the house," says Carisa Janes, founder of Hourglass Cosmetics. They served as the inspiration for her line of Ambient Lighting Powders and the new Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure, a sheer blend of lavender and pink that mimics the imperfection-hiding powers of a rosy glow. Smashbox Cosmetics also carries products that mimic lighting tricks, specifically those used by photographers, including the line's cofounder Davis Factor. "If I'm shooting and I don't want a woman to look older than she is, I avoid direct sun or a big flash and soften the lighting," he says. That technique is more or less what's at work in the company's new Liquid Halo HD Foundation, which utilizes pigments encapsulated in a gel that diffuse the light reflecting off skin to mask imperfections.
And what if you want a lit-from-within glow, the hallmark of youthful skin? Makeup artist Gina Brooke, a creative consultant for Shu Uemura North America, has made a career out of capturing that quality for her clients. She's a fan of the new Shu Uemura Lightbulb Fluid Foundation, which offers natural radiance in any setting thanks in part to macadamia oil, which has a high refractive index, which means "more light bounces off," explains Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist in New Jersey.
1.HOURGLASSAmbient Lighting Blush in Dim Infusion and Luminous Flush, $35 each; sephora.com 2.SHU UEMURALightbulb Fluid Foundation in 774, $55; sheuuemura-usa.com 3.SMASHBOXLiquid Halo HD Foundation SPF 15 in 10, $42; smashbox.com 4.REVLONPhotoReady Skinlights Face Illuminator in Pink Light, $13; revlon.com 5.ZADRO Spot Mirror with suction-cup mount, $10; zadroinc.com
But even the best products are only as good as how you use them, according to Brooke, who applies clients' makeup while wearing a headlamp that gives her the appearance of a very chic spelunker. That may be too much for the layperson, but Brooke does suggest putting on makeup in natural light if possible. "I have a mirror that sticks to my window, and I do my makeup there," she says.
If it all sounds like too much trouble, at least avoid sitting under spot lighting. ("It accentuates lines and wrinkles," Brooke says. "I won't even make a reservation in a restaurant that has bad lighting.") And there's no shame in using soft-pink incandescent bulbs at home. No one has to know you borrowed that trick from the ladies of Club 76.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Have you ever done a rush makeup job in the bathroom only to notice an obvious line of foundation demarcation when you step outside? "Sunlight is nature's polygraph," says makeup artist Moani Lee, the global brand ambassador of Hourglass Cosmetics. Mistakes are more noticeable, and it reveals the true nature of your skin texture—pores, lines, wrinkles, and all.
"Keep your makeup very sheer when you're going to be outside," Lee says. Stick with a tinted moisturizer or a sheer foundation, make sure to blend well, and use a light hand with color (blush, eyeshadow, lipstick). To ensure you look "naturally" luminous—not sweaty or greasy—when you're in, say, the hellmouth that is an outdoor concert, makeup artist Napoleon Perdis endorses a loose golden-pink powder, like his Star Light. "Just dust it over your foundation where you need some radiance," he says.
1. NAPOLEON PERDIS Loose Eye Dust in Star Light, $25; napoleonperdis.com 2. STRIVECTIN Clinical Corrector Anti-Aging Face Tint SPF 30 in Light, $39; ulta.com 3. BAREMINERALS Flawless Application Face Brush, $22; sephora.com
AT THE OFFICE
Most of us spend our days toiling beneath industrial-style bulbs, which don't do our complexions any favors. "Fluorescents cast this bluish-green tone that can end up making you look exhausted or hungover," says Lee.
To give yourself a fighting chance, Perdis suggests "waking up the skin" with serum and primer before you apply makeup. Look for a serum containing peptides, which promote collagen growth to keep skin looking plump and hydrated. For primer, silica is the key ingredient. "It helps to even out the surface of your skin, so light scatters more evenly across it and your complexion looks smoother," Wilson explains.
Lee also recommends amping up your under-eye concealer (overhead fluorescents make dark circles appear even darker). Look for a creamy one with light-reflecting properties. Perk up your cheeks with blush—but make sure it's a soft peach or rose shade. "Anything that's too pink or red can look ruddy in this lighting," Lee says. Finally, go easy on eye shadows in the blue or gray family. "Fluorescent light enhances those cool tones, and you can end up looking garish."
1. GIORGIO ARMANI Maestro Fusion Blush in 300, $52; giorgioarmanibeauty-usa.com 2. EVE LOM Light Illusion Concealer in Ivory, $40; evelom.com 3. DIORGlow Maximizer Light Boosting Primer, $42; sephora.com 4. PHILOSOPHYWhen Hope Is Not Enough Facial Firming Serum, $40, sephora.com
A low-lit restaurant may leave you looking ashy or pale, while the strobes at a club can flatten the dimensionality of your face. Resist the urge to pile on tons of extra makeup to compensate, Lee says. Instead, focus on amplifying a few specific areas of your face.
Bump up the coverage of your base slightly (if you typically do tinted moisturizer, try a light-coverage foundation). Then prevent the washed-out look by subtly contouring: Use a matte bronzing product beneath cheekbones and a highlighter on your browbones.
Night is also a prime opportunity to play up your eyes or lips. Lee loves the look of a glossy smoky eye. "In nightclub-y lighting, the strobes will pick up on that gloss," she says. "That's the environment to do it in—if you were to do it in natural light, it would look like a hot mess." And both Perdis and Lee encourage the use of false lashes, either strips or individuals, to add drama without veering too theatrical. Or, if you prefer, work a bold lip. Bordeaux, orange, and red shades are Perdis' favorites at the moment. "It's easy and always glamorous," he says.
1. EM MICHELLE PHAN Chiaroscuro Contour and Highlighter Stick in Fair, $24; emcosmetics.com 2. SHISEIDO Shimmering Cream Eye Color in Shoyu, $25, sephora.com 3. MAYBELLINE NEW YORK Color Sensational Vivids in On Fire Red, $7, maybelline.com