Even if you have everything perfect in your salon, if you don’t have the right lighting, it can all seem off. The right types of lights and the right types of bulbs will flatter your customers while making it easy for your stylists to see what they’re doing. The lights need to give stylists an accurate view of the color of their client’s hair, but they shouldn’t be so bright and harsh that the client is uncomfortable under them. If you’re uncertain about what type of lighting to use in your salon, here are a few things to take into consideration.
The temperature of the bulb is very important. This is what people are talking about when they say that a bulb puts off warm or cool lighting. White lighting (which is what most homes and businesses use for general lights) is measured by temperature. This temperature is measured in Kelvins. The scale ranges from zero, which is a very red light, to 10,000, which is the light given off during a bright, sunny day. The lower the temperature is, the warmer the light is considered to be. Warm light is usually considered less white—candles, for example, are very low on the Kelvin scale (around 1,900 Kelvin) because they give off light that’s very orange in nature. A white LED light bulb, on the other hand, is around 7,000 Kelvin because it produces a crisp, cool light blue light.
Remember that the Kelvin scale is backwards from what you might assume: the higher the temperature, the cooler the light. The warmer colors are at the bottom of the scale.
Lighting in the middle range (3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin) is a very flattering light. People look good under these mildly warm lights. They provide soft lighting that lets blemishes and other signs of aging blend in with the rest of the skin.
Going with a really warm light (anything under about 3,000 Kelvin) tends to put off more of a pinkish-yellow tone. That can actually distort the color of some people’s hair. If you go higher on the Kelvin scale, you reach cooler bulbs that are much brighter. At around 5,000 Kelvin, the lighting is about the same as being outside on a very sunny day. It’s too bright for some people, and it can be hard on the eyes.
Many salons choose to go with light in the 4,000 Kelvin range. This light provides a natural white light that doesn’t distort colors, but also isn’t too harsh. It’s perfect for salons because it lets the stylist see exactly what shade their client’s hair without being so bright it’s painful.
Another important part of seeing hair color accurately is the Color Rendering Index of a bulb. You want to look for bulbs with a CRI of at least 80, preferably 85. Without these bulbs, a client who wants their hair colored may see one shade of color in the salon and a very different one outdoors.
In addition to the type of light, the placement of the light is also very important. You want to make sure there are no shadows around the chair so that the stylists can see every angle without needing to ask the client to move into better light. Most people assume this means to light from above, but putting lights on the wall can actually be more effective. If possible, do both. Just make sure any light you have coming from above is good and strong. Spotty overhead lighting is one of the biggest causes of shadows.
Many successful salons mix and match different types of lighting. They use warm bulbs on the walls that make their clients look great, then bring in good overhead lighting to illuminate the workspace.