Shining Light on Skin Tone
London based lighting design practice Nulty+, has recently completed an extensive research paper
alongside University College London (UCL) and supported by Xicato, for a leading global cosmetics
The innovative research was headed by designer Claire Hamill with support from fellow designers
Anna Sandgren and Christina Hebert who developed a controlled experiment to investigate optimum
light source specifications for foundation colour matching within cosmetics stores and concessions.
It is well known that lighting is critical for the successful retailing of cosmetics and for a meaningful
However, customer feedback has suggested that quite often the light sources
used to light these stores are not always ideal for colour matching products to skin tones.
One of the largest issues facing cosmetic retailers is the number of customer complaints and returns
due to mismatched foundation shades.
Research aimed to prove that by finding the correct quality of light/ Spectral Power Distribution (SPD) for colour matching, customers would in turn have a better brand experience, therefore reducing product returns and ultimately increasing profits for cosmetics retailers.
The team split the lighting research into a number of different phases.
The first stage of research formed part of a field day within five flagship department stores throughout central London.
Visual analysis, interviews with customers and in- store beauty managers yielded a number of key findings and highlighted significant variation in light quality and customer satisfaction, which confirmed the
need to find more flattering lighting to promote and retain sales in store.
A focus group then targeted thirty visual managers and make-up artists from the leading cosmetics
Under controlled conditions each participant made a visual assessment of themselves during
the application of foundation make-up under a total of twelve different lighting conditions.
Following the assessment Hamill selected the six highest-ranking sources for more detailed analysis.
Each LED light source has a number of variables including Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT),
Colour Rendering Index (CRI) and Gamut (GAI).
Using this information an enhanced study under authentic cosmetic counter conditions were
undertaken within the cosmetic brands London HQ.
The space was divided into identical zones, each with only one variable.
Independent volunteers from the cosmetics industry participated throughout the day with the overall aspiration of identifying which of the six LED modules would best render skin tone and foundation match, thus meeting the need to reduce mismatches, whilst at the same time providing a perceived improvement
in the quality of the illuminated environment.
The procedure saw participants given three shades of foundation on their forearms, with the best
colour match decided within daylight conditions.
They were then moved between the zones and exposed consecutively to the different light variables.
After each station they were asked the same set of questions to identify if there had been any distortions of foundation shade under the artificial lights.
The module results were collated and analysed by UCL and from these results leading manufacturer
Xicato has developed a groundbreaking commercial LED module entitled ‘Beauty Series’.
Beauty Series was developed in direct response to the research findings undertaken by the team at Nulty
and aims to produce the best balance between beautiful, natural skin tones and colour
Claire Hamill, Lighting Designer says, “Accurate rendering of skin tone is a difficult challenge, because
skin is such a rich and complex palette, consisting of many subtle shades. Our studies show that people feel good when they look good. This means that people-centric lighting should be applicable anywhere it is important for people to look and feel good.”
Roger Sexton, VP of Specifier Services at Xicato says, “Nulty+ together with UCL defined a retail
lighting issue, weighed up scientifically different possible solutions and now continue with an in store
longitudinal study. I find this a fantastic model of how to carry out market based product research”
The Beauty series LED module has been designed into a new lighting scheme at a flagship cosmetic
store in Covent Garden, London by the team at Nulty+.
Over a one year test period sales, dwell times and product returns will be compared with averages within other stores London wide.
With limited research undertaken into the effects of artificial light on the cosmetics industry, the
Nulty+ team’s innovative research and development have produced some revealing results that have
the potential to significantly impact on the retail cosmetics industry.