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  • Stephanie Baker

Makeup Tips for Any Event: Avoiding Flashback

You go out dressed to the nines, makeup flawless and BAM! the flash of a camera goes off catching an image of you looking like you had a fight with a bag of flour and LOST!

We have all seen the dreaded flashback captured in photos of celebrities on the red carpet, but what even is "flashback" and how can you avoid it?

Flashback, or the strobing effect, are caused by certain ingredients in cosmetics that reflect light. Some of those ingredients include silica- found in HD powders, zinc oxide- used in many SPF products, and mica. HD powders (typically 100% silica) can create a dreamy effect on the skin when used in a makeup application for a video project, but in photos... well, the pictures above say it all. Zinc oxide is an ingredient found in some SPF products, that physically reflects sun rays away from your skin. Yay non-sundamaged skin! Not so much for flash photography. If you are going for a swim in the ocean, by all means, stick to the reef safe, mineral-based SPFs, but if there is a chance you might end up in front of a camera, check out these tips to avoid flashback:

All Flashes are Not Created Equal

Most professional photographers do not use direct flash unless they are wanting some artistic shots. Direct flash is the biggest issue with these problematic ingredients, so you are most likely safe as far as your professional photos go. The concern comes in at an event where every one has their cell phones out with the occasional point-and-shoot camera lighting up the room. Yikes!

Zinc Oxide- More Than just an SPF Ingredient. Check Your Labels!

Zinc oxide has many uses when applied to skin including but not limited to controlling excess oil, treating acne, treating inflammatory skin conditions, treating sun damage and healing wounds. In other words, check your product ingredients! Even if you are using non-SPF* infused products, you could still be applying this light reflector without even knowing it.

*Everyone should be wearing SPF! If there is a chance you might end up in front of a camera, try a chemical based sunscreen instead of physical based one.

Opt For a Translucent Setting Powder

When looking for a setting powder, choose a translucent setting powder that does not list silica (or silicon dioxide) within the first few ingredients. Also, avoid anything labeled as "HD powder". We recommend RCMA Premiere Pressed Powder (I carry this in my kit!). Silica is very low on their ingredient list and RCMA has yet to fail me in the 15 years I have been using it. As with any cosmetics, you don't need to use an excessive amount of powder. If you want to avoid silica all together, go for a setting spray! I love the lesser known Skindinavia Oil Control setting spray or PPI Blue Marble.

Mica - All That Glitters is Not Gold.

Using products that are heavy in mica, an ingredient with a high holographic nature, can be very problematic when it comes to flash photography. Mica is often used to produce pearlescent pigments that seem like an obvious red flag, but mica is also used as a filler, a thickener and stabilizer in other cosmetics. Again, become a pro at reading labels.

To Summarize:

Avoid cosmetics that are heavy with silicas, mica, zinc oxide and other reflectors. These ingredients are found in many kinds of products, so check your labels. Worry less about professional photos, and SPF should absolutely be worn everyday.


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