Lights, Scissors, Shampoo!

Ibadlightingn a hair salon, perfect lighting is CRITICAL.  From the stylist’s perspective, every angle of their client’s head and face must be evenly lit with a quality of light that renders the client’s hair colour exactly as it will be seen in out in the real world.  From the client’s point of view, they must be lit in a flattering manner for all the obvious reasons.

Most women have had to sit in a stylist’s chair, mortified by her reflection in the mirror.  Age-inducing cross lighting and nasty overhead light reeking havoc on her self esteem.   Many of us have had our hair coloured under lights that cast a purplish or green glow everywhere and have wondered how the colourist could possibly know if she’s even come close to the colour she was striving for.

Other salon lighting crimes include:
Back-lighting the client’s head so neither the client or the stylist can see the face in the mirror.  How can anyone expect a feature-flattering hairstyle, when the style recipient’s face has been obscured for the entire process?

Lighting only the top of the client’s head.  This will result in a style where the sides and back of one’s head have absolutely no relation to the top.



Shadows.  Who hasn’t seen stylists ducking and deeking left and right to see where the scissors are going?



Heat. Using too many of the wrong kind of bulbs (incandescent instead of energy efficient) can generate enough heat to bake a potato.

Glare.  Glare in everyone’s eyes.  You can’t style hair with light beaming in your eyes and you can’t establish relationship-bonding eye contact with your stylist if you can’t look up from the chair without sunglasses.


Let’s consider the salon before the new lighting design.

hair salon lighting

The recessed lighting was halogen, which generated a LOT of heat and with blow dryers, curling and flat irons going full tilt, the air conditioning units were struggling to keep the place cool, even in winter.  The recessed lights were also very glary and ill-placed.  Directly over each client chair was a bright incandescent light – more heat and glare.  In an effort to provide flattering light for clients, incandescent bulbs were added down the sides of each mirror.  Imagine the heat from these!   Of course, they were seldom used.  Notice with all this light going on, there is very little light where it’s needed.  It’s all up in the upper four feet of the space.

hair salon lighting

At the hair washing stations, there was little light at the sinks, so assessing hair colour was challenging.

Much of the recessed lighting was over-sized and placed over top of the product displays, lighting walls and tops, but doing nothing for the display of the merchandise.

product display lighting








Now, let’s look at the finished lighting design.



The recessed lights have been moved into positions where they provide a function.  Now, one illuminates the corner and another is placed forward of the display so that the fronts of the product are accented.  All the recessed lighting was changed to LED spots to reduce glare, direct light purposefully and to greatly reduce energy consumption and heat.  The crystal chandelier welcomes clients with sparkle and adds pretty texture to a ho-hum tiled ceiling.






These pendant lights are the main task lights for the styling stations.  They’re fitted with energy efficient LED bulbs that stay FAR cooler than other bulb options.  These pendants are suspended between the chairs to light not only the tops of the client’s head, but the sides as well.  They’re also placed low where the light is needed, yet high enough so they can be walked under.  I chose this pendant with opaque (non-glaring) glass and the fixture is enclosed so over-spray from products can be wiped off easily.


The stylists can now see what they’re doing and their clients can see their faces without shadows. Notice light now reflects off the walls and ceiling, helping to fill the area with soft diffused, glare-free and flattering task light.IMAG0294

The newly created nail spa is lit with task light where it’s needed and, although this area is in a basement, it’s far from dark and dingy thanks to light illuminating the walls.


from HE website Pedicure station.jpg

The pedicure area is lit for maximum client relaxation.  Task light is directed only where estheticians are working and not at clients’ faces.  Wall-mounted reading lights are directed onto clients’ magazines but not into anyone’s  eyes.

There are many creative and effective ways to light for tasks, mood and accent in a salon.  Getting it right will affect both clients and employees in many positive ways.


Until next time….








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