Flashback 101: How to Combat "Ghost Face" in Flash Photos

Updated: Feb 29, 2020


Indigo Blue Stylers! 

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario: You're blowing up the scene at a fabulous evening event (say NYFW SS20?) enjoying the fruits of an amazingly well put-together look. Your glowing because you’ve been receiving compliments left and right from your peers and your floating on Cloud 9 because the 2 hours it took you to radically transform into your inner-glamazonian has truly paid off. Your hair is coiffed to perfection. Your outfit, shoes, and accessories are a bold testament to the evolution of your uber-creative personal style. And your makeup? Chile…you’re BEAT TO THE GAWDS! And the moment finally arrives when you're thrust into the spotlight and it’s your turn to make a lasting, positive impression on the blogs and editorial magazines covering the event. So your posing like your life depends on it, as photographer's snap photo after photo of you on the event’s red carpet. All to roll out of bed bright and early the next morning to check social media for highlights from your showstopping moment from the night before, but to your HORROR, every picture you’re in is ruined! Why? Because your face in all the photos is casting a blinding-white mask back at not only you, but everyone else on IG eager to critique last night’s footage...

If it can happen to Angie and Ms. Kidman, it can happen to us...

Let’s nix the embarrassment and the frustration of a good outfit gone to waste. When you’ve worked your butt off to put together a look that slays, you shouldn’t have to worry about the phenomena that  the beauty industry has coined, “Flashback” standing in the way of near perfect shots and your developing sense of style. 

“Flashback” is defined as a white cast that appears on the skin in photos when the flash function on a camera is used during a photograph. It’s caused by light-reflecting ingredients in makeup or skincare products used during the makeup application process that just don’t gel well with the light. The intense light of flash photography is deflected off the skin and into the camera lens, creating a pale-white glow that just isn’t a good look for anyone. 

This less-than-attractive phenomena can be prevented a number of ways:

1. Check to see if key ingredients in your go-to foundations and setting powders are “flashback-inducing” and save those products for use in the daytime or during circumstances that allow for great lighting that won’t require flash photography. Key ingredients that may induce flashback  in your foundations include astitanium dioxide, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. These ingredients, which also happen to be sunscreens, provide a soft-focus, even finish to makeup. However, due to their light-reflecting properties, these ingredients should be avoided or used sparingly when you’ll be exposed to flash photography. Other not-so-flash friendly ingredients include high concentrations of silica and silver mica which can be found in mineral foundations and powders usually labeled “HD”, which can be used to lock foundation and concealers into place for long-lasting, crease-free wear.


2. Test your makeup before an event, if possible. Do a test run with what you plan on using on your big day prior to the event, grab a camera with the biggest flash, snap away, and if you’re caught looking like a deer in headlights, adjust your look, accordingly. 

3. Try using a few of these tried and true foundations, setting powders, and concealers in your pre-photo makeup regimen if your stumped about what products would enhance your beauty “in a flash”: 


-NARS Sheer Glow Foundation

-Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

-Mac Studio Face and Body Foundation 

Nars Sheer Glow Foundation in shade, "Punjab". A great foundation choice for those looking for sheer or buildable coverage. Plus NARS holds it down with a wide array of color choices so that this near-to-skin textured formula works wonders for a ton different skin complexions.


-MAC Studio Conceal and Correct Palette

-Estee Lauder Double Wear Concealer 

-Kevyn Aucoin Beauty The Sensual Skin Enhancer 

Mac Studio Conceal and Correct Palette, Dark. This palette comes in 3 other shade ranges to cover pretty much everyone and can be used for highlighting and contouring the face for both depth and brightness, minus all the ashy flashy stuff ; ) ....

Setting Powders:

-Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Finishing Powder 

-Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder 

-RCMA No-Color Powder 

Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder, in Translucent. This is my go-to setting powder, y'all...it leaves the foundation set smoothly and beautifully. I also dig that Ms. Mercier recently dropped a darker version of this godsend of a powder for my darker-skinned folk.

Setting Sprays:

-Urban Decay All Nighter Long Lasting Makeup Spray 

-Skindinavia The Makeup Primer Spray Oil Control 

-Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater 

The bottle says it all...this is also my favorite product to use for locking my makeup in place for all-day wear. This product is a moisturizing toner as well, and after a facial cleanse, it makes the skin feel (and smell) amazing.

Lastly, if your itching to arm your inner-glamazonian with gear from this week’s Indigo Blue Style Trend Alert: Statement Colors, a bold-colored, smoky undereye (See below for an example) would push your look over the edge when paired with some of the flashback-free products mentioned above. To slay the look below, try dusting a neutral matte or shimmery shadow all over the lid and create contrast by smoking out the undereye with MAC eyeshadow single, "In the Shadows" or any other bold eyeshadow that you think would compliment your vibrant look. 

Actress/Model Shay Mitchell perfectly executes the bold, smoked out undereye in the picture above. If you'd like the color to grab even more attention, try filling the waterline in with a white eyeliner pencil.

Your well on your way to becoming an icon in your own right. So remember, the most important ingredient to an amazing look is confidence. Tap into your personal confidence during your makeup application session by banishing any chance of “flashback”. Channel the artist within by applying a street-stopping pop of color to the undereye. Alleviate any doubt that your look won’t make the cut when it’s time to let the photographs fly (flash or not), so that you can rest easy knowing you’ll be captured in all your glory for the World (and all of Instagram) to see. 

-Angelika S. Realer