Living in New York means sacrificing a few obvious things: personal space, an apartment bigger than your childhood bedroom, a vermin-free existence. One of the things nobody warns you about, though, is the lack of natural light. When you live in what is essentially a long hallway you’re not getting a lot of sunlight streaming through your washroom or boudoir. This is generally fine—except for when you’re trying to do your makeup and end up looking like a baked Cheeto instead of a beautiful glazed donut. Or something.
The idea of leaving my apartment without spending an hour swinging lamps around, pretending to be a lighting coordinator, just to figure out if my makeup will hold up in the outside world is what initially drew me to smart mirrors. Smart mirrors are exactly what they sound like: the counterpart and integration of smartphones into your vanity. They’re mirrors tailored for our urban, technology-enhanced, natural light-lacking modern lives.
There are two main market offerings when it comes to smart mirrors. The first is from Simple Human, which actually has two variations, the Sensor Mirror and the Sensor Mirror Pro; the second is the Kickstarter-financed JUNO mirror (which will be available to the masses in April). All smart mirrors have the same two main features: smartphone integration and adjustable lighting. The smartphone integration happens through a phone app which then controls your adjustable lighting.
My apartment’s lighting is less than desirable—my vanity sits underneath white LED lights, which means my makeup almost always looks patchy or under pigmented. This usually leads to overdoing everything and turning into Baby Jane. But smartphone integration allows mirror lighting to have actual precision; it also lets your store your lighting preferences, and the Simple Human mirror has over 50,000 color variations, making for a truly personalized mirror experience.
If all this just sounds like the perfect way to light your selfies and that's all you really want anyway, let me introduce you to the JUNO mirror. It has a relatively scaled-back lighting design with just three settings—natural sunlight, evening, and outdoors—and it's relatively affordable ($79 versus Simple Humans $250). It’s also specifically tailored to the Instagram/Snapchat generation. The mirror is multifunctional; the bottom has a vanity tray, and the mirror itself can turn into a reading lamp, a ring light, and a mount for your iPhone, so you can vlog, FaceTime, or whatever it is you need to do.
This all might sound great, but is the smart mirror just another way to be separated from our money? Is this something you'll actually use? In short, yes. We live in a time when, for better or for worse, we're hyperaware of what we look like, and so it feels great to be able to prepare to face the world (and our Instagram feeds) in the most prepared way possible. The most astounding thing about the Simple Human mirrors is its ability to mimic the lighting of any place imaginable from just a photo. What this means is that you can replicate your friend’s sun-drenched home in the suburbs for optimum selfie lighting and you can do your makeup in the lighting you’ll be spending your day in (your partner’s apartment, your office etc.), which means no “Oh shit, is that really what I look like?” surprises. The JUNO mirror is its low maintenance counterpart—it’s simple, streamlined, and very literally built to help your social media presence.
It’s a bizarre thing to be unable to trust your mirror, but it’s a situation I find myself in constantly. But it doesn't have to be that way anymore. Ultimately, that's what makes a smart mirror worth it: It’s an act of assurance, a bestower of confidence. Assurance that I know what I look like so that I don’t spend the day agonizing over how different I thought my makeup looked, with the added bonus of knowing that I’ll be the best (photographed) version of myself. These new high-tech mirrors introduce a sense of novelty, glamour, and confidence to what can otherwise be an anxious reality: having to leave the house when the world is always watching.