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I upgraded my beauty routine with this $30 LED makeup mirror

I've never had an easier time applying my eyeliner or tweezing my eyebrows.
Katie Jackson
/ Source: TODAY

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I'm well aware that lighting is everything when I take photos, so I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to apply the same thinking to applying makeup. Until recently, I just thought all I needed was a mirror. I was OK with using everything from my bathroom mirror to my car's rearview mirror and even the reflective back of a CD back in the day. Then I heard about a $30 LED makeup mirror on Amazon with almost 16,000 reviews. Could it solve all of my makeup application woes? Here's what I discovered.

Not all mirrors are created equal

The Wondruz Tri-Folded Lighted Makeup Mirror is the #2 bestseller on Amazon's list of Best Personal Makeup Mirrors. I chose it over the #1 ranked mirror because, despite being at a similar price point, it has more than twice as many reviews. (It currently has an impressive 4.7-star average rating from its 15,879 reviews.) What also distinguishes it from other mirrors are two things: LED lighting and magnifying panels. Both features make a noticeable difference if you're applying makeup.

Use USB or batteries to power it (but not both!)

Katie Jackson / TODAY

This mirror features 21 LED lights on its main, center panel. The lights are powered by using a USB charge (a cord is included) or by four AAA batteries (not included). When I first set mine up, I made the mistake of plugging my mirror in with the USB charger at the same time I had four batteries in it. This could cause the batteries to overheat and catch on fire, so don't do that! You just have to use one or the other.

Most reviewers cite the USB charge as producing brighter light, but I haven't noticed a difference so far. What I don't like about this mirror is that it doesn't hold a charge if you're using the USB cord. You have to keep it plugged in. You need to use batteries if you want to be cordless, which seems so old-fashioned to me.

Brighter lighting is better lighting

Katie Jackson / TODAY

I got the model with one color of lighting, but you can get the model with three colors (warm, natural and cold) for a few dollars more. Even with a single hue, there are three levels of brightness that I can dim or brighten according to my needs. Changing its setting is as easy as holding down the main panel's power button for three seconds. I particularly love this because I've noticed I'm better at applying the right amount of concealer and foundation in the right places when I have really bright lighting.

Magnification is magical

Katie Jackson / TODAY

I have a love-hate relationship with magnified mirrors. I hate them because I can see all of my flaws up close, but I love them because they work as a tool to help me cover up those flaws. This mirror has two magnified mirrors on each side: one that has two times the magnification, and another that has triple magnification. They especially come in handy when I require precision while I'm applying my favorite eyeliner or tweezing my eyebrows. While they can be dangerous when it comes to pinpointing my blemishes, I haven't had a problem with that lately since I started to use a dermatologist-recommended $16 foaming face wash.

Who's the fairest of them all?

Katie Jackson / TODAY

Do I think this mirror has improved my makeup game? 100%. Will I pack it up for my travels? Probably not. (It's not that lightweight, and I like to pack light.) However, if I'm in a friend's wedding and I'm going to get ready with the girls, I'll definitely bring it. Until then, I'll keep it in my bathroom where it's the fairest mirror of them all.

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