In this guide I will help you find out what type of lighting is best for bathrooms. Discover the different types of fixtures and light bulbs you need to for the best lighting experience in your own bathroom.
Every bathroom needs good lighting. There is nothing worse for people trying to shave or put on makeup in low light conditions when everything is just too dark.
Lighting for bathrooms needs to ensure that shadows are never cast particularly in an unflattering and aging way over the face.
Ideally attention should be paid to two types of lighting namely pleasant and soft background lighting and task lighting like that around a mirror.
Bring in Natural Light
If you have natural light, you are lucky that a great bonus in any room, especially so in a bathroom. However, natural light isn’t necessary there are many bathroom lighting solutions that will make up for the lack of natural lighting.
However, light can also be brought in from adjacent areas through glazed screens, glass blacks and skylights.
People prefer privacy over natural lighting, so you should carefully consider the installation of additional glass.
This is the type of lighting most commonly seen around mirrors above your sinks and vanity units.
- It needs to be bright but not harsh. Take care that the lighting won’t cast deep shadows across your face. Vanity mirror lighting for example should come from both the sides and above.
- the lighting needs to be good enough for tasks like shaving, putting on makeup and arranging hair.
- some bathroom mirrors have integral lighting.
- mirrored bathroom cabinets are available that may also have lights.
In a small bathroom it is usual to just have one light source in the center of the ceiling. This is not the best way to have bathroom lighting as this single source can produce glare and will cast shadows.
- multiple points of light is the best solution, for example recessed down lights.
- Wall mounted up lights will bounce lights off the ceiling
- Concealed lighting will prevent bulky light fittings affecting the bathroom spaces. Looks neater and more modern too.
- some tubs, sinks and showers come with back-lit translucent panels that create a beautiful glow.
- water can be beautifully lit by fiberoptics and are a feature in some whirlpool tubs and high-end showers.
Bathroom Lighting that Flatters: Tips and Tricks
Have you ever been to a hotel where the bathroom lighting is strong and harsh. The shock of looking at yourself at least 10 years older is unpleasant enough to spoil anyone’s vacation.
The shadows cast highlight wrinkles and eye bags on your face. To avoid this follow these easy tips.
- add plenty of mirrors as this will provide reflective surfaces that will distribute light around the bathroom pleasingly.
- Try to avoid a harsh light over the bathroom mirror. This just casts shadows over the face making grooming tasks like shaving and makeup application difficult.
- add defused lighting to the sides of your main bathroom mirror this will provide more flattering and less aging lighting to your face.
Types of Bathroom Lighting Fixtures
Before you buy double check, the product is suitable for fitting into a bathroom. Inevitably a bathroom is going to produce steam, which condensates: this could affect the electrics in your lighting fixtures.
It is easy to check as it should say in the product specification. If unsure contact the manufacturer.
Recessed Fixture lighting
You install a recessed light into the space above the ceiling so the fixture sits flush with the ceiling. They take LED bulbs so provide good ambient lighting.
You can use an accent light those areas like around the bathroom vanity were you need good lighting for applying makeup or shaving.
I love the modern styling of this vanity light it will enhance the space of any contemporary style home.
The LED bulbs provide 6000K cool white light that is perfect for illuminating the mirror over the sink and in the vanity unit area.
A practical function I like here is the way the light is dimmable.
Here is a modern track style bathroom dimmable light fixture.
The 4 light heads are on fitting that can be adjusted independently to illuminate different parts of the room.
Bathroom Wall Lights
Here we can see how effective it is to have a light layering effect in the bathroom.
They installed two brushed nickel wall lights either side of the vanity mirror.
One of the most important areas to illuminate is the bathroom vanity. This is where you will undertake the most fiddly of operations like applying makeup.
It needs to provide a clear bright light that does not case unflattering shadows across your face.
This bathroom vanity light has Edison style bulbs that are very trendy right now.
LED Strip Lighting
Easy to install strip lighting for the vanity mirror. Adds brightness to your vanity mirror so you have an excellent view to apply your makeup.
Sconce Wall Light
I love the modern styling of these frosted glass and chrome wall sconces.
Fixing these either side of the vanity mirror provides flattering lighting.
Alternatively, place these around the bathroom giving atmospheric light to the entire room.
a light installed into the center of the bathroom ceiling is a common and practical fixture for all bathrooms.
The design of this modern bathroom ceiling light incorporates energy saving LED light bulbs.
The narrow profile makes this product suitable for rooms with low ceilings.
These light fittings are perfect for bathrooms with low ceilings. During the installation the housing is partially in the ceiling space, so they are only suitable for installing during a remodel or renovation.
This is the type of recessed lighting that is often seen in modern homes.
They rate this model for the damp conditions you find in all bathrooms.
These usually hang from the center of the room and will give an ambient light.
Modern style pendant lamp with stainless steel and glass.
Bring a hint of luxury into a bathroom with this stunning chandelier.
The “crystals” are manufactured from acrylic so you don’t have to worry about breaking any glass.
Before buying measure the height of your ceiling to avoid people bumping their heads on it!
Modern Bathroom Light Fixture Idea
If you are lucky enough to have the ceiling height, this is a wonderful contemporary take on a chandelier.
Suitable for glamourous style master bathrooms.
Shower Colorful Fun Lighting
Fully waterproof lighting with suctions cups. Fun lighting to add to your pleasure when showering.
LED Colorful Illuminated Shower Head
Showering need never be boring!
Here colorful LED lights are installed into the shower head fitting. Fitting is easy, just screw onto your current shower head.
Fun Lighting for the Toilet
Here is a fun motion sensor controlled light for your toilet bowl. Helps you and family find your way in the dark!
Interactive Mood Lighting
Here is an example of mood lighting that will help you relax while you are bathing.
Imagine pairing this with soft music and a glass of champagne. The ultimate way to relax.
Bathroom ceiling fans with lights
Sleek stainless steel ceiling fan design is perfect for a modern bathroom setting. Needs to be installed into a room with high ceilings for safety.
Bathroom Extractor fan with Lights
Here is a brushed bronze ceiling light fixture with an extractor fan.
I love the style with an attractive frosted glass shade.
Musical Ceiling Light Fixture
Bring in relaxing music for the ultimate bathing experience.
- waterproof design
- connects to bluetooth from your cell phone.
- the light colors change in response to the beat of the music.
- when not in use the light fixture provides a clear white light.
Energy use in the bathroom
- installing energy-efficient bulbs to existing lighting fixtures.
- when buying new look out for and install energy efficient fixtures
- Provide different options for lighting so you only have the lighting that is needed for a particular task. For example, you don’t need the shower light on when cleaning your teeth.
Pay attention to color temperature
We all think of light as plain white and simply either bright or dim. There is however, more nuance in light from bulbs than that.
You can choose to have different colors or temperature in the accent and ambient lighting.
The color you choose makes a difference in the way you perceive a space as either cold and harsh or warm and welcoming.
What is color temperature?
Color temperature refers to the way ambient light can be warm yellowish or cold blueish.
Although the light will still look white there are subtle differences that will affect the warmth and ambiance of the room.
We express the color temperature in kelvin units (K) and runs from 1,000 to 10,000. Around 3000K is a pleasant, subtle amber yellow light.
Your experience will be that a blue light is “harsh” while a yellow light is soft and pleasant.
However for task lighting around vanity units, for example, you will need lighting with a higher K unit values.
Different Types of Light Bulb and Tubes
An incandescent bulb comprises a glass globe with a wire filament inside. When the bulb is switched on the wire filament heats up. The glowing of the filament produces the light.
Inside the globe they maintain a vacuum to prevent the filament from burning out too quickly. Some bulbs have an inert gas inside that does the same job. More information HERE.
- cheaper that most other types of bulbs.
- easy to change
- short lifespan typically 1,000 hours.
- less energy efficient that LED and halogen lights.
LED Light Bulbs
LED stands for light-emitting diodes.
This type of bulb became increasing common as they have advantages over the old incandescent bulbs.
- use around 90% less energy than an incandescent light bulb of similar brightness.
- can last up to 10 years
- initially expensive to buy
This is a bright white light that is a type of incandescent light.
- tend to last longer than traditional bulbs.
- you will be familiar with the type of light as produce a light similar to a traditional bulb.
- the initial outlay is more expensive compared to incandescent bulbs.
- Halogen bulbs are considerably hotter than traditional bulbs, so it’s important to keep flammable materials away from them.
- When installing halogen bulbs it is important to wear gloves to prevent “fingermarks” that will create hotspots. This reduces the life of the bulb.
Compact Fluorescent (CFL)
The perfect lightbulb for producing ambient light in bathrooms.
- will fit into any standard light fitting
- low energy use (around 70% less than an incandescent bulb).
- long lasting 12,000 + hours
- more expensive to buy initially
Long tubes filled with insert gas. It is the gas that glows to produce the light.
- great for lighting large rooms.
- long lifespan (up to 20,000 hours)
- can’t be discarded in the household trash.
- the light can be harsh
Edison or Retro Style Bulbs
These are the trendy bulbs styled like an old-fashioned Edison bulb. They add charm and atmosphere to your home decor.
- produce a soft light that does not need any shade.
- come in a wide range of designs and colors
- low power consumption
- long life up to 20,000 hours
- initial outlay is more expensive than a traditional bulb.
Consider a Lighting Consultant or Designer
If you are planning a family bathroom on a budget, then this step just would not be cost effective.
For expensive projects like a luxury master bathroom remodel I would recommend you bring in a proper lighting design consultant at the project planning stage. They will have creative ideas you probably would not consider.
Contractors will install lighting fixtures as the building works progress so once the project is complete you won’t be able to change or fit extra lighting without considerable upheaval and expense.
In a luxury place like a master bath the lighting will add another dimension, bringing warmth and atmosphere. A designer will ensure the right relaxing atmosphere is created.
Lighting Safety Considerations
Water and electricity can be a lethal combination.
- choose lighting fixtures and fittings that are particularly designed for bathrooms.
- consult with a qualified electrician so you are following local building safety codes.
- Bathroom lighting is fitted at the building stage. Meaning you should plan the location of your lighting carefully before you start to build.
- You want to avoid bringing in lighting ad hoc at a later stage.
FAQ About Bathroom Lighting
We measure the amount of light in a room in lumens. You will need to figure out how many lumens you need for the size of your space. There is a great lumens calculator HERE that will help you to assess your lighting needs.
Figuring out how many lumens per square foot you’ll need is a great way to ensure ample lighting.
Yes, you need to buy and install lighting fixtures that are designed for damp areas like bathrooms. They should clearly state this information on the packaging. Or if buying online in the product description and specifications. Contact the manufacturer if in any doubt.
LED lighting is great for task lighting, making it ideal for providing light for tricky tasks like shaving or putting on makeup. LED bulbs however are not as good at providing general lighting.
Layered lighting is providing many types of lighting in a room so you have the option of turning on or off lighting depending on the use of the room, and the mood you want to conjure. In a bathroom you need to have different types of lighting: bright ambient lighting, task lighting and mood lighting. You can achieve all this layering effect by installing a range of light fixtures and bulbs.
Ideally a vanity mirror should be installed around 75 to 80 inches above the floor. A bulb of around 100W should provide enough illumination. More information HERE.
To provide background lighting that mimics daylight aim for around 500 to 600 lumens. For task lighting bring the brightness up to 700 to 800 lumens. This will provide enough light for applying makeup and shaving for example.
What you need are lights either side of your mirror or lights that encircle the mirror. Think Hollywood films that depict behind-the-scenes dressing rooms. This types of light will throw light onto your face in a flattering way as they eliminate ugly harsh shadows. More information HERE
This depends on the effect your are trying to create. Point lights down for areas where you need plenty of light for grooming tasks. Point the bulbs upwards for general background lighting.
The best light is natural daylight as this is the light everyone will see your makeup in. However, this is not always possible or practical. So a natural white light from LED bulbs is a good option. Try to avoid fluorescent lighting and any light with yellow or pinkish tones.
Incandescent and halogen light sources will have the best color rendering index (CRI). For a vanity lighting aim for energy efficient bulbs with a CRI of over 90 and above.
Aim for LED light bulbs that provide around 2700K. This level of light has a warm, cozy feel. Also, lighting of this kind will flatter the skin an important consideration is a bathroom.
More information can be found HERE
This refers to the way the light from a bulb renders colors. The index compares the color rendering of the light bulb to natural light. For vanity lighting you need to look for bulbs with a high CRI (over 90). While in ambient lighting the CRI can be lower.
I hope this guide has helped you discover the right type of lighting for your bathroom.
Lighting plays such an important part of making a bathroom a calm and pleasant space in your home.