What Type of Lighting is Best for Bathrooms

ideas for bathroom lighting

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.

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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

natural light is important in bathrooms

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.

Task Lighting

tips for task lighting in bathrooms

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.

Background Lighting

background or ambient lighting in bathrooms

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

add plenty of mirrors to your bathroom to add light

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.

Globe Electric 90663, 4" Flush Round Trim Recessed Lighting Kit Tempered Frosted Glass, White, 3.88" Hole Size

Accent 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.

Joossnwell Bathroom Vanity Light Fixtures Dimmable, 24 Inch Gold LED Vanity Bar Lights Modern Wall Sconce Lamps Over Mirror 6000K Cold White 16W

Track Lighting

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.

Sydney 4-Light Track Lighting, Chrome Finish, Clear Glass and White Glass Shade,59267

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.

Bath Vanity Light Fixtures Wall Sconces, 2-Pack Modern Bathroom Wall Lights with Brushed Nickel Finish and White Frosted Glass, GALTLAP Wall Lamp for Bedroom Kitchen Living Room Entryway

Vanity Lighting

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.

Espird 3 Light Bathroom Vanity Light Fixtures Black,Rustic Farmhouse Vanity Lighting Over Mirror Modern Industrial Wall Lamp with Cylinder Glass Shade

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.

Led Vanity Mirror Lights, Hollywood Style Vanity Make Up Light, 10ft Ultra Bright White LED, Dimmable Touch Control Lights Strip, for Makeup Vanity Table & Bathroom Mirror, Mirror Not Included

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.

Kira Home Duo 14" Modern Wall Sconce with Frosted Glass Shades, for Bathroom/Vanity, Chrome Finish

Overhead Lighting

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.

Led Square Ceiling Light Airand 24W 2050LM 12.8in Flush Mount Light Fixture Ceiling Lights Waterproof No Flicker IP44 80Ra+ 5000K Cold White Led Light for Bedroom Kitchen Bathroom(Cold White)

Flush mount

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.

LE Flush Mount Ceiling Light Fixture Waterproof LED Ceiling Light for Bathroom Porch, 9 inch 15W 5000K Daylight 1250lm 100W Equivalent Ceiling Lamp for Kitchen, Laundry, Bedroom, Hallway, Non Dimmable

Pendant Light

These usually hang from the center of the room and will give an ambient light.

Modern style pendant lamp with stainless steel and glass.

MOTINI 1-Light Globe Glass Pendant Light for Kitchen Island Modern Dome Teardrop Black and Yellow Small Pendant Lighting for Dining Room, Bedroom, Bathroom Hanging Light Fixture

Chandelier

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!

lifeholder Mini Chandelier, Crystal Chandelier Lighting, 2 Lights, Flush Mount Ceiling Light, H10.4'' x W8.66'' Modern Chandelier Lighting Fixture for Bedroom, Hallway, Bar, Kitchen, Bathroom

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.

Bestier Modern Crystal Square Raindrop Chandelier Lighting Flush Mount LED Ceiling Light Fixture Pendant Lamp for Dining Room Bathroom Bedroom Livingroom 4 GU10 Bulbs Required 12 in Wide 20 inch High

Shower Colorful Fun Lighting

Fully waterproof lighting with suctions cups. Fun lighting to add to your pleasure when showering.

BIGMONAT Shower Lights Waterproof Submersible Pool Lights with RF Remote Control Through Walls 80FT,12Colors Changing , AA Battery Pond Lights with Suction Cup&Adhesive,2Pack

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.

LED Multicolor 7 Colors Rainbow Shower head, Water Glow LED light 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!

3 Pack Toilet Bowl Night Light by Witshine, 16 LED Colors Changing Nightlight with Motion Detection Sensor - Cool Fun Useful Gadgets for Bathroom Decor, Gag Funny Gift for Men Dad Father

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.

Source

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.

Minka-Aire F510L-BS, Spacesaver 26" Ceiling Fan, Brushed Steel Finish with Silver Blades

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.

Ultra Quiet Exhaust Bathroom Fan with Light and Nightlight 110CFM 1.5 Sones Ventilation Fan Bronze - 3 Years Warranty by Akicon

Musical Ceiling Light Fixture

Bring in relaxing music for the ultimate bathing experience.

Features include

  • 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.

Horevo Waterproof Ceiling Light Fixture IP65 LED Music Ceiling Lamp for Bathroom, with Bluetooth Speaker and Color Change, 6500K Daylight 18W(150W Equivalent) 1600LM for Kitchen, Laundry, Hallway.

Energy use in the bathroom

energy use considerations in a 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

how color temperature is important in a bathroom color temperature chart

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

Incandescent Bulbs

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.

Pros

  • cheaper that most other types of bulbs.
  • easy to change

Cons

  • short lifespan typically 1,000 hours.
  • less energy efficient that LED and halogen lights.

SHINESTAR 8-Pack Bright LED Globe Light Bulbs for Bathroom, 60 Watt Equivalent, Daylight 5000K, E26 Base, Vanity Light Bulbs, Non-dimmable

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.

Pros

  • use around 90% less energy than an incandescent light bulb of similar brightness.
  • can last up to 10 years

Cons

  • initially expensive to buy

Wowatt Bathroom Vanity Light Fixture 3 Lights LED Bar Lighting Over Mirror Modern Bath Wall Lamp Wall Sconce Cool White 4000K Wall Mount Chrome Finish Acrylic Stainless Steel Makeup 22” 12 Watt

Halogen Bulbs

This is a bright white light that is a type of incandescent light.

Cons

  • 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.

Pros

  • 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.

GU10 Bulb, 6 Packs GU10 Halogen Bulbs 120V 50W, MR16 gu10+c Light, Dimmable, Halogen GU10 for Track & Recessed Lighting, NP5 Replacement Bulbs

Compact Fluorescent (CFL)

The perfect lightbulb for producing ambient light in bathrooms.

Pros

  • will fit into any standard light fitting
  • low energy use (around 70% less than an incandescent bulb).
  • long lasting 12,000 + hours

Cons

  • more expensive to buy initially

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb T2 Spiral CFL, 2700k Soft White, 9W (40 Watt Equivalent), 540 Lumens, E26 Medium Base, 120V, UL Listed (Pack of 8)

Fluorescent Tubes

Long tubes filled with insert gas. It is the gas that glows to produce the light.

Pros

  • great for lighting large rooms.
  • long lifespan (up to 20,000 hours)

Cons

  • 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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • initial outlay is more expensive than a traditional bulb.

6-Pack LED Dimmable Edison Light Bulbs 40W Equivalent Vintage Light Bulb, 2200K-2400K Warm White (Amber Glass), Antique LED Edison Bulbs, Squarrel Cage Filament,ST64, E26 LED Bulb Base (4W- 6 Pack)

Consider a Lighting Consultant or Designer

why use a lighting designer for your next bathroom remodel

If you are planning a family bathroom on a budget, then this step just would not be cost effective.

However…

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

bathroom safely and electricity

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

How much light is the ideal amount for a bathroom?

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.

Since bathrooms can get pretty wet, do I need special bathroom 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.

Is LED lighting Good for bathrooms?

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.

What is layered lighting, and why is it important in bathrooms?

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.

At what height should I install wall mounted bathroom lighting like vanity lighting?

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.

How bright should bathroom lighting be?

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 is the most flattering lighting for a bathroom?

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

Should bathroom light fixtures point up or down?

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.

What is the best bathroom lighting for putting on makeup?

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.

What is the best lighting for a vanity mirror?

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.

What color LED light is best for a bathroom?

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

What is the color rendering index (CRI) in bulbs

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.

Conclusion

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.

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