Selecting your Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom lighting does much more than just illuminate the room. It has to help you make the transition from asleep to awake without blinding you, guide you in your grooming routines, and help you relax as you wind down your day. With all those different functions, it should come as no surprise that in order to offer adequate lighting, a bathroom should employ a variety of sources.

Ambient lighting

This fill-in lighting brightens the overall space. It is most often supplied by a central fixture, usually a surface-mounted ceiling light.

Task lighting

This lighting helps illuminate specific activities, such as shaving, make-up application, showering, etc.

  • Vanity lighting

    Vertical fixtures or sconces mounted on either side of the mirror work best for eliminating shadows. When the size and position of the mirror make sidelights impractical, a horizontal bar with multiple lights can be placed over the mirror. The fixture should be long enough to spread light evenly across your face, ideally at least 24 inches long. All vanity lighting should contain at least 150 watts in total.

  • Shower lighting

    In smaller bathrooms, a dedicated fixture may not be necessary, especially if the shower has a clear door. Otherwise, a recessed light generally works well; LED recessed/trim fixtures provide abundant light and are rated for wet locations. Similar recessed fixtures also work well over a freestanding tub or the toilet.

Accent lighting

This type of lighting highlights particular elements of the bathroom that you want to highlight, such as beautiful tilework or an interesting fixture. A small, recessed spotlight directed accordingly will add just the right amount of sparkle.


A crisp white light tends to render skin tones most accurately, and halogen bulbs set the standard. LED lights have advanced to the point that they provide very similar light to halogens and last much longer. Both types offer longer life and higher efficiency than incandescent bulbs. Be sure to look for frosted or white bulbs (rather than clear) to minimize glare.