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Best Bathroom Lighting Options for Shaving & Putting on Makeup

By Jakemontgomery @LTDOnlineStores

Selecting the proper lighting for your bathroom makes daily tasks like putting on makeup and shaving less problematic. Nothing is more difficult than trying to apply mascara or matching foundation when your lighting is off the mark.

Lighting in the bathroom is an issue because of the angles, shadows, and glares that are created when you’re standing in front of the vanity mirror. The most important concept that we need to keep in mind is layering your lighting vertically just as you would horizontally across the room. This will eliminate shadows.

Vertical Lighting in the Bathroom

An example of vertical lighting. As you can see, some overhead task lighting or recessed lights would compliment this area well. (CC)

Bathroom Lighting: What Not to Do

Let’s step outside of the norm and make our bathroom (and coincidentally ourselves) more appealing. As Carla pointed out on her blog, “Nothing says ‘typical’ like a bar light. Nothing says ‘nothing special’ like a bar light.’” So since we don’t want to use bar lights, what options are we left with? Let’s take a look at the most common bathroom lighting options one by one.

Task Lighting

Aerial Task Lighting

The Aerial Task Lighting Vanity.

Task lighting is another word for bar lighting. It’s common in many, many houses. Task lighting is good for a general sense of lighting; to give you the ability to see (versus being in the dark) but for activities such as shaving or applying makeup, you need the spotlight to shine on you.

Bathroom Sconces:

Sconces should be at least 40 watts mounted at eye level on each side of the mirror. By doing this, you’ll avoid shadows that occur when lighting is placed above or below you. There’s nothing wrong with using sconces, you just have to make sure they provide enough light to chase away shadows. Personally, I like the aesthetic that they create. They’re available in many shapes, assortments, finishes, and colors so you can really get creative in this area.

Kenroy Home Twigs Collection

The Kenroy Homes Twig Collection.

Vertical Lighting/Sidelights

Even better than sconces from a functional standpoint, vertical lighting gives you the same look of lighting placed on each side of your vanity mirror. These elongated fixtures disperse lighting at several levels. This works well when you have individuals of different heights using the same bathroom. They elongate the dynamics of the room and can even help make your bathroom look bigger than it actually is.(LINK)

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting isn’t intended for functional use but rather, as the name implies, to set the mood. Accent lighting illuminates the corners of the room, making it appear to be bigger and make you aware of just how beautiful the entire space really is. Use this in conjunction with sconces and vertical lighting for the best results.

Recessed Bathroom Lighting

Recessed lighting is fine, in fact it’s very modern, but it shouldn’t be relied upon for grooming purposes. When placed directly above the mirror, it casts a shadow on your face. Ever try telling a scary story? You place the flashlight just below your chin and talk in an ominous voice. We’re not telling scary stories here, we’re putting on makeup and getting ready for the days (or nights) adventures. We do not want shadows cast below our eyes, nose, chin, and eyebrows.

View more Bathroom Lighting Fixtures over here.

A Few More Tips on Bathroom Lighting

1. Neodymium Light Bulbs

Here’s a secret that I’m sure you’ll love. Neodymium light bulbs simulate natural sunlight. It’s a type of incandescent bulb that is coated with a slightly bluish tint. This give you a more natural light instead of the yellow lighting that you’re accustomed to.

2. Dimmers

Don’t forget that you can throw on a dimmer for less than $20. This way, you can install brighter bulbs and still be able to dim them so you don’t waste any energy when you’re not freshening up.

3. Light Bulb Wattage

I’m all for saving energy but your bathroom has to be functional at the same time. When choosing lighting fixtures, look for units that provide 75-100 watts of illumination. For compact fluorescents and LED lighting, you can lower this number to 24-26 watts and 20-25 watts respectively.


Plucking your eyebrows in the dark will leave you looking like a yeti. My suggestion is to use a combination of vertical lighting and ambient lighting for best results. Don’t be afraid to add too much lighting, you can correct this with a dimmer switch or put your lights on separate circuits so you can control which ones come on with the flip of a button!

Best Bathroom Lighting for Makeup

What ever you do, just stay away from these. It pains me to even show them! (CC)

Until next time, ciao!

More Bathroom Lighting Tips:

  1. Great Bathroom Idea: Motion Sensitive Ambient Lights
  2. Illuminating Your Bathroom the Right Way

About the Author
Cheryl Khan is a designer and writer at Tradewinds Imports.com, an online specialty site dedicated to retailing fine bathroom furnishings. She has extensive knowledge about all the finer details that go into planning the perfect bath renovation project and is an expert on all things bathroom! Send her your bathroom Q’s on twitter @SuperInteriors!

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