You’d be forgiven for thinking vanity lighting is easy. It does look quite easy – just add some soft lights and you’re done, right?

Well, not exactly.

Turns out bad lighting can ruin a room, and bad vanity lighting can make you uncomfortable on top of that. It’s important to know what kind of lights to use and where to place them for the best effect. Next time you’re planning a bathroom remodel cost, already take these lighting tips into consideration!

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Diffuse lighting

Bathrooms usually don’t do well with hard light and shadows. To be clear on what these mean, hard shadows are created when we use hard light – a strong light source that creates dark shadows on the unlit side. This is usually used artistically for a dramatic effect, so if a hard light comes from one side of the face, the other side is almost completely dark.

But as you can imagine, this isn’t what we want when it comes to bathroom vanity lights.

For bathrooms, experts prefer diffuse soft light that creates soft shadows. You can combine two or more diffuse lights on the sides of your mirror to create a nice even lighting on the face, making it easy to see yourself clearly and without harsh shadows. 

The bathroom light bar seen above is a great example!

Correct height

The proper vanity light height is to keep them at around eye level. Remember the idea is getting even lighting, so place them too high or too low and you’ll be creating unwanted shadows.

Also avoid lights placed directly above your head. These will create shadows under your eyes and nose, which is very unflattering if you’re trying to get ready for a night out. 


Lights placed too low will have the opposite effect and create the sort of shadows you’d get when placing a flashlight under your face to tell a scary story around a campfire.


Now that we’ve taken care of the lights in the front, let’s talk about the backlight. This is another common lighting technique seen in movies and ads – the backlight is, as the name suggests, a light placed behind the subject to create a light outline around the head and clothing. This makes it easier to separate the subject from a dark background.

In your bathroom, the purpose of the backlight is similar: it will outline your hair and clothing so you can see your entire outline in the most flattering lighting possible.

For placement, a backlight should be on the ceiling, but slightly behind you (never exactly above your head).


Dimmers are a lovely touch especially for those who often deal with makeup and different hairstyles. You can dim the light exactly how you want it to make sure your looks hold up in any lighting condition.

But of course, there’s the added comfort of being able to dim lights for a nice and relaxing shower, for example. It’s a good addition either way!

Avoid clear or exposed bulbs

Exposed bulbs are terrible for the bathroom – their glare is way too strong. And yes, you will find tons of bathroom lighting references out there with exposed bulbs because, honestly, they look really beautiful… but they’re not practical.

They will be massively uncomfortable for your eyes, it doesn’t make for good soft lighting, and it can reflect off of mirrors and other metallic surfaces. It’s a mess.

Always opt for hazy matte glass and fixtures, and stir away from exposed bulbs. You want soft even lighting, not a strong light piercing your eyes when you’re trying to brush your hair.

Don’t rely solely on backlit mirrors

Don’t get me wrong, backlit mirrors are nice additions and they look really cool… but they can’t do all the work. The lights are usually too weak to light your face by themselves, so if that’s what you’re going for, installing two diffuse lights on both sides of the mirror will work much better.

Place bathroom vanity light fixtures in the proper place with the previous tips and your backlit mirror will feel much better to look at!

Want to add some lighting to your bathroom? Get free quotes from a bathroom remodeling professional from your area today!


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