If you've ever seen a makeup table at a fashion show or film and television studio, the mirror will be ringed with bulbs that give an equal amount of light to the subject in front of it. You too can achieve a professional setup in your bathroom by hanging the right bathroom vanity lighting at the right height and incorporating the right light bulbs.
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Natural light is ideal, but not all bathrooms are created equal. Creating an even flow of light across your face can be done using lights above the vanity, but you must know how high above the vanity mirror you should mount the lights.
Hang the mirror a few inches above the highest part of the faucet before measuring for lighting hardware to be installed above the mirror. Generally, the bulbs should be hung 75 to 80 inches above the floor.
Vanity Mirror Lighting
If you're designing a bathroom from scratch and you have a lot of room to play with on both the sides of the vanity and above it, placing vanity lighting is just a matter of finding the right fixtures. However, with predetermined space above the mirror, your choices are limited to fitting lighting that gives you the best effect. If you are hanging the lighting above the vanity mirror, it should be 75 to 80 inches above the floor.
A square or rectangular mirror hung at least 5 inches above the vanity top needs a fixture that creates a spread of light with bulbs totaling no more than 150 watts. This creates a stream of light that highlights the face equally from left to right and closely approximates outdoor lighting. Hang a single fixture above a round mirror with either one or two globes and place it 2 inches above the top of the mirror.
Installing the Right Bulbs
Forget florescent or overhead lighting in a bathroom. What you need is a bulb that creates an even light across the face, and it should be one that's not too hot or too cold. LED light bulbs, while more expensive than regular light bulbs, produce the best light temperatures and last much longer. The total wattage should be between 120 and 150 depending on the size of the bathroom and vanity.
Be sure to read the fixture instructions, as they often state the wattage that it will tolerate. Don't go over that number. The color temperature of the LED is important, as anything over 3500K is too bright, creating a cool effect, while 2700K or under isn't sufficient lighting, and you'll find yourself squinting as you either shave or apply mascara. All LED lights have the color temperature written on the package. Consider installing a dimmer switch to regulate the amount of light.
Safety First With Proper Lighting
Whether your bathroom is new or a retrofit, make sure the light is mounted by an electrician. Water and electricity don't mix without serious consequences. A local licensed contractor will know the codes for your area and is best equipped to install your lighting, as more than likely, your light will be attached to a wall switch.
While the electrician is there, have him check that all your bathroom switches are GFCIs, or ground fault circuit interrupters, as mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and instituted for bathrooms in 1975. A fire inside your wall certainly messes up your beautiful new bathroom.