Vanity Lighting: A Buyer Guide


If your bathroom lacks the proper lighting needed for you to groom in the morning, or if you have an old, ugly light that you’re dying to get rid of, then this guide is for you. Read on to learn all about the many varieties and uses of vanity lights, before you make the purchase.

The Basics

Vanity lights are light fixtures that are mounted above bathroom mirrors. Usually horizontal though occasionally vertical, vanity lights can be wider than most lights, with many bulbs placed in a row. Unlike ceiling lights which light the entire room, the purpose of vanity lights is to illuminate the mirror and the subject in the mirror – you. These lights are useful for makeup application, brushing teeth, and shaving, both at night and during the day.

3 images in a collage: top left shows a hole in a wall with wires protruding and the top of a bathroom mirror. Bottom left shows a close up of the hole and wires. Right shows a bathroom vanity, complete with a light now covering the hole.Wiring and Mounting

Although vanity lights can be very wide, they are usually wired through one hole in the center of the back of the light, then mounted to the wall. Sometimes vanity lights have brackets that are first screwed into the wall and the light is then screwed onto the mount.

How Wide Should Your Light Be?

There are thousands of vanity lights in all sizes on the market. This can make it hard to determine how long of a light you need. Here are a few rules to follow when choosing a vanity light:

1. The vanity light should be no longer than the vanity below it.

2. Double sinks should have one vanity light above each, even if they share one mirror.

3. It is okay if the vanity light is wider than the mirror it sits above.

4. Long mirrors, especially builder grade mirrors, require multiple vanity lights above them. Choose two or three of the same fixture for cohesion.

To the Wall: Bath Lights

A pink bathroom with a large mirror above the sink and two lights on either side of the mirrorWhile most vanity lights are horizontal, some are vertical. Vertical vanity lights are wall sconces specially made to sit on either side of the bathroom mirror. Known as bath lights, these fixtures are a great option for homes with low ceilings where there is not room for a light above the bathroom mirror. Bath lights are sold individually, but we suggest you purchase two at a time, one for either side of the mirror.

Up or Down

A common design of vanity lights has several bulbs and shades hanging from a singular bar. Many homeowners suffer confusion over how to hang these lights; the bulbs hanging down so the light shines on the mirror below or hanging up so the light shines on the ceiling? We say go with your gut. Lighting brands provide product images of how they think the light should hang, but if you disagree there is no one to stop you. At the end of the day you must be happy with the light you will see every day, so hang it as you please.

Save Energy with Your Lighting

Like refrigerators and ovens, vanity lights can be Energy Star certified as well. Energy Star rated vanity lights use ¼ the energy of traditional vanity lights. They also save money and reduce the amount of times bulbs need to be replaced (about every 7 years with regular use). Energy Star rated vanity lights also carry a two-year warranty, twice the length of the 1 year industry standard.

However, Energy Star certification is not the only way to save on your electricity bill. Non-Energy Star rated vanity lights can become efficient with the use of LED or CFL light bulbs. For more info on both options and the difference between LED and CFL, read our Energy Efficient Lighting Guide.

Design and Finish

Once you have chosen the size and efficiency you will need for your vanity, the design of the fixture is the most important decision to make. With thousands of lights on the market, there is bound to be a light that matches your home’s design aesthetic. From industrial chic to traditional and everything in between, your vanity light is a great place to demonstrate your style. And if your taste changes in the next 20 years? Lights are very easy to replace at minimal cost.

 Ready to get started? Browse our selection of vanity lights at SUPPLY.com.

And for more lighting inspiration, visit our “Lighten Up” Pinterest board!