Let your bathroom be a sanctuary that you use to relax and soothe your soul in. The way you light your bathroom can go a long way to create a serene atmosphere and is very important when you want to set the right mood.

Why is the use of light in the bathroom important?

Just like in other rooms of our houses, light also plays an important role in the bathroom. A bathroom, after all, is not only the place where we hurriedly take a bath or shower or brush our teeth.

A bathroom can be made into a sanctuary when you use the correct types of lighting. Here, in the bathroom, you can have a leisurely bath containing all the scents that either calm or invigorate you.

But a leisurely bath can quickly turn uncomfortable if a bright ceiling light shines straight into your eyes.

Grooming will also be unpleasant if the light in the bathroom is either too harsh and cast shadows on your face at odd angles, or the light is too dingy to see if you’re holding an eye or a lip pencil!

The correct lighting in a bathroom — much like in a bedroom — can reinvigorate and rejuvenate us, or calm us and get us ready for a restful night’s sleep. Lighting can even help with meditation and relaxation.

Introducing layers of light to your bathroom

When lighting your bathroom, it’s always good to, instead of working with only one light, work with layers of lighting — ambient light, task lighting, and accent lighting.

These layers of light serve to, instead of giving one source of light that is often glaring and casts quite stark shadows, to make the light in the bathroom richer instead of being glaring.

When you light a bathroom, you must always focus on the tasks that you’ll be performing in the bathroom. For example, when you’re grooming you will require light that isn’t too cool or too sharp that will leave your face lit unevenly. This is where the vanity lighting that we discuss below is so important.

When you want a relaxing bath or shower, however, you wouldn’t want to have light that is too bright. Softer light around the bathtub, for example, will form part of the whole atmosphere that is created to help you relax and unwind from a hard day. This is where both ceiling and wall lights can be used to great success.

Which color temperatures to choose for bathroom lights

You’ve probably noticed that, when you buy a light bulb, the light bulb’s packaging will state “warm white” or “cool white” (or something similar). This is the “color temperature” of the light that the light bulb emits.

Light bulbs with a Color Rendering Index, or CRI, above 80 show colors as they would appear in sunlight. When deciding on a light bulb, be sure to check this before buying.

You should also look for light bulbs that deliver between 2,700K (Kelvin) and 3,000K. These temperature colors offer a warm white light that is flattering and ideal for tasks in the bathroom. The color temperatures above 3,500K delivers a blue-white hued light. This isn’t ideal for a bathroom and can appear much too stark.

These temperature values are usually available on the packaging.

Dimmer Switches

Dimmer switches are no longer relegated to only living areas or bedrooms, but can also be used in bathrooms to great effect.

Dimmable lights are especially handy in smaller bathrooms where you perhaps only have space for two layers of lights. A mixture of dimmable lights and candles are also a winning combination.

But first, let’s look at all the different types of lights and how you can use them in your bathroom.

Vanity lights

Vanity lights are placed either on either side, in front of, or above the vanity area of the bathroom. These lights can take many forms — sconces, pendants, and more.

Sconces work particularly well as vanity lights as they cast light evenly on your face from left and right. Because there is two light sources, you’ll find that there are no stark shadows cast on your face. This makes them perfect for grooming. Depending on the distance of the bathtub from the washbasin, these sconces can also serve as ambient lighting.

The placement of sconces at the vanity area should be only a few inches to the left and right of the mirror. This is to ensure that they are as close to your face as possible without the light being uncomfortable.


If you’re lucky enough to have a skylight in your bathroom, make sure that you use it to compliment the rest of the lighting in your bathroom.

A skylight is not only limited to bring natural sunlight into the bathroom, but can also give you the chance to stare up at the night sky while you’re meditating or relaxing in the bath.

Depending on the time of day, a skylight can also lend soft, ambient light to the bathroom during the morning and evening. However, you will need to have at least one other light source that you can use when grooming and to light the bathroom at night.

Because the skylight’s light is either from above or streams into the room at an angle, you will need to position the other light fixture(s) carefully.


Opt for wall lights if you already have a skylight as these will soften the light that is coming from above. It will also remove any harsh shadows on your face that the skylight causes. This will not only make it easier to do your grooming, but will also lend you softer light to relax in while bathing or taking a shower.

Ceiling lights

From chandeliers to pendants, spotlights and more, ceiling lights can add ambiance to the bathroom in no time.

Let your lights compliment and blend in with the rest of your decor to create unity and a soothing atmosphere that brings you joy when you step into the bathroom.

Ceiling lights — especially if you have a small bathroom — can also be created to be dimmable. This will give you a lot more control over the amount of light in the bathroom.

For example, dimming the light quite a lot and coupling that with candles will be soothing while still casting enough light to see your way around, while a “normal” light can only be switched on or off, leaving you with either too much light or too little.

Wall lights

Wall lights don’t just have to be above or beside the vanity area of your bathroom. Use wall lights to highlight recessed parts of the bathroom, or to cast ambient light without having to dim your ceiling (or main) light, for example.

Wall lights work especially well when you use them by the bathtub to cast an atmospheric glow that makes for the perfect meditative bathing space.

Aim to use smaller, less bright lights next to the bathtub. By doing this and also turning the main light of the bathroom (usually the ceiling light) off, you can create your own meditative, serene cocoon.

You should not, however, use some spotlight light fixtures next to the bath as these lights usually proves to be too bright even when pointed away from the bath.

Other ambient lighting — candles

Of course, what would a meditative bath area be without at least a few candles?

Candles can actually serve as another layer of light that you can use to great effect that will make your bathroom a serene, meditative, and relaxing place.

Two candles beside a lavender flower

For the bathroom — because it is such a humid environment — you should much rather choose real candles than battery-operated candles. (If you do decide on battery-operated candles, be sure to keep them far away from the bath or any other water and remove them again from the bathroom after use.

IP ratings to keep in mind when choosing light fixtures for your bathroom

Because of the humid environment of the bathroom, you should also keep in mind that the lighting you use will not get wet and, where they are used closer to water sources, they are manufactured to be used so close to water.

Minimalistic gray bathroom interior with a stone floor, white walls and a white bathtub with a towel on it.

All the light fixtures you choose has the correct “IP” rating for where you want to use it in the bathroom. The following guide by Plumbworld is a good one to keep handy when deciding on light fixtures:

  • Fully submerged lights need IP67 lights.
  • Lights placed directly over a bath or shower need IP67 lights.
  • Around the perimeters of your bath zone and the radius of your sink need IP44 rated lighting. This is the most common bathroom lighting.
  • Outside the above areas where water will not be used need a minimum IP of 20.

As you can see, bathroom lighting can become very technical (but luckily your electrician helps with that!), but the most important part to remember about the use of light and shade in your bathroom depends on the way that you use your bathroom and the atmosphere that you want to create within it.

There is no use in choosing your bathroom lighting to be highly fashionable if it doesn’t work for you, after all.

Now all you need to do is dim the lights, light a scented candle or two, lie back in a warm bath, and enjoy!