Bathroom lighting plays a crucial role in creating the right ambiance and enabling tasks like shaving, makeup application, and bathing. With the wide variety of options available today, choosing the right type of lighting for your bathroom can be overwhelming. In this article, we will explore the 7 most popular types of bathroom lighting and help you determine which is best suited for your space and needs.

Overhead Lighting

Overhead lighting refers to central ceiling lights that illuminate the entire bathroom space. This is the most common and basic type of bathroom lighting. Overhead lighting comes in various styles such as:

Flush Mount Lighting

Flush mount lights sit directly against the ceiling in a recessed or semi-recessed manner. They distribute light evenly across the bathroom and are ideal for smaller spaces. Flush mount lights come in simple round or square shapes, as well as more decorative styles. They provide ambient lighting and are good for general illumination.

Drum Pendant Lighting

Drum pendant lights hang from the ceiling on a cord or chain. They typically feature drum-shaped shades that point the light downwards. Drum pendants work well centered above sections of the bathroom like the tub or vanity. They create a more directed stream of overhead light.


For a glamorous look, chandeliers can make a dramatic overhead lighting choice. Bathroom chandeliers should have mini pendant lights or small arms radiating from a central fixture. This helps concentrate light right where you need it, unlike a dining room chandelier. Chandeliers work best in large and luxury bathrooms.

Rainfall Shower Head

Though not technically a light, rainfall shower heads create dazzling streams of “raining” water that amplify light. Installing a rainfall shower head in a bathroom with a skylight or recessed lighting can make your shower glow. The rainfall effect looks beautiful paired with recessed lighting or pendant lights.


Skylights are essentially windows in the ceiling that allow natural light into the bathroom. They create the bright, airy feel of an outdoor space. For privacy, skylights can use translucent glass. Skylights pair well with other lighting like recessed cans to illuminate the bathroom at night.

Recessed/Can Lighting

Recessed downlights, also known as can lights, are embedded into the ceiling. They create focused beams of light ideal for task illumination at sinks and showers. Recessed lighting works well for contemporary or minimalist bathrooms. Using multiple recessed lights provides even overhead illumination.

Track Lighting

Track lighting offers flexible placement of light heads on a track mounted to the ceiling. This allows you to concentrate light where you need it most. Tracks can also be bent and shaped, enabling lighting designs like illuminating a decorative alcove. Rotate or pivot track heads to adjust the direction.

Vanity Lighting

Well-lit vanities are essential for daily grooming. Add dedicated lighting around bathroom mirrors and sinks for visibility and accent lighting. Vanity fixtures include:

Wall Sconces

Wall sconces placed by the mirror provide ideal lighting for using the vanity. Opt for adjustable sconces that allow directing light right on your face, where you need it most. Wall sconces give a more customized lighting experience than an overhead central light alone.

Vanity Strip Lighting

Linear strip lights run horizontally along the top or sides of the mirror. Illuminating the mirror’s surrounding area reduces shadows on your face. This lighting also creates a cool, modern look. For additional lighting, install separate wall sconces alongside the vanity strip.

Mirror Sconces

Attached directly to the mirror itself, mirror sconces focus light downward in front of the vanity. Check for mirrors with built-in sconces or purchase separate ones designed for mirror attachment. The light reflects off the mirror to create optimal visibility for makeup, shaving, and skin care.

Hollywood Mirrors

Hollywood mirrors have integrated perimeter lights that create even, shadowless illumination. Most Hollywood mirrors have dimming capabilities to control brightness. Their lights use LCD or LED bulbs for energy efficiency and cool operation.

Decorative Lighting

While overhead and vanity lighting serve critical needs, decorative lighting adds style, visual interest, and accent illumination. Decorative bathroom fixtures include:

Pendant Lights

Mini pendant lights over the tub or mirror provide a brighter stream of directed light. Clustered pendants work well over a bathtub, enabling relaxing soaks under glowing light. Try geometric or cascading shapes for added flair. Check pendant height to ensure lighting reaches where needed.


Wall sconces plug visual gaps and dark corners in the bathroom’s lighting scheme. Use accent lighting sconces by the mirror or shower to amplify visibility and draw the eye. Look for back-lit, glass, or regal styles to enhance the room’s aesthetic.


For a coastal, nautical, or traditional look, decorative lanterns charm and illuminate. Place matching lanterns by the mirror or use oversized lanterns flanking the tub. Check lanterns are moisture-resistant and use dimmable bulbs to control brightness.

Under Cabinet Lights

Under-cabinet lighting illuminates bathroom surfaces and highlights displays. For example, illuminate folded towels in open under-sink cabinets. Waterproof LED strips work best. Use a remote to switch different colors and effects like candle flicker.

Step/Deck Lighting

Lights along the tub edge, recessed into steps, or lining the floor perimeter enhance safety and create dramatic visuals. For example, tub deck lighting casts a beautiful glow during baths. Choose mini, shallow, or linear lights that won’t protrude or interfere underfoot.

Night Lights

Mini night lights plug into bathroom outlets to provide a sense of safety and visibility at night. Place discreet night lights low to the ground to create subtle path illumination. Use motion-sensor night lights to automatically turn on with movement then power down.

Shower & Bathtub Lighting

Proper illumination in the shower and bathtub helps prevent slips and falls. It also amplifies the relaxing ambiance of soaking and bathing. Key options include:

Shower Recessed Ceiling Lights

Recessed can lights built into the shower ceiling concentrate direct light on wet surfaces. This glowing overhead illumination increases visibility and safety. Recessed shower lights are best centered or lined along the ceiling.

Rain Shower Heads

As mentioned under overhead lighting, rainfall shower heads create spectacular cascades of light. Pair them with recessed cans or ceiling lights. The illuminated water effect is perfect for spa-like showers.

Waterproof Pendant Lights

Pendant lights add a striking look suspended over the shower or tub area. Ensure pendants you use in wet areas are properly moisture sealed and rated. Mini pendants work best so more light reaches the shower floor or bath water.

Waterproof Recessed Niche Lights

Niches built into tile walls or the shower area are ideal spots for recessed lighting. Niche lights beam illumination onto the bather and act as a decorative accent. Ensure niches have adequate drainage to prevent water damage to lights.

Linear Shower Lighting

Thin, linear light strips recessed into the shower ceiling or running vertically down corners direct light exactly where you need visibility. Linear shower lighting prevents shadows and fully illuminates wet surfaces and flooring.

Bathtub Decor Lights

Lights built around the bathtub enhance ambiance during baths. Options like tub lip/deck strip lighting and floating candles create a relaxing vibe. Make sure to use waterproof tub lighting rated for moisture and high humidity.

Lighting By Finish & Style

The aesthetics of your bathroom lighting also deserve consideration. Choose fixtures that match or complement your space’s decor. Consider the finish and style options below:

Chrome & Stainless Steel

Sleek metallic finishes like polished chrome, brushed nickel, and stainless steel convey modern, contemporary elegance. They radiate brightness and suit minimal, urban, or industrial bathrooms.

Black & Matte Black

Trendy matte and jet black fixture finishes fit today’s popular moody, dramatic bathrooms. Black lighting contrasts beautifully against white tile, marble, or stone. It works with retro, industrial, modern, or neo-traditional decors.

Gold & Rose Gold

Warm metallics like antique gold, rose gold, and brass create an upscale, glamorous look. Gold hues match traditional, vintage, or opulent decorative styles. Use gold lighting sparingly to add luxe accent hues.

Bronzed & Copper Finishes

Earthy, burnished finishes like oil-rubbed bronze and antique copper lend period charm and a sense of antiquity. Their dark, aged patina suits Tuscan, farmhouse, rustic, or craftsman style bathrooms.

Painted & Colorful

For a pop of color, choose painted or colorful lighting fixtures to match your bathroom’s palette. Try ocean blue pendants, cherry red sconces, or even customize the color. This adds cheerful personality.

Crystal & Glass

For dramatic sparkle and elegance, crystal and glass light fixtures dazzle in bathrooms. Look for high-quality leaded, cut, or faceted glass. Reflective pendants, sconces, and chandeliers exude timeless glamor.

Smart & Energy Efficient Bathroom Lighting

To maximize cost savings and convenience, opt for smart technology and energy efficient options when selecting bathroom lighting:

  • LED bulbs: LEDs consume about 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They also remain cool. Use LEDs in all possible bathroom light fixtures.
  • Occupancy sensors: Occupancy sensor switches automatically turn lights on and off based on detecting motion. No more manually fumbling for switches in the dark. They significantly reduce energy use.
  • Dimmers: Dimmer switches and dimmable bulbs allow controlling light levels. Set the right mood and brightness for any activity. Dimmers reduce energy use by lowering light output.
  • Smart bulbs: Smart bulbs like Philips Hue let you control colors, brightness, and lighting effects from a smartphone app. Create lighting schedules and scenes like sunrise wake-up or spa bath moods.
  • Smart switches: Smart switches integrate lighting control into home automation systems and voice assistants like Alexa. Adjust lights remotely, by voice, on schedules, and based on activities or room occupancy.

7 Tips for Great Bathroom Lighting

Follow these bathroom lighting tips and tricks to enhance functionality, safety, and aesthetics:

1. Layer Light Sources

Install a mix of lighting like overhead, vanity, accent, and decorative fixtures. Layered lighting prevents shadows and provides the flexibility to create suitable ambiance for different occasions.

2. Mind the Details

Focus ample lighting on tasks like makeup, shaving, grooming, and bathing. Illuminate mirrors, medicine cabinets, showers, and tubs sufficiently. Details like under cabinet lighting also help.

3. Play with Dimming

Install dimmable fixtures and bulbs throughout the bathroom. This allows adjusting brightness for different activities and moods. Dimming also offers energy savings when possible.

4. Choose Diffused Lighting

Opt for diffused, indirect, or covered light sources that spread illumination broadly and minimize glare. Diffusers soften harsh light, reduce shadows, and enable ambient glow.

5. Experiment with Color

Try different fixture finishes, smart bulbs, accent lights, or backlit panels to subtly introduce color. Colored lighting can make the room feel energized, romantic, or serene.

6. Consider Harmony

Ensure lighting matches the bathroom’s overall decor and aesthetic vision. However, don’t be afraid to use light fixtures as a stylistic focal point.

7. Focus on Practicality

Pick lighting that brightly illuminates where needed, functionally works with the space, and provides safety around wet areas. Don’t sacrifice practical utility for pure decor.

Bathroom Lighting Ideas

Here are some creative bathroom lighting ideas and applications to inspire your own perfect lighting design:

  • Frame the mirror or medicine cabinet with backlit LED strips to evenly illuminate faces.
  • Install swing arm wall lamps to direct light precisely where required at the vanity or tub.
  • Suspend delicate glass orb pendants over the bathtub for a glamorous accent.
  • Line the ceiling and upper walls with recessed can lights to remove shadows.
  • Place matching antique wall sconces by the mirror to amplify grooming light.
  • Use battery-operated remote control puck lights inside drawers and cabinets.
  • Deck out the shower with multiple recessed ceiling lights, niche lights, and linear lighting.
  • Install Hollywood mirrors with dimmable perimeter lights for shadowless, multi-functional use.
  • Add whimsical yet functional night lights along baseboards and floors for visibility and safety.
  • Splurge on a elaborate crystal bathroom chandelier as the focal point over a clawfoot tub.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose from overhead lights, vanity lighting, accent lighting, shower and tub lighting, and smart technology for a complete lighting plan.
  • Layer multiple light sources like flush mounts, sconces, and pendant lights to illuminate the bathroom brilliantly.
  • Focus ample lighting on key tasks around the mirror, shower, tub, and toilet areas.
  • Mix and match fixture styles that align with your bathroom’s decor, like chrome or gold finishes.
  • Install dimmers, smart bulbs, and app control for maximum convenience and energy savings.
  • Diffused light prevents glaring and harsh shadows during bathroom activities and routines.
  • Well-designed bathroom lighting makes the space feel bright and inviting while enabling excellent visibility for tasks.


The right mix of overhead, task, accent, and decorative lighting can make your bathroom both stylish and superbly functional. Take into account the size, layout, and activities taking place when choosing fixtures and positions. Layer light sources like recessed cans, vanity strips, and pendant lights together for flexible illumination. Focused lighting around mirrors and showers improves visibility and safety. Ambient, diffused ceiling lights prevent shadows and enable general use. And don’t forget about smart controls and dimming for energy efficiency and the perfect mood lighting during baths. With this wide range of bathroom lighting ideas and options to choose from, you can easily create a lighting design that is customized for both beauty and utility.