Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best bathroom vanity lights

Let’s face it. We spend a lot of time in the bathroom looking at ourselves in the mirror. Bathroom lighting has a reputation for being insufficient, which is why vanity lights have come to save the day.

Bathroom vanity lights are fixtures installed around any side of the mirror. Their convenient location illuminates the vanity area, giving you adequate lighting to focus on the fine details of shaving and makeup application. Bathroom vanity lights also emerge as somewhat of a gem in a bathroom, giving it brightness and dimension in an otherwise small, simple space. Choose from simple, vintage, ornate, or modern styles to either find a perfect match or give your bathroom a total makeover.

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If you’re looking to achieve the glamorous look of a Hollywood dressing room, opt for the multi-light fixtures with iconic globe bulbs.

Key considerations

Bulb type

Bathroom vanity lights are compatible with LED, incandescent, or CFL bulbs, though some styles only work with certain bulbs. Given their luminosity, LED bulbs are a popular choice, especially for hair styling, makeup application, and shaving. Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive up front but are less energy-efficient. CFL bulbs are used in some fixtures and are sometimes difficult to replace and recycle.

It’s important to read the fixture’s packaging to determine which bulbs are compatible. This doesn’t always mean choosing between these three styles — you may need to get specialty bulbs. These bulbs, which are especially popular in contemporary or futuristic styles, often come in unique shapes. They can be harder to find if you need replacements, which is why keeping spares on hand is a good idea.

Installation

Bathroom vanity lights require proper installation, which can be a bit involved given the modest amount of electrical work. While some consumers choose to install their own fixtures, many hire a licensed electrical contractor. Not only can they check for potential electrical hazards, but they may also be able to place, measure, and mount the fixture far better given their experience.

Single vs. multi-light fixtures

Single lights
Pros: Single lights and sconces are ideal if you only need minimal lighting or don’t have the space to install a multi-light fixture. They can be placed almost anywhere around the mirror, with the sides being the most popular choice.

Cons: More often than not, you’ll need to select more than one single light to effectively illuminate the vanity. As a result, you’ll need to calculate at least two single lights into your overall budget. 

Multi-lights
Pros: There is a broad range of multi-light fixtures, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Most vanities do well with just one multi-fixture, making them cost-effective lighting options.

Cons: With multiple bulbs in these fixtures, you’ll have the ongoing cost of replacing them— which can get pricey if they require specialty bulbs. Cleaning can be challenging, especially with a series of nooks and crannies around the shades, bulbs, and mounts. 

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Caution
If there is an outlet very close to the bathroom vanity light, refrain from using it. The vanity bulbs can heat up power cords and cause an electrical hazard.
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Features

Popular styles

Sconces
These single-light fixtures are often installed in pairs on either side of the mirror. They’re popular if you’d like to achieve a minimalist, modern look. Some styles can be tilted or adjusted as well. Sconces are also a good choice if you don’t have clearance over or under the mirror for proper installation. 

Multi-light strips
Multi-light strips are essentially a series of bulbs. Two- and three-bulb styles are the most common, though there are plenty of multi-light strips with as many as eight bulbs. More often than not, they’re installed over mirrors. However, it’s not uncommon to see a pair of vertical light strips on either side of a mirror.

Bar style
Bar-style bathroom vanity lights offer a clean, streamlined look, which makes them a popular choice for updated bathrooms. They typically consist of a mount with a CFL light or a shade box that covers a multi-light strip. Bar styles are also easy to clean, as they have fewer nooks and crannies than sconces and multi-light strips. 
 

Finishes

Bathroom vanity lights are made of metal, with stainless steel being the most common material. Certain fixtures stick with this finish, whereas others coat it to achieve bronze, chrome, gold, or dark brown coloring. Finishes can be shiny, glossy, brushed, or matte.

Dimmable lights

Some bathroom vanity lights are dimmable, which are popular if you need to fine-tune lighting to suit your needs. These styles feature either a knob, button, or switch to adjust the intensity of the lighting. Dimmability is a premium feature, so expect to pay more for these bathroom vanity lights. In addition, you may need dimmable light bulbs to use this feature.

Prices

Bathroom vanity lights typically cost between $30 and $400. While the price largely depends on the design, even the simplest models from high-end brands can be expensive.

You’ll be able to find decent bathroom vanity lights for less than $60. Single light fixtures come in at the low end of this bracket, while multi-light styles cost a bit more. Lights in this bracket are often simple and functional with some decorative touches.

If you’d like a broader range of stylish light options, be prepared to spend between $60 and $150. Fixtures in this bracket can be contemporary, vintage, basic, or one-of-a-kind. Some of them even are even dimmable.

For $150 to $400, you’ll mostly find high-end bathroom vanity lights. With these fixtures, you’re paying a premium from major brand names in the lighting industry. In addition to an impressive assortment of styles, this bracket includes the trendiest styles of lights.

Tips

  • Confirm the finish or color. Even if you think a bathroom vanity light is a certain color, you might order the wrong color if you don’t double-check the product description.
  • Check to see whether the package comes with bulbs. Some bathroom vanity lights, especially high-end styles, come with a package of bulbs. This is most common if the fixture requires an uncommon bulb type or shape.
  • Recycle old bathroom vanity lights properly. When upgrading to a new bathroom vanity light, you’ll need to recycle your old one. Call your local recycling center and ask how and where bulbs and metal fixtures are separated at their location.
  • Call an electrician. If you notice flickering or certain bulbs are burning out more quickly than others on a bathroom vanity light, call a licensed electrical contractor to examine whether there are any issues with the fixture.
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Bathroom vanity lights can also be installed around a vanity or mirror in your bedroom.

FAQ

Q. Do bathroom vanity lights add worth to my home if I’m selling it?
A.
Yes and no. It certainly helps to have attractive fixtures in your home since it adds curb appeal. A well-decorated or staged home may attract sellers more quickly. In terms of adding to the list price of your home, it won’t affect it at all. However, a poorly installed fixture may become a repair buyers ask you to fix before closing.
 

Q. Should my bathroom vanity light match other hardware in my bathroom?
A.
It’s common for homeowners to match bathroom vanity lights to existing faucets and bathroom accents. In some cases, ornate light fixtures are chosen to achieve a contemporary mixed textiles look. Some finishes and materials coordinate better than others, so be open-minded while comparing options.
 

Q. What’s the best way to keep bathroom vanity lights clean?
A.
Weekly dusting is recommended. If you have trouble reaching the fixture, you can invest in a step stool or telescopic duster. Deeper cleaning is occasionally necessary, in which case it’s a good idea to take down any removable pieces for individual cleaning. As far as cleaning products go, each finish and material requires different treatments, so defer to the manufacturer for recommendations.

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