People should pay attention to the lights that surround their bathroom mirror “because it affects their own appearance… . Mirror lighting needs to be bright but not glaring, accurate yet flattering,” say the people at Elflist.com (which stands for Efficient Light Fixtures, a non-profit lighting education group in Seattle that’s sponsored by local electric utilities).
As you shop for light fixtures to accompany your bathroom mirror, ELF suggests you keep some things in mind when choosing bathroom light fixtures: fixture placement, lamp (or bulb) type, and fixture style. The following is an excerpt from an ELF article on bathroom lighting:
NOTE: Please bring a copy of your house floor plans when shopping for bathroom lighting fixtures for new home construction.
Placement. The best mirror lighting surrounds the face with light, providing light from all sides to minimize shadows under the chin, eyes, cheeks, and forehead. A wall sconce on either side of the mirror can work nicely. If the mirror is a whole wall mirror you can mount the fixtures right on the mirror. Avoid using ceiling mounted fixtures as the sole source unless the room is very small with light-colored walls. Large bathrooms often need additional lighting. Definitely don’t rely on recessed cans for mirror lighting, the shadows can be horrendous. The most common placement for mirror lighting is on the wall above the mirror. Though not ideal, it avoids most conflicts with mirror size, medicine cabinet doors, and room dimensions. However the fixture needs to be long enough to light the sides of the face.
Lamp type. It is important to choose the lamp you want to use first and then find a fixture that will hold it properly. Even, shadowless light is easiest on the eyes, and fluorescent sources (particularly the large tubes) are well suited to this task. Spot lights, clear bulbs or small halogens require lots of shielding or diffusion from the fixture for glare control. This will tend to reduce the light level, which means using higher wattage.
Fixture Style. When selecting a fixture style choose one that has a translucent, but not clear, lens, otherwise glare can be a problem. An opaque lens (metal, ceramic, etc.) won’t allow enough light to pass through. Be sure that the lens won’t change the color of the light (some glass is greenish).