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Vanity Lighting on a Budget

Vanity Lighting on a Budget

Lisha M. asked, “My daughter has an antique vanity and wants to apply lights around the mirror. Are there any other options other than the tape lights that might work?”

Aside from tape or strip lights and custom-built or preexisting lit vanities, there are a few other ways to get the lighting you need for your makeup mirror. We have some wallet-friendly options to achieve impeccable vanity lighting.

bathroom vanity with built-in fixtures

Typically, vanity lighting uses permanent light fixtures built into the dresser or table, placed along the sides and top of the mirror. Keep that placement in mind. Facial makeup lighting requires an even light from those three positions, leaving out the bottom position because it causes shadows that ruin your perception. You can buy vanity-like fixtures, but they would have to be professionally wired to the main power in your home by a licensed electrician.

Vanity covered with icicle string lights

Instead, easily create vanity lighting by using string lights. Not the stringers used to light up your patio, but shorter strands of Christmas string lights can give you the perfect glow. Often, the lights are draped over your mirror as a temporary but effective setup. We recommend incandescent lights in warm white if you go this route because you’ll need as much light as possible. LEDs are typically brighter than incandescent lights but their Color Rendering Index (CRI), or the effect a bulb’s light has on the perceived color of objects, is in the low 70’s compared to the 100 CRI of incandescents. You need a warm white color with a CRI of 90 or higher to have the most accurate light for your skin. You can choose either mini lights or a plug-in commercial Christmas stringer (usually listed for C7 or C9 bulbs) to frame your mirror.  

globe light stringer

If you choose a commercial stringer, use globe-shaped bulbs like G16s or G25s, which would give you the vanity feel without needing professional help. The bases of the bulbs need to match the stringer, which almost always have candelabra (E12) or intermediate (E17) sockets. Limit the wattage of each bulb to 25 Watts to avoid blowing the fuse in the plug. Incandescent globes tend to produce quite a bit of heat, which means it’s a race against time to apply your makeup before you start to sweat it off again. You could use LED globes for lower power consumption and less heat but the tradeoff is still a lower CRI when it comes to color accuracy. Whether you choose incandescent or LED globes for your vanity lighting, consider frosted globes to more evenly distribute and soften the light. For a more permanent placement, use adhesive strips or hooks to anchor your lights. Never puncture your lights in any way with items like thumb tacks or nails, you could cause a power shortage in the wiring.

Lighting Tip: Incandescent globes are made of a very thin and delicate glass. They could easily break if you drop or knock them against a surface too hard, so handle with care.

Lutron Plug-In Dimmer Switch for Incandescent Table Lamps

Lutron Plug-In Dimmer Switch for Incandescent Table Lamps

Both the mini lights and the commercial stringer are simple plug-in options, therefore you will need an outlet nearby. Rather than constantly plugging and unplugging the lights, use battery-operated mini lights so you can conveniently switch them on or off. You could also use a plug-in table lamp dimmer switch on your commercial stringer and gain more control over your light levels. Just plug your lights into the dimmer switch and then plug the switch into your chosen outlet. All incandescents are dimmable, but you must be certain your LED bulbs are dimmable before using a switch. You should also make sure the dimmer switch is rated for your light source; there are specific dimmer switches made to handle LEDs. The total wattage of the bulbs should not exceed the switch’s rated maximum wattage.

Do you have another brilliant idea for lighting your vanity? Leave your advice in the comment area below. Find more images and ideas for easy DIYs on our Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. Our 1000Bulbs.com staff is available during normal business hours to offer expert advice, so call us at 1-800-624-4488 before your next lighting project.

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