I love the healing qualities of baths. Warm baths can help elevate your mood, relieve muscle pain and, depending upon what you put in the bath, help alleviate certain skin issues. Hot baths (water at 104 degrees) have been shown to increase blood flow, body temperature and heart rate in a similar way to exercise and could improve cardiovascular health. In fact, a hot bath can burn as many calories as a 30-minute walk. (Don’t get your hopes up; you still need physical exercise.)
If you have any medical conditions such as high or low blood pressure or skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, you should consult a medical professional before using certain bath ingredients or setting the temperature too high. It’s always best to do a patch test, especially if you have sensitive skin or are allergy-prone. Also be sure to drink a glass of water before, during and after a bath.
For a spiritual lift, stream Sisters’ soulful bath time playlist. Take a night off and luxuriate in one of these beneficial baths:
To help you sleep:
According to a 2019 study, people who bathe or shower before bed fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Adding a little lavender is sure to enhance the relaxation process. The Epsom Salt Council suggests this lavender-oatmeal soak: Blend 1/4 cup dried lavender flowers and 1/2 cup oatmeal (whole oats) in a food processor or blender on high into a fine mixture. In a bowl, add the mixture to 1 cup Epsom salts. Add 1/2 cup of the mixture to warm bath water and soak for 15-20 minutes. When using 100 percent pure essential oil in a bath, always dilute it with a carrier oil. Essential oils are not water-soluble and will float on the surface of the water and can irritate the skin.
Try Aura Cacia Lavender Essential Oil ($12.78, AuraCacia.com) or GuruNanda True Lavender Essential Oil ($7.49, Walgreens.com).
Feeling achy and stressed?
After a long day, a sea salt bath can help soothe sore and tired legs and feet as well as have a calming effect. Sea salts like Himalayan sea salt may stimulate circulation, ease muscle cramps, relieve stiff joints and ease arthritis and back pain.
Try Wooden Spoon/Wild Yonder’s Country Women Floral Salt Soak with quartz-charged sea salt, Epsom salts and other soothing ingredients ( $7, WoodenSpoonherbs.com) or Moon Bath’s Milk & Honey Sundance Sea Bathing Salt ($22, MoonBath.com).
Mineral salts can be drying, so be sure to lock in moisture and heal dry, cracked skin. Try Truly’s Coco Rose Fudge Whipped Body Butter, a blend of coconut and rose and shea butter ($20, TrulyBeauty.com). Or try M4 Healthy Life Body Butter. Formulated with eczema-prone folks in mind, it uses unrefined shea butter and is free of chemicals and preservatives ($15, M4HealthyLife.com).
Detox aid, and muscle and skin soother:
Plain Epsom salts have been my go-to bath ingredient for sore muscles after working out or following a full, active day. Epsom salts can also soften dry, rough skin and help exfoliate dead skin cells, making them a good soak for those with eczema and psoriasis. The magnesium sulfate may help stimulate detoxification. Use 2 cups in a full bath of warm water and soak for 10-20 minutes. If you have eczema or psoriasis, limit soak time to 15 minutes or less, and don’t bathe in water that is too hot.
You don’t have to spend a lot on Epsom salts. I usually purchase plain EpSoak Epsom Salt, which ranges from about $8 to $28, depending on size (Amazon.com), or Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution (Soothe & Sleep) With Lavender ($6, Amazon.com).
Add ambience to your bathing experience with candles. Two to try: Nautana’s Serenity Candle with lavender, vanilla and brown sugar “to unwind, and reconnect with thyself” ($16-$30, Nautana.com) or Lavanila’s Vanilla Lavender Candle, a clean-burning, 100 percent natural soy candle, scented with Madagascar vanilla, Spanish lavender, rose absolute and violet leaf to inspire a peaceful mood ($16, Lavanila.com).
To soothe eczema and irritated skin:
Colloidal oatmeal (oats pulverized into a fine powder) helps soothe irritated skin and decrease inflammation. It’s often used as a treatment to relieve itchy skin, sunburn, eczema and insect bites. DIY: Place whole oats in a food processor or blender and pulverize into a fine powder. (If the ground oats quickly turn into a milky white liquid in a little water, you’ve succeeded.)
Or try Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment ($6.97 for eight single-use packets, Amazon.com) or Eczema Honey Oatmeal Bath Bomb ($8.95, EczemaHoneyCo.com).
You can also dissolve 1/4 to 1 cup baking soda in a full bath of warm water and soak 10-15 minutes to relieve symptoms from eczema. Baking soda absorbs into the skin, so avoid it if you have high blood pressure, open wounds or serious infections. Be sure to apply a fragrance-free cream formulated for eczema-prone skin to reduce itching and seal in moisture.
Make your own herbal bath tea
Some popular folk remedies: chamomile to relieve stress and anxiety as well as ease muscle soreness; peppermint to refresh and relax muscles and cramps; rosemary to ease muscle pain and tension. Any herbal tea that is safe to drink is safe for the bath, provided that you are not allergic. You can use a bath bag for the herbs and steep them in the bath or make an herbal infusion by mixing equal parts of each herb. Boil 1 quart water and pour it over 1-2 ounces of the dry herbs. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add the tea to a warm bath. These also make thoughtful gifts.
To contain your tub teas: Try Fillable Bath Tea Bags with Pull Strings ($1.85 for 10, NaturesGardenCandles.com) or Muslin Cotton Bath Tea Bags ($4.99 for five,
HobbyLobby.com). (Upcycling the foot of an old pair of pantyhose works too.)
No time for DIY? Try Dr. Teal’s Soothing Lavender Bath Tea ($14.20, Amazon.com) or SpaLife Naturally Infused Bath Tea in Green Tea or Lavender ($5.99, Walmart.com, Amazon.com).