4 ways to make your bath better

Done the right way, the body and health benefits of taking a bath are indisputable. Here’s how to get the most out of a relaxing soak, says MALENA HARBERS

Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, 1990

Research shows that being submerged in warm water not only increases blood flow, it also lowers blood-sugar levels, calms the nervous system and boosts your mood. “Bathing is a brilliant opportunity to give your body what it needs, and your mind a moment to reset,” affirms bath and body expert Susanne Kaufmann. What makes the perfect bathing routine is extremely subjective. Still, there are some rituals that can help you reap the greatest benefits. “You’ll need a different type of bath product if your skin is dry, for example, compared with if your muscles are tense,” says Kaufmann. Here’s how to ‘bespoke’ your bath effectively…

Choose your salts

The right kind of bath salt can transform your bathing experience. Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is the gold standard for muscle stiffness and soreness. But if you have dry skin, opt for magnesium flakes (magnesium chloride) instead. “They’re not as dehydrating,” says Karen Davis, chief pharmacist at mineral salts brand Westlab UK. Plus, “they’re ideal for a good night’s sleep, since they’re more easily absorbed by your body than Epsom salts.” If you have sensitive skin, eczema or psoriasis, Dead Sea salts are rich in minerals that help to keep the skin’s barrier intact. For an internal cleanse, use Himalayan salt. “It’s a very pure form of salt that’s ideal for detoxing and treating oily complexions,” says Davis. She suggests combining salts for added intensity. “Dead Sea salt and magnesium flakes are great for dry skin.” For best results, use 500g to 1kg of salt in your bath, two to three times a week, and soak for 20 minutes, leaving salt residue on your skin to continue to absorb post-bath.

Pair essential oils to your mood

“Added to your bath, essential oils can stimulate your mind and senses while also nourishing your skin,” says Kaufmann. Lavender is well known for relieving anxiety. “And it has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.” One to two drops in its pure form will suffice. “You need far less than you think,” advises Kaufmann. She suggests using rich, fragrant, skin-soothing oils like cinnamon, clove and orange, included in her Oil Bath for Winter, to protect skin from drying out in the colder months. Two tablespoons poured into running water is the ideal amount for any oil-based bath product containing essential oils. If you prefer an afternoon or early-evening soak, choose warming oils from the citrus family, such as lemon, grapefruit, bergamot and orange to fight fatigue. “They also have detoxifying properties that help boost your immune system.”

Use milk to exfoliate

Milk baths are traditionally used to treat sunburn and allergic rashes, thanks to its nourishing components, such as protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, which work to calm inflammation and replenish moisture. But they’re also a gentle skin-sloughing solution. “The high content of lactic acid found in milk acts like a mild alpha hydroxy acid [AHA], which helps to smooth and soften skin,” says Kaufmann. Whey protein – a milk-derived ingredient – specifically cleanses and helps protect the skin’s acid mantle, its first layer of defence, while gently targeting rough, dry patches. “For irritated skin, a bath with a whey product is often more nourishing than one with essential oils.”

Try an Ayurvedic approach

“In Ayurveda [an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent], having a bath is an opportunity to improve your sleep, balance your appetite and make you feel at peace,” says Anita Kaushal, co-founder of Mauli Rituals. Start by dry-brushing your body to open pores, then massage in your favorite body oil to stimulate your internal organs before getting in the bath. Traditionally, petals, oils and healing salts are mixed in the water, depending on your dosha type [the energy patterns that flow around our bodies, according to Ayurveda], based on physical and emotional attributes. “But you can use whatever flowers feel right,” says Kaushal. “Rose petals are very sensual and calming to the nerves as well as physically healing and soothing for all doshas.” She suggests adding sesame oils and mustard seed if you’re feeling lethargic. “Milk and rice water calm anxiety, while salts help to dislodge toxins.” Pent up energy often shows up as combination skin. “Add a bit of lemon juice to your bath to help balance any excess oils in this case,” says Kaushal.

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