15 Things to Put in Your Bath for Softer Skin and Aromatherapy
A hot bath can't solve everything, but it does offer a brief respite from the overwhelming. And while you're in the tub soaking up all that relaxation, you might as well find some things to put in your bath that smell nice and make your skin softer in the process, too.
First things first: You may as well come out of quarantine as dewy as the day you were born, and baths are actually a good way to make this happen. "Bath additives are a great way to hydrate and soften the skin," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. "By sitting in the bath for an extended period of time, it allows the bath additive to do its job effectively."
The second area of focus is scent because it can signal to your brain that it's time to unwind and relax. "Fragrance impacts all of my moods," says Dara Weiss, aromatherapist and CEO and founder of home fragrance brand L'or de Seraphine. "It's so helpful to set the mood and get into that headspace." By tossing in a little of this or a little of that, you can transform your bath room into a proper spa and make the most out of your bathtime routine.
The best things to put in your bath for softer skin and aromatherapy
1. Olive oil
"Pour a cup of olive oil into your bathtub and soak for 10 minutes," says Dr. Zeichner. "Olive oil is rich in natural fats that hydrate dry skin." (Note: He does not recommend olive oil for acne-prone skin, especially if you experience breakouts on your chest or back.) "Be careful when you stand up because the bathtub may be slippery," he adds.
To level up this routine, Katerina Mountanos, founder of Kosterina olive oil, adds the oil directly to her skin before bathing. “I usually put Kosterina EVOO ($24 to $30) on my arms and legs and then do other things like brush my teeth, tweeze my eyebrows, etc. for 15 to 20 minutes," she says. "Then when you get in the bath, it will be in your bathwater to moisturize your skin for even longer." This works especially well for dry spots such as the elbows, ankles, and feet, Mountanos adds.
For bonus points, she recommends tossing olive oil into your hair from the ears down and then tying it up while you take a bath (for at least 20 minutes). "Once the time is up, shampoo and rinse your hair out with water," she says.
2. Flower petals
"For a true goddess bath, I add flowers by cutting away the stems and placing the petals in the tub," says Greta Fitz, founder of fragrance company Ascention. You can do this with fresh flowers or get. pack of dried flowers to keep on hand. Wellcn Botanical Flowers Kit ($20) includes French lavender, jasmine green tea, chrysanthemum, and rose buds and petals.
3. Eucalyptus and tea tree oil
"My favorite addition to my bathing ritual is to add a few drops of organic eucalyptus oil ($26) and organic tea tree oil ($24) to both my bath and my shower, coupled with a deep breathing exercise: inhale to the count of 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8," says Shel Pink, founder of Sparitual and author of Slow Beauty ($23). "The eucalyptus is excellent for lung health, helps to deepen breathing and promotes a healthy respiratory system, and the tea tree oil is a mood booster and helps to also boost the immune system." (Fresh eucalyptus works, too).
"Rosemary eases stress, increases circulation, decreases inflammation, boosts mood, and helps to increase focus and concentrate," says Pink. "Add a few sprigs to your bath and couple it with the same deep breathing exercises [as above] to deepen breathing and help to boost lung health.”
Fitz also likes rosemary, but she uses it in oil form. "I use rosemary oil ($8) to rejuvenate and bring clarity," she says, noting that you'll want to go light on it since it's extremely pungent.
Fitz is a huge fan of lavender in the bath for relaxation and calm. Sometimes, she uses dried lavender flowers ($9)—"rub them between your hands to activate their aroma and sprinkle the buds into the bath," she says. Other times, she uses a blend of two parts lavender oil ($20) and one part rosemary oil.
Cut lemons, oranges, grapefruits, or the citrus fruits of your choosing into thin slices and add them to the bath for an invigorating, stress-zapping mood boost. "The citrusy, brighter, more energetic fragrances that'll really wake you up are wonderful," says Weiss.
7. Cinnamon sticks
Adding a few cinnamon sticks ($10) to your bath can be revitalizing and uplifting, too. Plus, it can help clear out any stagnant energy, explains Meghan Rose, a spiritual advisor and tarot reader. “Cinnamon has been deemed by ancient Egyptians, Romans, occultists, spiritualists, and Ayurvedic practitioners as a healing agent with high vibrational qualities that attract prosperity and abundance to those who use this powerful spice," says Rose.
"For dry, itchy skin, consider an oat bath," says Dr. Zeichner. "Oat extract forms a protective and hydrating seal over the surface of the skin and contains anti-inflammatory avenanthremides." He suggests Aveeno's soothing bath treatment ($6) but notes that a cup of traditional breakfast oatmeal works well, too.
Sake baths are a Japanese tradition and are said to leave skin softer and brighter because of the kojic acid found in this rice wine. "It’s super rich in and enzymes and has over 20 amino acids that are the result of the fermentation process. Because of this, it gently exfoliates skin and feeds it with vitamins, minerals, and proteins," says Debbi Burnes, founder of skin-care brand Sumbody. "It restores lackluster complexions and gives you your glow back."
Feeling sore, achy, or unwell? For the benefits of a ginger bath, add half a cup of grated ginger to the water. "Ginger speeds up circulation, which creates heat, causing a sweat response," says Jennifer Palmer, a holistic wellness coach.
11. Epsom salt
"For inflamed skin, Epsom salt has long been used," says Dr. Zeichner. "This magnesium-based salt has anti-inflammatory properties and can soothe the skin." Try this pack of three Epsom salt blends ($27). One is eucalyptus spearmint, one is lavender, and the other is rosemary mint.
12. Coconut milk
Adding coconut milk to your bath can make it super luxe and hydrating. "Coconut milk is a super hydrator," says Tara Pelletier, co-founder of Meow Meow Tweet. "The water is nutrient-dense and the fat helps to smooth skin cells and lock in the hydration."
13. Green tea
"The polyphenols in tea provide anti-inflammatory properties," says Burnes. "Green tea is approximately 20 to 45 percent polyphenols by weight, of which 60 to 80 percent are catechins, such as EGCG, which are antioxidants." You can toss in a handful of regular green tea bags or opt for one bag of this Dr. Teals green tea bath blend ($21).
Milk contains lactic acid, healthy fats, proteins, and vitamins and minerals that benefit the skin, including vitamin E and zinc. “Lactic acid is a naturally occurring mild alpha hydroxy acid, which can gently exfoliate your skin while you soak,” says New York dermatologist Libby Rhee, DO. “Taking a milk bath once a week can leave your skin feeling soft, supple, and youthful.” For best results, Dr. Rhee suggests adding two cups of full-fat milk, a half-cup of honey, and the essential oil of your choice.
15. Baking soda
Considering that baking soda is a common anti-itch remedy, putting it in your bath will allow you to soothe itchy skin all over. "The alkalinity of baking soda can help neutralize the pH of an infected area and reduce itching," says dermatologist Keira L. Barr, MD.
Why hot baths dry out your skin
"Hot water can be abrasive, stripping the skin of its natural oils, which leaves it dehydrated and dull-looking," says Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Miami. She says the ideal temperature for a bath is between 100°F to 110°F, which is warm but not uncomfortably hot. "If the water is too hot, the outer layer begins to break down, allowing the entry of bacteria and toxins and drawing out moisture," she says.
And no matter the temperature, sitting in a bath for a long time can lead to dry, itchy, raisin-y skin. " The concern is more [time in] hot water causing more evaporation of water from the skin and drying out the skin," says Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist practicing in San Fransico and Napa California. Adding moisturizing ingredients like oils and oats can help make your bath less dehydrating and allow you to take a nice, long soak.
You'll also want to apply moisturizer to your skin as soon as you get out of the tub while your skin is still warm and moist. This will allow the moisturizer to penetrate much deeper. Whether you use lotion or an oil is up to you.
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