When you’re trying to get out the door, a quick shower is in order. But if you’ve got a little down time, and are in need of some at-home relaxation, just about every self-care checklist recommends taking a bath—and for good reason. Baths come with a whole lot of mental and physical health benefits, everything from improved sleep quality to better circulation in addition to soothing sore muscles and lifting your mood. One study even found baths can potentially burn as many calories as a 30-minute walk.
While sinking into a warm bubble bath is divine in its own rite, here are some expert-approved tips to make your bath even better.
Lukewarm Water is Best
You don’t want to spend too much time in hot baths or showers because they can dry out your skin, says Dr. Hadley King, M.D., a New York City board-certified dermatologist. She recommends taking brief, eight-minute baths in lukewarm water.
When you’re bathing, use gentle soap substitutes such as Dove’s Gentle Exfoliating Nourishing Body Wash, King recommends. “Harsher soaps and detergents can strip moisture from the skin,” she says.
Oatmeal soaks can help soothe dry skin, King says. For a DIY oatmeal soak at home, use a food processor to grind plain rolled oats into a fine powder with and then sprinkle a tablespoon or two into your warm bath water.
Add in Epsom Salts
If your goal is to get better sleep, taking a bath at night can help because it raises your body temperature, which helps induce those quality ZZZs.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends adding 1 – 1 1/2 cups of Epsom salt and 1 – 1/2 cups of baking soda to your bath. That way, you’ll gain the benefits of magnesium absorbed through your skin and the alkaline-balancing effects of the baking soda—a combination that can help improve your sleep.
One way to get a spa-like feel in your bath is to add in some essential oils. “Incorporating aromatherapy into bathing is a great way to give your mind and body a boost,” says aromatherapist Denise LaPalm, founder of Chicago-based L’Beauxtique, which offers vegan, cruelty-free luxury aromatherapeutic remedies. “An aromatic bath can help reduce stress, anxiety and improve sleep.”
LaPalm recommends combining a few drops of lavender to a tablespoon or more of honey and then settling into the bath. Add the combination to the water, then agitage the bathwater to disperse it. Or, she says, set up an essential oil diffuser to emit your favorite scents while soaking in the tub.
When it comes to unwinding, some scents to consider include chamomile and clary sage, which are great at relaxing the body and mind and are ideal for evening baths, says aromatherapist Alison Angold. For an uplifting or stimulating bath to give a boost of energy, she recommends trying orange, grapefruit, or rosemary.
Set the Mood Right
The Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest excels when it comes to bath rituals. The luxury English-style inn has soaking tubs that fill from the top. For a dose of whimsy, the inn has beloved rubber ducks that can swim in the tubs.
Deer Path Inn’s general manager Patrick Lacassagne has a few tips for relaxing in a tub that you can try at home:
- Keep technology out of the room when taking your bath. It’s one of the few times you can completely unplug and escape the constant noise of notifications, calls and texts, he says. Instead keep a book nearby, or listen to some soothing music or a podcast.
- Snack while you soak. For an ultra-luxe bathing experience, keep a snack board and water bottle nearby, Lacassagne says. If you’re planning to take a bath while traveling, consider ordering a cheese and charcuterie board or some sweet treats off of the room service menu.
- Get cozy post-bath. After your bath, be sure to apply a moisturizer to lock hydration into your skin. At Deer Path Inn, we love Molton Brown bath products. Then, keep the relaxing vibes going by cozying up in a robe. If you’re bathing before bed, keep the lights in your room dim to help you wind down and ease into a peaceful sleep.
It’s a scene from the movies: Sinking into a hot bath with a glass of red wine in hand. But this isn’t necessarily a great idea in real life because drinking alcohol in a hot bath can lead to dizziness and nausea. Instead, LaPalm recommends staying hydrated with water. To make it feel special, she suggests, add in ingredients like orange and rosemary or strawberries and basil.
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Brittany Anas is a freelance writer who specializes in health, fitness, and travel writing. She also contributes to Men’s Journal, Women’s Health, Trip Savvy, Simplemost, Orbitz, and Eat This, Not That! She spent a decade working at daily newspapers, including The Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and she is a former federal background investigator. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking with her gremlin-pot belly pig mix that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier” and coaching youth basketball. She also works with domestic abuse survivors, helping them regain financial stability through career coaching. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram.