Sure, coloring and meditation are ways you can practice self-care every day, but nothing can take you to next-level zen quite like a hot bath. Slipping into a steamy tub can help ease muscle aches and pains, reduce stress and soothe irritated skin, among other benefits.
“Baths have been used since ancient times for healing and purification,” says KG Stiles, Oregon (South) director for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and author of The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide. “Ancient cultures like Greece and Rome were renowned for healing scented baths.”
But we’re not just talking about a basic bubble bath here. From hoppy IPAs (yes, you read that right) to Epsom salts, these new bath ingredients tout some surprising benefits. Ready to take a dip?
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Hop into a tub of hops? According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic & clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, soaking in beer byproducts can help relieve stress and anxiety. Hops — the flowers used to infuse flavor into beer — have antioxidant properties that help calm inflammation, Dr. Zeichner says. He adds, “Brewer’s yeast, which is also used to make beer, contains B-complex vitamins that soothe and brighten the skin.” Beer baths are starting to pop up in spas. To create this experience at home, Dr. Zeichner suggests adding 1-2 cups of beer to a half-filled tub.
This breakfast favorite can help you not only glow from the inside out but through your nightly soak. The grainy texture of oatmeal can help exfoliate dry skin and help ease symptoms for conditions, like eczema, which causes skin to lose hydration and become inflamed, Zeicher says. “Skin-calming ingredients like colloidal oatmeal can help soothe the skin, improve hydration and repair the skin barrier, ” Zeicher notes. He recommends Aveeno Oatmeal Soothing Bath Treatment or you can DIY with this homemade oatmeal and brown sugar facial scrub.
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3. Essential Oils
Studies have shown that aromatherapy can help lower blood pressure and stress levels. Stiles recommends eucalyptus oil to relieve stress, anxiety and tension; orange oil to get an energy boost; peppermint oil to help ease stomach issues; and sweet marjoram oil to help soothe body aches and pains. Her pro tip: Add a few drops of your essential oil blend to a suitable carrier (Epsom salt, sea salt, honey or cream) before adding it to your bath water. “Because oil and water don’t mix, your carrier will act as a dispersant for blending your essential oils into your bath water,” she says.
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We know that milk can do your body good. Plus, it contains proteins that help soothe irritated skin, Zeichner says. Soaking in beauty products made with milk byproducts will take your bath from sudsy to creamy — and your skin will thank you. “It is commonly used to treat sunburns, but it may be useful in rosacea as well,” Zeichner adds. But don’t just grab your milk jug and start pouring. Milk-based powders, liquids soaps or bars are the way to go.
5. Epsom salt
A fan favorite among athletes, Epsom salt baths can help ease post-workout aches, pains and muscle tightness. “Epsom salt is rich in magnesium salts which provide soothing and exfoliating properties to the skin,” says Zeichner. “It can also help reduce the inflammation in a variety of skin conditions, such as psoriasis,” he adds. Zeichner recommends it for soothing bunions, plantar fasciitis and inflammation to the joints.
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6. Fresh flower petals
If you’re looking to capture some of the peaceful scents and sights from the outdoors, grab some flowers and shower the petals on top of your bath. Studies have shown that being around nature can help you de-stress and boost your mood. Colors like blue, lavender and green are also soothing to the eyes.
7. Bath bombs
No frills kind of bather? Try bath bombs instead. This all-in-one product includes essential oils, powdered minerals, baking soda, body butters and dried flowers. You can make your own bath bomb at home, or buy them at stores.
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Originally published on April 15, 2017. Updated on November 11, 2021
All images via Shutterstock