Easing into a warm bath at the end of a long day can seem like the perfect retreat, and turns out it can provide more benefits than just getting a few minutes of quiet solitude.
Smoother and clearer skin, lower stress levels, and relief for those aching muscles are among the perks of soaking in the tub.
“It’s a comfortable experience because you’re in charge of what’s going on, and it’s an opportunity to be private with no interruptions,” says Michelle Fielding, a Pittsburgh-based homeopathic practitioner and health and nutrition educator. “That provides a sense of well-being.”
Warm up and chill out
Even if you’re only spending a few minutes in the bath, it can be time well spent to clear your head and refocus your energy.
Fielding suggests thinking of the time as set aside for mindful relaxation.
“It’s an opportunity to meditate and bring you into a state of serenity, and your sense of well-being and connection with yourself,” she says.
Make oils essential
Add a few drops of essential oils, available at health food and other specialty stores, to your bath. Oils can help make it more special and offer additional relief.
Frankincense is particularly useful for reducing bruises and good for your nervous system, Fielding says.
Myrrh, which comes out of tree resin, is a natural antiseptic, helping to heal up your scratches and cuts.
Lavender is noted for its ability to relieve stress and make you feel calm.
Oils, Fielding says, “are gentle on the body and the most effective form” of many natural herbs and products.
Want to take the aromatherapy approach up a notch? Consider dropping in a few rose petals.
Soothe your skin
Itchy skin? Taking a bath with colloidal oatmeal can help calm the itch and provide some relief. Fielding says it’s long been a treatment for people who stumble into a patch of poison ivy. But it can benefit healthy skin of just about any type.
“It enhances your glow and beauty, and reduces inflammation,” she says.
Experts say shorter baths are best for dry skin, as hot temperatures drain moisture.
“The more you’re exposed and the hotter the temperature, the more you strip your skin of its natural oils and end up with dry skin,” says dermatologist
Dr. Nada Elbuluk, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
The time just after you step out of the bath, when there’s a little water still on the skin, is perfect for applying lotion or moisturizer, because there’s moisture left to lock in, Elbuluk says.
Fight colds and congestion
A little time in a warm bath can also help soothe a pounding headache, Fielding says. The temperature alleviates pressure and the narrow blood vessels that cause it.
And during cold and flu season, Fielding says bath time can provide a great opportunity to regulate your body’s temperature naturally and provide enough steam to clear up that stuffy nose.
“It can be a steam treatment for the mucous membranes,” she says.
If you don’t feel like committing to a full bath, Fielding suggests focusing on your feet. A soak in Epsom salts can help ease the aches and pain of arthritis.