Few things feel as cozy and comforting as a warm soak in the tub. The deep relaxation helps ease muscle tension, headaches and cramps, whether you’ve been sitting at a desk all day or standing on your feet. And on a psychological level, the experience transports us to a safe place. “Taking a bath brings you back to a time when you were in the womb, creating a relaxing environment that’s ideal for relieving stress,” says Josie Feria, director of spa operation at Lapis, The Spa at Fontainebleau in Miami.
And while experts often scold against hot water submersion during the wintry months of dry skin, we can’t help but luxuriate in this soothing mind and body ritual. So we’ve sought out a dermatologist who loves a good soak herself, for tips on how to transform bath time into a hydrating salve for skin and spirit.
Use bath oil.
Most importantly, the base of your bath should infuse hydration. “Don’t soak in soap product like bubble bath or shower gel that can add to the drying effect of hot water and provoke itchiness by triggering histamine release,” advises Washington, D.C., dermatologist Noëlle S. Sherber, M.D. Use bath oil, or if you love bubbles, counter it by adding bath oil to the water, too.
Rinse with plain water.
Bathing oils and soap products are generally not designed to remain on your skin, and can cause irritation if left on, says Dr. Sherber. Simply do a rinse before stepping out of the tub to prevent related dryness, or do a quick once-over in the shower.
Keep rich moisturizer nearby so that you can apply a generous layer within a minute or two of leaving the tub. “A good rule of thumb is that if the product is thin enough to dispense through a pump, it has too much water to be sufficiently moisturizing—look for products that are thick enough to have to be dispensed in a jar or tube, or use body oil,” says Sherber.
Check out the gallery for more tips and tricks to make your bath time even more restorative.
Set The Stage
“Bright bathroom lights tell your body it’s go-time,” says Josie Feria, director of spa operation at Lapis, The Spa at Fontainebleau in Miami. Dim candles help transition your circadian rhythm (body clock) into evening mode, which can set the stage for a restful night of sleep to follow. Jo Malone’s elegant Lavender & Lovage Home Candle, $65, features a crisp rendition of the long-favored calming flower—but if it's too rich for your budget, Archipelago’s Signature Glass Jars Candles offer similar sophisticated scents for under $20 a pop.
Don’t Forget Eyes
“Closing your eyes while soaking helps you enter deep relaxation,” says Feria. Use the time (hey, we love multi-tasking!) to turn back the clock, too. Biobliss 30-minute patches, $80, saturate skin around eyes with hyaluronic acid, Persian silk tree extract and peptides to plump wrinkles with moisture. Or make your own treatment pads by brewing and then chilling tea bags—the tannins in black tea help reduce puffiness.
Whether alone or mixed with your favorite bubble bath, Washington, D.C., dermatologist Noëlle S. Sherber, M.D. says bath oils will turn an otherwise drying hot soak into healing hydration. Treat yourself to the cute Kneipp Revive with 5 Bath Collection, $22, which infuses oils like sweet almond and orange into complete herbal bath experiences. “Add oils to the tub when the bath is halfway full to disperse evenly through the water,” advises Feria.
This product is available at our shopping site, BeautySage, where we only sell products proven to work!
Apply rich body oil or moisturizer straight out of the tub to lock in any moisture loss from bathing. “The key is to not wait for all of the water to evaporate, as the evaporation process dehydrates skin,” says Dr. Sherber. Caldrea Little Luxuries Set, $20, comes in chic blends like coconut fig leaf and aloe water apricot, and includes a body oil and moisturizer you can layer for even more silkiness.
Check the Temp
Finding the right temperature can be like a game of Goldilocks; too hot, and you’ll drip sweat—too cold, and you’ll end shivering. “The ideal temperature is 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your wrist, not your hand, to test water, since the wrist better gauges how the water will feel once your body is in,” suggests Feria. Still, some people will naturally sweat. Set a bowl of ice water and a washcloth next to the tub, and use as a cold compress while soaking if you perspire, says Feria.
Scrub Off Thoughts
“We’re so used to being active all the time, that when we get in the tub, minds can start racing and may be unable to relax,” says Feria. A calming repetitive action like exfoliation can help silence your thoughts while giving you beauty benefits, she suggests. Try a moisturizing sugar scrub such as new Dutch import Rituals Sakura Scrub Sugar Body Scrub, $25, which softens skin with fine oils and scents with Japanese cherry blossom.
Salt Away Aches
If you’re sore from a tough workout or are suffering from winter congestion, a soak can be remedial. “Bath salts reduce inflammation and stiffness, and help detoxify while increasing circulation to revitalize the body,” explains Feria. Look for Epsom salt, which is made of magnesium sulfate. This mineral eases muscles by flushing out lactic acid and boosts the immune system. The eucalyptus in SkinnySkinny All-Natural Mandarin Cypress Eucalyptus Bath Soak, $36, helps open breathing passages.
Another reason we love baths? They’re the perfect excuse to skip washing your hair. Oily types can sprinkle dry powder on the scalp before twisting hair up to absorb perspiration and retain volume. We like Bumble and bumble Prêt-à-Powder, $26. If your hair is particularly prone to frizzing from humid air, protect strands with an LA Indulgence shower cap, $20. These little caps are so cute, you won’t fear being caught in the act.
Declare your bathroom a smartphone-free zone: Leave the distracting temptation in another room. And little things that have a big impact are worth the cost. “Nothing jolts you out of a zen state like going from a luxe bath to a threadbare robe or dingy towel,” says Feria. Look for plush fabrics like hydro-cotton and terry cloth to wrap yourself up in—and now is the perfect time to cream your feet with a thick butter and slip on some snug socks.
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