When it comes to taking a bath or shower, which one do you prefer for soothing your skin? For some of us, a bath can feel incredibly luxurious, leaving our skin soft and nourished. For others, a quick, lukewarm shower feels better, because limiting exposure to hot water stops skin wrinkling and drying out.
I personally love a long soak in the tub, I find it just as soothing for my mind as it can be for my skin. When it comes to what we add to the water, limiting soaps and synthetics can change the way our skin feels when we step out of the bath. That dry, taught sensation exacerbated by bubbles and bath foams can feel deeply unpleasant, so first let's look at what we should avoid.
What to Avoid Adding to Your Bath
With so many bubbles, foams, bombs and body washes available to buy these days, working out which are suitable for skin complaints can be a tough call! It doesn't help when brands such as Aveeno and Oilatum market themselves as 'recommended for psoriasis and eczema'. Check ingredients labels carefully to better understand what's in the products you're using.
With the primary ingredient in Aveeno bath oil being liquid paraffin, I would definitely advise against using it. Not only can paraffin clog pores and prevent our skin from producing its own natural oils properly, soaking in highly refined petrol can not be good for anyone! The same goes for Oilatum which is often offered on prescription.
Bath products such as these which contain petroleum can cause irritation and inflammation all by themselves. Paraffin forms a barrier that stops skin being able to naturally absorb moisture from the air, and can even lead to additional breakouts in oily or acne prone skin.
Bubble baths, are often highly fragranced with synthetic perfumes, these have the greatest potential to cause skin irritation, allergic skin reactions and even urinary tract infections.
You might have heard of SLS in shampoos, this same ingredient - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - is the lathering property that can make shower gels and bubble baths foam up. Those bubbles are lots of fun, but they're also extremely problematic for those of us with skin conditions.
Avoid bubble baths altogether and stick to plain soaps instead. Choose vegetable or glycerine soaps, which are made from enriching oils such as coconut, hemp or olive.
You might also like to try some of the specific suggestions below tailored to your own skin needs.
Best Bath Additions for Psoriasis
150g Dead Sea Salts + 2 tbsp avocado oil
Holidays to the Dead Sea have long been credited for alleviating the distressing symptoms of psoriasis. In fact, some Nordic countries actively recommend relaxing by the mineral rich waters of the Dead Sea, and even offer it as a treatment on prescription!
The reason the Dead Sea is so beneficial is partly due to its location. Four hundred metres below sea level, patients are exposed to salt, minerals and prolonged sun exposure, whilst exposure to cancer-inducing UVB rays is minimal. This Danish study highlights the positive results seen by eighteen psoriasis patients who travelled to Ein Gedi in Israel for climatotherapy.
For anyone lucky enough to have had the opportunity to soak in the salty, buyant waters of the Dead Sea, improvements often include smoother skin, improved dermal hydration, and reduced inflammation in psoriasis patches.
Whilst it's impossible to entirely accurately replicate the effects of UVB exposure without jumping on a plane, it is possible to bath in Dead Sea Minerals at home. Buying small pouches from health stores can become a costly process, so it's worth searching out big 20kg bags online if you find Dead Sea Salts helpful for your psoriasis.
Meanwhile, avocado oil is rich in Oleic Acid. It's a fantastic natural anti-inflammatory and can help support barrier repair in damaged skin. This study highlights avocado oils inflammation busting benefits, and its ability to help boost collagen and heal wounds.
Since avocado oil is a carrier oil, there is no need to dilute it before adding it to your bath.
Best Bath Additions for Arthritis
150g Epsom Salts + 6 drops turmeric oil diluted in 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil
Research has shown turmeric oil to be incredibly beneficial in treating the inflammation associated with arthritic joint swelling. The study reveals that an application of turmeric oil can be 95 to 100% effective at preventing joint swelling in animals with induced arthritis.
You should always dilute essential oils such as turmeric with a carrier oil. Essential oils are potent, and direct application may result in unwanted skin irritation. Common carrier oils include jojoba, olive or avocado. A good rule of thumb is 12 drops of essential oil to 30ml carrier oil.
Meanwhile, magnesium is said to help ease the pain of arthritis. Epsom salts contain magnesium and may help the body get rid of the unwanted toxins responsible for increased inflammation, whilst simultaneously helping to reduce pain and stiffness. This 2019 study highlights the benefits of epsom salts when applied with warm water to painful, swollen knees.
Epsom salts can be great for mental health too, with research highlighting stress reduction as a result of managing magnesium levels.
Best Bath Additions for Eczema
100g colloidal oatmeal + 2 tbsp apricot seed oil
Whilst both Dead Sea and Epsom salts highlighted above can be fantastically beneficial for eczema, very often the redness and irritation associated with dermatitis can initially become irritated by literally 'rubbing salt in the wound'. In this instance, alternating with Oatmeal baths might be beneficial. I also highly recommend oatmeal baths for little ones. The milky consistency of the bath water can really help to soothe irritated skin.
A natural anti-inflammatory, colloidal oatmeal can help relieve dry, itchy and painfully irritated skin, as indicated by this study which highlights significant clinical improvements in skin dryness, scaling, roughness, and itch intensity.
Similar in chemical composition to almond oil, apricot kernel oil is also a wonderful emollient and fantastic for nourishing eczema prone skin. This is a wonderful collection of research highlighting the best essential oils for naturally treating skin complaints.
High in fatty acids and vitamin E, not only is apricot oil really gentle, it's also one of the more hypoallergenic options. Since it's considered a carrier oil, there's no need to dilute it.
Best Bath Additions for Nappy Rash
30g baking soda + 6 drops chamomile oil diluted in 1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil
As recommended for eczema, oatmeal baths can be equally soothing for babies nappy rash. Adding Baking Soda can certainly help too. If your little one is suffering with a sore bottom, soaking the affected area in a baking soda bath three times per day can really help. Do so for 10 minutes at a time. Baking soda can help soothe raw skin and promote quicker healing. Pat the area dry completely with a soft, cotton towel, before putting on a new nappy.
The reason baking soda is thought to be so effective is its alkaline pH combined with natural antibacterial properties. Studies show its use dates back centuries, when it was first recommended for scaly skin conditions such as ichthyosis. It's thought baking soda alters the pH of bath water, helping to exfoliate the scales caused by these conditions
According to anecdotal evidence, baking soda can help to reduce redness, relieve pain and itching and even improve fungal infections.
Chamomile meanwhile can prove effective due to its concentration of flavonoids, which according to studies penetrate deep below the skin's surface. An excellent, gentle anti-inflammatory, it's best diluted with a carrier oil such as sweet almond.
You might like to consider growing your own chamomile plants at home to use their flowers in infusions. This article explains more about growing chamomile flowers.
You might also like to try my Hemp and Coconut Hydrating Cleanser which is gentle enough to be used on babies delicate bottoms.
Best Bath Additions for Oily Skin
150g Pink Himalayan Salts + 2 tbsp jojoba oil
It might seem counterintuitive applying oils to oily skin, but the reason jojoba is so effective when it comes to acne, is its ability to rebalance our skin's natural oils. Jojoba oil regulates sebum production because it's so similar to the sebum that our body produces naturally.
It has been proven effective in treating acne and skin lesions, and may also play a role in effective wound healing. Furthermore, this 2018 review highlights jojobas ability to help the skin to absorb other substances better when used alongside them. It's also anti-inflammatory and won't clog pores like some heavier oils.
If you're struggling with facial or back acne, you might be interested in the results of this study which reveals the results of six weeks of treatment with jojoba oil. Patients reported a 54 percent decrease in acne lesions.
Pink Himalayan Salt is a natural antiseptic. It's great for disinfecting acne prone skin, killing off bacteria, which in turn will help reduce breakouts.
Besides the obvious benefits to our skin, studies have found that bathing in warm water for ten minutes can reduce stress and pain and increase feelings of contentment and emotional well-being.
Best Bath Additions for Itchy Skin
50ml apple cider vinegar + 2 tbsp calendula oil
Itchy skin can lead to a particularly annoying cycle of pain, sleeplessness and irritation. The feeling of needing to constantly itch, especially when you're trying to sleep, can become incredibly frustrating, but taking a warm ACV bath before bed might help.
Apple Cider Vinegar contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. It can also help to reduce the unbearable itching caused by dry or flaky skin.
The National Eczema Association report that people who frequently experience itchy skin might become depressed or anxious as a result of not being able to rest properly. They also highlight the problem of scratching at skin, which can in turn cause small tears - these then become prone to infection.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), apple cider vinegar might also be particularly beneficial when it comes to relieving an itchy scalp.
Note: just like salt, vinegar can cause a burning sensation on open wounds. If you're suffering with cracked or bleeding skin, you should take care using these treatments if they feel uncomfortable and consider oatmeal instead.
Calendula oil is a wonderful ingredient to include in baths designed to soothe skin, because it has amazing anti-inflammatory benefits. It can also be used as an effective antiseptic. Research from 2013 highlights the benefits of calendula in treating wounds. The study revealed that women who used calendula ointment every eight hours for five days showed improvement in symptoms including redness, swelling, and bruising.
Calendula Oil is gentle enough to be used alone.
IMPORTANT NOTE: all ingredients, even natural ones, can created unwanted, allergic responses in our skin. Always patch test first. Make sure you use essential oils diluted within a carrier oil and take extra care when using salts and oils as a treatment for babies or children.