There’s nothing quite like a long soak in the bath - especially during cooler winter months, but did you know it can actually bring lots of other surprising benefits to your health that you may not have considered? This week we are speaking to Westlab's Salt Specialist, Penny Hamilton to find out more…
With stress and anxiety front of mine, there’s no better time to take more care of ourselves and find more ways to do self-care. Not only can baths be calming for body and mind and help with sleep, they can also help with detoxification processes. “A mineral salt bath is a really great healthy habit to get into as, although our bodies have their own detoxifying processes in place, bathing with salts (such as Epsom and Himalayan salts) may help support the body’s natural cleansing processes,” says Penny.
Below we have outlined various different bath salts and their purported benefits. Grab a towel!
Epsom salts date back to the early 17th century when their healing powers were discovered at a saline spring in Epsom by a local cowherd. He noticed that the cattle were refusing to drink the water but that if they bathed in it, their wounds healed much faster. But why is this? “Epsom salts are made up of magnesium and sulphate and when placed in water, they separate and are absorbed trans-dermally (through the skin) to make them accessible to the cells in the body,” adds Penny. Alongside their healing benefits, they are now known to help in many other ways too.
One of the reasons why the salts may benefit our body is because of their sulphur content. Sulphur is essential for the detoxification processes known as sulphation, which help to break down and remove oestrogens as well as many other compounds, from the body. This reactions occur in the liver, and are also very important for kidney function.
When it comes to the skin, epsom salts may also help to improve acne, eczema and psoriasis as well as helping to sooth sunburn.
If you struggle to sleep, are often working out, or are prone to aching muscles and cramps, an Epsom salt bath could really help because of its high magnesium content. “Magnesium is an essential mineral for our health, as it is required for over 300 different processes in the body such as muscle relaxation and sleep support,” says Penny. This is why they are great for relaxing your muscles and having an overall calming effect on your body. This calming effect is also particularly useful after a stressful or hectic day. Speaking of which, magnesium flakes may be another wise addition to your bathing ritual…
“It is thought that the majority of the UK population are deficient in magnesium due to our modern diet and lifestyles,” says Penny who explains that alcohol and stress can strip the body of magnesium. Immersing yourself in a bath filled with magnesium is a great way to boost levels and bring magnesium back into the body. Try sprinkling these into your evening bath as this will not only help relieve tension from the body and mind, but they will also help induce sleepiness for a better night's sleep. “Using these at night is best as it allows your body plenty of time to utilise the magnesium before your body is required to be active again,” adds Penny.
We find that after bathing in these salts we feel deliciously sleepy and relaxed, and ready for bed. Probably best not to operate heavy machinery afterwards then...
(Tip - no need to add magnesium flakes to epsom salts, as it already contains this as part of it's chemical structure)
Another good salt to consider adding to your tub is Himalayan salt - a pink crystal sourced from within the Himalayan mountains which is the purest salt on Earth as it’s preserved so far away from pollution. “Their signature pink colour comes from the 84 trace minerals and elements it contains including magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium,” says Penny. “These minerals are all found naturally within the body and are essential for skin health in a number of ways. Not only do they help protect our skin’s natural barrier which can often be damaged by modern life but sodium chloride is also renowned for its purifying and anti-microbial properties,” she adds. This means bathing in these salts can help give your skin a deep cleanse. “It is the combination of natural purifying properties of the salt combined with the rich mineral content that make these pink salts so effective for skin and body cleansing,” says Penny.
Top Tips For The Perfect Bath
To really reap the rewards, Penny suggests adding around 1 cup (100-250g) of salt to a warm bath which is around 37-39°C and then soak for at least 20 minutes. You can also body brush/scrub the skin to promote circulation and aid absorption of the minerals and stimulate lymphatic drainage. “To help maintain general wellbeing, it’s best to do this 1-3 times a week but if you’re not a regular bather, you can create a more intense mineral bath with 2-4 cups (500g-1KG) instead,” she adds. Any salts can be mixed with your usual bath oils or foams too.