With winter, comes cold weather. When it gets chilly, there’s nothing better than to pour a glass of wine or a hot chocolate and soak in a nice hot bath. It seems like such a simple pleasure, and yet, many of us have been doing it wrong this whole time. It turns out that yes, there IS a right way to take a bath. Pour yourself that glass of wine anyway, because we’re about to tell you how to take better baths from now on.
On baths and showers
When it comes to bathing, there are two main schools of thought. The first argues that taking a bath is, essentially, soaking in dirt and therefore one needs to take a shower beforehand. The practice of showering before climbing into the bath to soak is common in Japan, where most people frequent public baths, and being clean when you get in is just common courtesy.
Apart from those who work in any industry that may have been introduced in an episode of Dirty Jobs, I’m not quite sure what you could be doing in your day-to-day life that would turn taking a bath into “soaking in your own filth”, but I digress.
The other argument – and this one is more firmly based on dermatological science – is that if you feel the need to double up your baths and showers, it’s better to shower after your bath. This is because, somewhat counterintuitively, prolonged exposure to hot water tends to dry out the skin and speed up ageing. Showering after your soak can help soothe irritation and dryness.
Now that we’ve got the boring stuff out of the way, here’s how to up your self-care game and take better baths.
The perfect bath temperature
Taking the perfect bath is something of a science, with a number of factors to consider. First and foremost among these is the temperature of the water. We all know that one person who takes showers and baths in water that feels like it’s been heated by the fires of hell. But hotter is usually not better.
Writing for Very Good Light, Kristen Wong spoke to dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. He recommends taking baths that are “no hotter than you imagine a heated pool to be in the summertime”. You’re not trying to cook your skin, after all, and bringing the water to a comfortable (not scalding) temperature is less likely to dry it out or cause inflammation.
The perfect bath duration
Another factor to consider if you want to take batter baths, is how long you’re bathing for.
I too am guilty of getting absorbed in a good book (or falling asleep on account of a dull one) and spending up to an hour in the bath tub – emerging later, more raisin than human. But it turns out that your bath shouldn’t last much longer than 15 minutes. Any longer and the skin’s natural oils are stripped, which could lead to irritation.
Try not to lose track of time after you hop in, and you wont have any problems later.
Additions for better baths
Now on to the fun stuff. There’s an array of magical additions to enhance your bathing experience. These range from bath bombs, to salts, to bubbles, and each brings its own brand of joy. However, if you want to take better baths, it’s important to consider what you’re adding to it every time.
Adding a good salt soak can relax your muscles and your mind. If your skin is in need of some extra hydration, try using products that have colloidal oatmeal in them. Avocado or sunflower oils also have moisturising effects. To soothe and relax you further, add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. Lavender before bedtime works wonders.
According to Wong, “when you shower after your bath, keep it simple with a warm water rinse. You can also wash your hair in this timeframe, but try not to spend too much time in the water after your soak”.
Lock in moisture after your bath by using a good moisturizer while your skin’s still moist. This gives it less time to dry out. Wong recommends looking for products that contain ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acids, or colloidal oatmeal.
Moisturize well over your entire body, taking time to give some extra attention to those stubborn dry spots, like the feet or elbows.
Don’t forget to set the mood
Taking a good bath can have numerous health benefits. It’s great for your circadian rhythm, and having a good soak 90 minutes before bedtime will help you fall asleep faster. One small study even found that depressed volunteers demonstrated fewer depressive symptoms from taking a bath each day. You can increase these positive effects on your wellbeing by leaning into the experience and setting up your bath just right.
Bath time should be relaxing. Light some candles, play soothing music, enjoy your favourite beverage, and your favourite book or magazine. Make the most of this calming time to release all the stress of the day and focus on yourself.
You don’t need a reason to up your bath game, nor is it a difficult thing to do. By taking a little time to consider the duration, temperature, additions, and settings, you’ll turn bath time into a whole event – one you can look forward to every day! Take this as your sign to actively try to take better baths, and let yourself reap the rewards.