Can bath salts really wash away health woes? From colds to eczema, our expert guide to the products that promise to improve YOUR condition
- A long soak in the bath may feel restorative, but can it improve your health?
- Once out of fashion, they are back in vogue, with a new generation of products
- Dr Ross Perry, a GP who specialises in dermatology, assesses a range of them
FOR DRY SKIN
Dr Teal’s Ultra Moisturizing Mineral Soak, 1.36kg, £7.99, amazon.co.uk
Dr Teal’s Ultra Moisturizing Mineral Soak
CLAIM: Contains avocado oil, which the maker says ‘hydrates the skin’, and mineral salts to ‘soothe’ a tired body. Pour generous amounts into a running bath and soak for 15 minutes.
EXPERT VERDICT: Water alone is very drying — and having a bath can irritate the skin of those with conditions such as psoriasis. Salts might make the pH of the water more agreeable, so reducing this drying effect.
Avocado oil contains vitamin E and omega fatty acids, which may have moisturising effects. But the skin acts as a barrier, so these would sit on the surface rather than penetrating the skin as a medical emollient [moisturiser] would. That said, this soak would bring temporary relief from dry skin, as the oils would coat the skin.
Pat yourself dry rather than vigorously towelling yourself afterwards, or you will rub away the benefits. As an alternative, use olive oil in the bath. 3/5
Westlab Magnesium Flakes, 1kg, £7.99, ocado.com
Westlab Magnesium Flakes, 1kg, £7.99
CLAIM: According to the maker, bathing in these flakes tops up your magnesium levels (and it claims that 80 per cent of us are deficient in the mineral). Using these will also ‘support healthy sleeping patterns’ as magnesium is believed to help induce sleep. Pour up to four cups of flakes into a warm bath.
EXPERT VERDICT: Magnesium may have an impact on insomnia by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a brain chemical that promotes sleep. Some research has indicated taking a magnesium supplement improves sleep quality. But the small amount absorbed through the skin by taking a bath with these flakes is unlikely to have much effect. 1/5
Kneipp Mineral Bath Salt Cold & Sinus Relief, eucalyptus, 500g, £7.49, landyschemist.com
Kneipp Mineral Bath Salt Cold & Sinus Relief
CLAIM: This promises to help people ‘breathe easier during the cold, flu and allergy season’. Alongside ‘thermal brine salt’, the key ingredient is eucalyptus. Pour a capful under hot water and bathe for 15 to 20 minutes.
EXPERT VERDICT: As well as being a mild anti-inflammatory, eucalyp-tus has a strong scent that will encourage the effort to inhale; people with colds often inhale over a bowl of hot water containing a eucalyptus product.
But doing it in the bath may be more effective, as there is a bigger surface area of water.
Bath water needs to be hot enough to produce steam, which can ease a blocked nose by helping to thin the mucus in your sinuses, making it easier to dislodge. But a blocked nose is also due to swollen, inflamed tissues, which steaming won’t help.
Thermal brine salt is just a fancy name for salt. You could just add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the bath instead. 4/5
TIRED JOINTS AND FEET
Vie Healthcare Epsom Bath Salt, 1.8kg, £8.05, amazon.co.uk
Vie Healthcare Epsom Bath Salt
CLAIM: These salts are a source of sulphates, which the maker says are needed for healthy joints. It claims these compounds are difficult to get through food, but are readily absorbed through the skin.
For the feet, dissolve one cup in a foot bath and soak for 30 minutes. For a bath soak, dissolve three cups in a full bathtub and soak for 30 minutes.
EXPERT VERDICT: Lots of people swear by Epsom salts — or, rather, magnesium sulphate — as a way of relieving aching muscles.
Sulphates are needed for healthy joints, however, there is no empirical evidence to support the claims here. But it is cheap, harmless and may give a silky feel to the skin. 2/5
Westlab Kids Dead Sea Bath Salts, 500g, £3.99, hollandand barrett.com
Westlab Kids Dead Sea Bath Salts
CLAIM: This is said to be suitable for children from three months with eczema and psoriasis. The salts are sourced from the Dead Sea and contain calcium, claimed to ‘help with cell renewing’, potassium ‘to improve skin moisture’ and magnesium to soothe and repair the skin to avoid dryness.
EXPERT VERDICT: Most itchy skin conditions are caused by inflammation. This bath will certainly be soothing and the magnesium may have a moisturising effect. But it is better to use a product such as E45 in the water, as this is likely to have a greater moisturising effect. Oatmeal in the bath may also help, according to some studies. 3/5
Bexters Soda Crystals, 200g, £4.99, bowensuppliesbyhelen.com
Bexters Soda Crystals are priced at £4.99
CLAIM: These salts, consisting of sodium carbonate mined in Australia and treated with heat, are said to ease swollen joints, aching muscles and aid recovery after exercise or strenuous activity.
According to the maker, they are ‘recommended by physiotherapists, complementary therapists and sportsmen and women’. Dissolve a handful into bath water.
EXPERT VERDICT: The sole ingredient, sodium carbonate, is a salt otherwise known as washing soda. I cannot see how this would ease aches and pains after exercise. Cramp and muscle aches do arise through a loss of salts, but any absorption in the bath through the skin will be minimal.
A warm bath will increase blood flow to the muscles anyway, and this will reduce the build-up of lactic acid and other by-products of exercise, which can cause cramp and muscle ache. 2/5
Kneipp Mineral Bath Salt, arnica, 500g, £10.10, amazon.co.uk
Kneipp Mineral Bath Salt with arnica
CLAIM: The maker says these arnica salts ‘bring some relief to over-tired, overworked joints and muscles’. It suggests using these directly after a workout.
EXPERT VERDICT: Arnica cream has been used for centuries to help with bruising. However, unless you bang yourself and develop a bruise from strenuous activity, I can’t see how arnica would help with muscle wear and tear.
If you have overworked your joints, it would be better to massage a cream into the affected areas, although a warm bath will also be soothing. 1/5