I used to hate baths.
There was a time, not so long ago, when taking a shower was a treat for me. Back home in the sticks—a crumbly old house in the south of England—my mum, sister and I only had a bath (how quaint), so for us it was rub-a-dub-dub in the tub every single day. Let me tell you, it kinda takes the luxury out of luxuriating in the bath when you’re only permitted an inch of water and you’ve got to use that water to wash your face, body and hair. When I eventually moved out and discovered modern living (i.e. showers), I didn’t take a bath for years.
… And then, somewhere between my fitness renaissance (aching muscles for days!) and the discovery of a Jacuzzi bath in the house my husband and I are currently looking after, I made a shocking realization. Baths are amazing.
I tried all sorts of new ways to spice up my home-spa time. I sought out bubbles and oils, candles and face cloths, in an attempt to make my weekly muscle soak into something a little more fabulous. And somewhere I read that a humble bag of Epsom salts were, like, really good for you—so I read into it. I bought a big blue bag of salts from Wal-Mart for $3. Weeks later, I’m convinced it was the best $3 I’ve spent.*
Epsom salt detox baths are the sh*t. First of all—fun fact—they’re named after Epsom in Surrey, England, which just so happens to be where my very own mama grew up. But aside from this self-indulgent little factoid, they’re actually just really, really good for you. Epsom salt is not actually salt but a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. Making Epsom salt body-soaks a regular part of your routine help keep your skin in prime condition: hydrated and healthy. Add two cups of Epsom salt to a bathtub of hot water and soak for at least 12 minutes, whenever you’re feeling sore, stressed, or in need of a bit of “me-time.”
How does it work? Well, perhaps most importantly, Epsom salt baths boost magnesium levels in the body, and help detox effort by cleansing the skin of toxins. Using Epsom salts in warm bathwater creates a process called reverse osmosis, pulling salt and harmful toxins out of the body and allowing the magnesium and sulfates to enter into the body. So, you can take magnesium supplements—and many people do—but you can also absorb these minerals just by bathing in them! Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body: reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function and helping to prevent artery hardening. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins and help ease migraine headaches. So, all in all, Epsom salt is a bit of a wonder-product.
I don’t use that term lightly, of course. But when one product can be used for so many different little beauty fixes, what else can one say? Here’s a few other ways I’ve been using that big blue bag of salt:
Sunburn: I also find salt baths to be a magnificent treatment for sunburn. I know, I know: more SPF, more shade, premature aging, yadda yadda. But sometimes it just kind of happens; living in southern California—as wonderful as it is—has meant that my poor, unprepared English skin has suffered occasionally, despite my best efforts. After one rather perfect pool day, I got home to discover that I resembled Sebastian the crab, and spent the next two weeks with painful, peeling skin. Taking a lukewarm salt bath was more soothing than all the gunky aloe gel in our house! It also calms nasty bug bites—another side effect to living in warmer climes during summertime.
Pedicures: Epsom salt can also help out with another icky summer side-effect: your feet. Roaming around on sandy beaches and pootling around barefoot leaves my feet resembling a resident of Hobbiton—which is all very well if you’re casing your feet in winter boots, but when you want to get your tootsies out in cute summer sandals, it’s not exactly pleasant. Epsom salt’s natural exfoliating properties will help soften rough and callused skin, leaving dry areas feeling all smooth and spa-fresh. Give yourself a pedicure on the cheap by starting with a more concentrated solution of warm water and Epsom salt, reclining with a good book while your feet soak, and in half an hour they’ll be smoother than a baby’s bum. Lovely.
Exfoliating scrub: Mixing a handful of Epsom salt with a tablespoon of bath or olive oil makes a great scrub that will rival all the pricey sugar scrubs you find in beauty boutiques. Use it as you would use any scrub, paying special attention to the driest areas (feet, knees, elbows). You’ll be one smooth operator afterwards.
Blackhead blitzer: At the risk of sounding like Vanessa Hudgens in a corny Clearasil commercial, blackheads are the bane of my life. I just kind of gave up after a while and applied more foundation, but that’s no good. This little concoction actually helps a lot. Add a teaspoon of Epsom salt and 3 drops iodine into a half cup of boiling water. Apply this mixture to the blackheads with a cotton ball and feel them all fizzling away. Cackle like a witch. Go about your daily business.
*I even (somehow) managed to coerce Hubs into taking a bath with me one day, after a particularly gruesome workout. I laughed like a drain as he sunk into the water like Chandler in that “Friends” episode (you know, the one with the bath). Trust me, if any of my kooky home remedies/strange vegan recipes pass the Husband test, they’ve gotta be great.