The benefits of bathing
We love bathing. From Romans relaxing in the hot mineral water in the city of Bath, to Cleopatra taking a dip in milk and honey, we’ve been reaping the benefits of bath time for centuries.
Whether it’s the use of hydrotherapy for health, or purely for a dose of zen, a soak can do wonders for the soul, as well as the skin. So we chatted to Lush Spa treatment developer and wellbeing guru, Hannah Lammiman, to find out exactly what makes the perfect bath?
Why are baths so good?
Baths can’t solve everything, but they can certainly make a difference to your day. Hannah says: “A bath is very different to a shower. It relaxes the skin tissues so your skin looks smoother, more hydrated, and it brings the blood to the surface to help skin cell renewal. It’s great for your mind too, it’s about stepping down your thoughts and just being immersed by the water around you.”
A soak in a hot bath has been proven to boost mental wellbeing and strengthen circadian rhythms (the biological clock that determines when we feel sleepy or alert). And while regular baths can make us feel better mentally, they can also make us feel better physically. Studies have suggested that taking time out to bathe can burn the same amount of calories as a 25 - 30 minute walk, lower blood sugar, and significantly improve heart health. We’re not proposing you drop your workouts in favour of some tub time, but there’s no doubt about the benefits bathing can bring.
How hot is too hot?
Everyone’s tolerance for what’s too hot is different, however it’s thought that the ideal water temperature is only slightly higher than our body temperature, which is around 37°C. Anything above 39°C and your heart begins to work harder. An extra tip? If you wince when putting your hand in the water, then it’s probably too warm.
If you’ve ever stubbornly sat in a bath that you knew was far too hot, you’ll be familiar with a shaky, light headed feeling that’s not far removed from the onset of flu - these kind of bathing experiences are enough to put even the most committed bathers off taking the plunge. But why can very hot baths trigger that nasty woozy feeling?
A rapid rise in body temperature can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can cause the heart to race and make us feel dizzy. Hannah recommends avoiding baths that are too hot and instead topping up the tub with warm water once you’re in the bath. While running your bath, make sure it’s deep enough that you can properly immerse your body without sending a deluge of water across the bathroom. And why not create a bathing playlist or select a book to read while you’re waiting for the taps to run?
How long should I bathe?
Are you a quick dipper or a pruney-skinned pamperer? While some may easily lose track of time in the bath, others can find the whole idea of sitting doing nothing challenging. Aim to allow yourself at least 15 - 30 minutes of doing absolutely zilch without feeling guilty about it. But is there a magic number when it comes to optimising your soak? Hannah thinks so: “If you’re adding something like epsom salts, magnesium or anything to help ease aches and pains, then to really get the benefits and help with muscle function, you should be in the bath for about 20 minutes to help the osmosis of those ingredients into your skin.”
Rituals are an important part of daily life. Most of us perform them without even realising; whether it’s having a coffee and a croissant at the same time every morning, or a wind down routine performed before bed to help us sleep. Rituals offer us a sense of structure and solidity, and can help us feel more in control of our hectic lives. These can become more challenging to sustain as we get older. Hannah explains how turning bathing into a ritual can be a great form of self-care: “Rituals and routines are really important. When we’re babies we learn the ritual of bath, bottle, bed. As adults we can turn bathing into a similar ritual by putting on our favourite music, listening to a podcast, lighting candles, and using our favourite bath products. Putting aside time to think ‘I’m going to have a bath tonight’ is a really lovely ritual. It’s a special treat that’s not very expensive and yet it can change your day and your mindset completely.”
If you’re a fan of taking a bath before bed then there’s some good news, studies have shown that taking a dip before you hit the hay can help promote sleep. The rise in body temperature, followed by a rapid cool-down period is similar to the temperature drop that happens to our bodies in the evening, making us feel sleepy. Not only can this help us to drift off a little quicker, but it can even enhance the quality of sleep we do get. If you’re struggling to switch off in the evening ready for bedtime then a warm bath is your new best friend.
No bath? No problem
The Lush Spa has got you covered with Tales Of Bath, an enchanting 75 minute treatment originally designed for Bath Spa. As well as a sleep-inducing massage, you’ll be able to take a dip in your very own roll top bath and get transported away to a world of fairies and magic. You’ll find this special treatment in Lush Spas around the world, so why not treat yourself and book in for an extra special soak?
It’s a divisive issue. Does your favourite bath bomb go in before or after you sink into the tub? The answer: sorry we can’t help you on this one; only you can decide!
Illustration: Marisol Ortega