By Lindsey Galloway, Natural Solutions magazine
Europeans have long known the true origin of the word spa: Aanitas per agua, or “health through water.” Before facials and massages became synonymous with spas, bathing was the premier avenue to personal wellness and whole-body detoxification. The citizens of ancient Rome considered a daily bath their civic duty to maintain public health. Since the late 1700s and through to the present day, German physicians have prescribed to stressed patients a kur (cure or treatment) consisting of one bath a day for 10 to 20 days. And since the end of the 19th century, the French have indulged in thalassotherapy baths, which harness the anti-aging powers of ocean water and seaweed.
In America, we’ve just begun to catch on to the skin-saving benefits of relaxing baths, says Andria Roth, lead aesthetician at Oasis Spa in Woodinville, Washington. Recent studies have directly correlated annoying skin problems like acne and eczema with excessive stress–the body releases panic hormones that weaken the skin’s defense against breakouts, dry patches, and redness. Thankfully, the ability to reduce that burden on your skin is as close as your bathroom door.
“Our high levels of stress could be mitigated if we just bathed every night,” says Ann Brown, director of Spa Shiki in Lake Ozark, Missouri. “It’s easy to create a before-bed ritual with the same music and same scent to signal our body that it’s time to wind down.”
Start your at-home treatment by filling the tub with warm water–about 90 degrees if you want an energizing bath or 105 degrees for a relaxing soak. While the tub’s filling, dry brush your skin (toward your heart) for at least five minutes, but shoot for 10 if your skin’s not too sensitive. “Body brushing exfoliates the skin and gets the blood right up to the surface,” says Brown. “It not only opens up the pores to allow your bath ingredients to penetrate better, but it also helps your skin keep its tone.”
Finally, customize the beautifying power of your bath with one or more of the following herbs and oils, and give your skin the relaxation and support it’s craving.
For stressed, sensitive skin, add 20 drops of French lavender essential oil or two chamomile tea bags to your water to reduce redness and calm the tension that can lead to breakouts.
For cellulite and puffy skin, take a mineral salts or seaweed bath. Both the salts and the seaweed have negative ions that attract the positively charged ions in skin. Like a magnet, the skin pulls in minerals and nutrients, eventually drawing them all the way into the bloodstream, where they help carry toxins away from the body through the lymph system. Keeping the temperature of the water a little cooler at 94 to 97 degrees will help you to reduce the look of cellulite by stimulating your body to dispose of cellular waste, says Brown.
Next: Baths for dry and tired skin