Children and adults look forward to taking baths for different reasons: Cleaning off after a hard day of labor, playing with bubbles and squeaky toys, or just relaxing with candles and soft music. But taking a bath in Epsom salt offers health benefits that have led many people for years to make soaking in the tub a regular routine.
People take Epsom salt baths for many reasons: They can help to relieve stress, soothe your muscles, soften your skin and maybe even reduce the look of wrinkles. Some recent studies have even indicated that Epsom salt baths may be soothing for children with autism.
Epsom salts are made up of the compound magnesium sulfate, and they got their name because one of the earliest discoveries of magnesium sulfate took place in Epsom, England. Magnesium and sulfate both play essential parts in the ways in which our bodies function.
Magnesium is important in that it helps keep enzyme activity regular in your body, and it helps your bodily functions to run smoothly. More than half of all Americans have a magnesium deficiency, which is believed to be a factor in all kinds of health problems [source: Epsom Salt Council]. Sulfate also plays an important role in the way in which your body works: It has a role in the formation of brain tissue and joint proteins, and it can strengthen the walls of the digestive tract [source: Epsom Salt Council].
Taking an Epsom salt bath helps restore magnesium and sulfate in your system because they can be absorbed through your skin. Some doctors recommend soaking three times per week for about 12 to 15 minutes. If you're wondering where to find Epsom salt, just check out your local grocery store, health food store or pharmacy.
To learn in more detail about the positive powers of Epsom salt baths, continue on to the next page.
Epsom Salt Baths for Softening Skin
Dry, itchy skin is a common skin care concern for people of any age, and Epsom salt can help.
Mineral-rich Epsom salt bathwater can help turn rough, dry skin into smooth, soft skin, especially if you use partially dissolved salt crystals to exfoliate dead skin cells and rough spots away [source: Epsom Salt Council]. Epsom salt baths also can be a soothing at-home treatment for serious skin conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema. Of course, if you do have any chronic skin conditions, you might want to consult your physician before sitting down for a soak.
Taking Epsom salt baths regularly may help keep your skin soft, but the key is to remember to rinse away any salt that is left on your skin after your bath. To keep your skin moisturized, use warm water in the tub and limit your time in the water -- too much water or heat can take away moisturizing oils from your skin. Within three minutes of getting out of the bath or shower, pat your skin dry and apply a moisturizer within three minutes of getting out of the bath or shower to lock in water and prevent it from evaporating and taking your skin's natural oils along with it.
As Epsom salt can help to soften your skin, it can also help if you need to hide wrinkles on your skin.
Epsom Salt Baths for Wrinkles
If you're like most people with wrinkles, you're probably always on the lookout for fast and inexpensive ways to wipe out and prevent those little lines. Many factors -- such as genetics, sun exposure and smoking -- can help cause wrinkles on your skin [source: Mayo Clinic]. Consistent facial expressions such as squinting or smiling will also contribute to them over time. The reason that wrinkles are a common sign of aging is that as your skin ages, it loses some of its elasticity and supporting fat, and it becomes dry more easily. Sebaceous glands in older skin don't produce oil as much as they do in younger skin, leading to a dryness that makes wrinkles more pronounced.
This is where Epsom salt baths come in. Bathing in mineral-rich Epsom salt water may help to hydrate and soften your skin, and you can maintain that effect if you follow up with a good moisturizer shortly after your bath. Locking in that moisture can keep your skin from getting too dry and, as a result, may help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on your skin.
Other ways of hiding wrinkles range from topical retinoid creams to face lifts, so taking baths with Epsom salt and following up with a moisturizer is a quicker, more inexpensive method, although you probably won't get results as drastic as you might by using the other methods.
Epsom salt baths can be great for your skin, but they can do other things for your body, too. Read on to learn how they can help remove toxins from your body.
Epsom Salt Detox Bath
Magnesium sulfate, the chemical compound that makes up Epsom salt is a very versatile tool -- not only can it help you with your skin care routine, some say it can also help you detoxify your body. Proponents claim that Epsom salt baths are a great way to get out lots of harmful and unnatural substances that you don't want in your system.
Imagine your body as a party with lots of people -- both those who were invited and those who weren't. When the party's over, usually at least some of those uninvited partygoers are still sticking around. It's late, and you're trying to figure out how to politely send them on their way. When you take an Epsom salt bath, those "uninvited" pollutants are told to leave your body. That message is delivered by none other than magnesium sulfate.
Magnesium helps keep your bodily functions running smoothly, including some of the pathways that lead toxins right out of your body. Sulfate helps to strengthen the walls of your digestive tract so that it's easier to release toxins. As a compound, magnesium sulfate also raises the amount of digestive enzymes in the pancreas. The compound also helps in purifying and detoxifying your body of heavy metals [source: Epsom Salt Council]. All of these functions help to aid the body in getting rid of toxins. However, there's not a lot of medical research documenting how much of a detoxifying effect Epsom salt may really have.
Now that you know about all the things that Epsom salt baths can do for your body, you might be wondering how to actually take one. Continue to the next page before starting that bathwater.
How to Take an Epsom Salt Bath
If you're ready for an Epsom salt bath, consider your tub size and water depth before you begin pouring in the salt. More salt isn't necessarily better. A common formula is to add a cup or two (about 0.25 or 0.5 liters) of Epsom salt to warm water in a standard-size bathtub. If your bathtub is bigger or smaller than most, you may want to adjust the amount of Epsom salt you add [source: Epsom Salt Council].
If you're a lover of hot, steaming bath water, know that it's not doing your skin any favors. The water you use in an Epsom salt bath -- and any bath, for that matter -- should be warm, not hot. Warm or tepid water is best for your skin because it doesn't strip away as much protective oil, and it helps to dissolve the Epsom salt. Before you climb into the bath, make sure that all of the salt has dissolved so that it can be more easily absorbed into your skin. Any salt that hasn't dissolved in the water may dry on your skin as an opaque white powder. If you see this residue on your skin after the bath, don't worry; excess salt should be harmless and is easily rinsed off.
It's generally recommended to soak in an Epsom salt bath for about 15 minutes up to three times per week. Aside from these soothing baths, Epsom salt baths can be incorporated into your beauty routine as a way to exfoliate, as an at-home facial when mixed with a cleansing cream and as bath crystals when mixed with a fragrance [source: Epsom Salt Council].
Despite the benefits, Epsom salt baths aren't for everyone. They generally aren't recommended for people who have conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure or diabetes. If you aren't sure whether an Epsom salt bath is safe for you, consult your doctor first.
Epsom salt has been a cure-all for generations: It has been used to soothe aches and pains, and more recently for softening skin, preventing wrinkles and detoxifying your body. If you're interested in learning more about the uses and benefits of Epsom salt, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- DeFelice, Karen. "Epsom Salts." EnzymeStuff.com. Aug. 25, 2005. (Accessed Sept. 15, 2009)http://www.enzymestuff.com/epsomsalts.htm
- Epsom Salt Council. "Beauty Benefits." (Accessed Sept. 14, 2009)http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/beauty_benefits.htm
- Epsom Salt Council. "Beauty Usage Tips." (Accessed Sept. 29, 2009)http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/beauty_usage_tips.htm
- Epsom Salt Council. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Accessed Sept. 14, 2009)http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/about_faq.htm
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- Meyer, Lawrence. "Why do fingers wrinkle in the bath?" Scientific American. April 2, 2001. (Accessed Sept. 15, 2009)http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-do-fingers-wrinkle-in
- Rawls, Jordann. "Detox 101: Do detox baths work?" Examiner.com. July 17, 2009. (Accessed Sept. 15, 2009)http://www.examiner.com/x-14353-Yoga-Examiner~y2009m7d17-Detox-101-Do-detox-baths- work
- Waring, R.H. "Report on absorption of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) across the skin." The Magnesium Web Site. (Accessed Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.mgwater.com/transdermal.shtml