Whether you subscribe to Mae West’s reported philosophy (“When in doubt, take a bath”), or you use your tub only sporadically, winter makes a good soak seem extra appealing—all the more so when you factor in this winter’s historic anxiety levels.
Instinctively, you know water is soothing, says Ixchel Leigh, founder of Artisan Parfums and Vibrational AromaTherapy by Ixchel—and author of the recently released second edition ofAromatic Alchemy: Recipes for Transformation. “People are drawn to water, whether they’ve delved into its energetics or not,” she says. For the uninitiated, she’s referring to its status as the elemental embodiment of emotion—“a flowing, healing, receptive kind of energy.”
Water is itself able to absorb and transmute emotions, she says. So even as a simple medium, it’s comforting. But once you add essential oils or other therapeutic ingredients to the tub, “you’re really getting into conscious wellness.”
Point is, even an unadulterated tubful of warm water can be an excellent retreat. But if you have the time and inclination to add a few extras, you can dramatically enhance the wellness quotient. Four of the best seasonal options follow, and if you’re going with an essential oil blend, don’t add it to the water until the tub is full: “If you add essential oils as the tub is still filling,” says Leigh, “the agitation will disperse them too much for maximum physical benefit.”
If you’re a purist with strong leanings toward lavender or chamomile, you could make either essential oil the basis of this bath. And, they make for an extra-soothing power couple. Lavandula angustifolia is the lavender variation that’s safest to use, says Leigh, as other variations may irritate your skin, even if you don’t apply them directly. She also favors Roman chamomile for calming.
Start with 1/2 cup of Celtic bath salts or 1/4 cup of carrier oil (skewer-stirred coconut oil works well here), add 8 to 10 drops of essential oil—4 to 5 drops apiece if you’re using both lavender and chamomile.
For a ready-made alternative, consider the cult favorite
Indie Lee Sleep Soak, an aptly named blend of not only lavender and chamomile, but also vetiver and (subtle, we promise) patchouli.
For this blend, to maximize the bath’s moisturizing power, skip a salt base in favor of 1/4 cup of oil. Coconut oil (again, stirred first with a skewer) is one of the most hydrating, but jojoba oil is another excellent option. To either, add about 3 drops each of frankincense, cedarwood and ylang-ylang, advises Leigh.
One store-bought alternative—the super-nourishing ylang- ylang-spiked Susanne Kaufmann Oil Bath for The Senses—is so beloved that it now comes in jumbo size.
Detoxing and Muscle-Relieving
Starting with a base of 1⁄2 cup Celtic or Dead Sea salts, add 1 drop lemon essential oil, 3 drops lavender oil, 1 drop of rosemary essential oil and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. And though you’ve likely—and rightly—been warned that steamy water can
sap your skin, this is one instance when you may want to turn up the heat anyway. “A hot bath can really get in there and pummel the muscles,” says Leigh, noting that you can always add a tablespoon of coconut or jojoba oil to your blend to counteract the drying effect.
For a non-DIY alternative, consider Milk + Honey Muscle Soak, a go-to for its blend of salts, rosemary and arnica, among other relievers.
Though baths are all but synonymous with relaxation, you can use them to energize, too, says Leigh. But this one calls for turning down the temperature—if only slightly (don’t worry; this isn’t where the story takes a turn for the Nordic ice bath). To a tubful of water that’s at the lower registers of comfortably warm, add a blend of 1⁄2 cup Celtic or Dead Sea salts, 1 drop lemon essential oil, 2 drops orange essential oil and 2 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil.
If you want to go for maximum invigoration with a good sloughing in the tub, check out the new citrus-spiked Goldfaden MD Doctor’s Body Scrub.