Water is a healer and sustainer, and has been the focal point of rites and rituals for millennia. For good reason, we have put water in the center of our cultural experiences and communal lives. Humans have always created their settlements as close to water as possible, and found ways to harvest, store, and protect it for as long as they have existed. It may seem like a commodity we have become accustomed to, but without it, even for a week, we would die. It’s easy to forget how sacredly dependent we are on its existence.
Water alone can soothe fried nerves and sunburnt skin, facilitate fevers out of the body, and gently cleanse grime from our bodies. When we add in the powerful modalities of botanicals, milks, and minerals, it becomes a medicine all its own. Here are some ways you can enhance your bathing experience and connect to the ancient healing and beautifying rituals of our ancestors.
Hydrosols are distillations of plants containing volatile oils (also called ephemeral oils or essential oils). They are much less concentrated than essential oils, and therefore gentler. They can be added to baths in very large quantities–technically they can comprise the entire bath. hydrosols from plants such as chamomile, rose, geranium, lavender, and calendula are incredible for soothing the skin. Some plants, including lavender and calendula, are antimicrobial and may promote wound healing as well. Not all hydrosols will be beneficial in a bathing experience, so be sure to research any hydrosols you are considering adding to your bath.
Glycerites are water and glycerin infusions of botanicals. Glycerin is a natural humectant, making it an excellent moisturizing addition. Humectants grab onto water molecules and are then absorbed into the the first few layers of the skin. You can apply glycerites before a bath in specific areas, or add it to your bath for a boost. Good glycerite options include hibiscus flower, blueberry, cucumber, and calendula flower. The skin-loving properties of these glycerites vary from antioxidant protectiveness to skin brightening! Not all glycerites are safe for skin contact, so be sure to research any herb you want to use in your bathing experience. You can also choose to add pure glycerin to your bath for its humectant properties.
Powdered and Fresh Botanicals
Powdered botanicals can be added directly to a bath or as a sachet. Both fresh and dried botanicals can be used. Colloidal oat powder is a particularly well-loved addition, as are powdered (or fresh) plant milks such as coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk. Calendula and rose tend to be excellent choices! Each botanical has its own set of benefits, and should be chosen based on your needs, and researched carefully before being added to your routine. Cow, goat, and other mammalian milks also have great benefits, including lactic acid exfoliation and fat/mineral replenishment for the skin barrier.
Decoctions, Teas, and Infusions
Simple decoctions and infusions can be added to your bath in place of whole fresh or dried botanicals. This makes for little to no cleanup, and you get the concentrated benefits of a plant as well. Great options for this include calendula, comfrey, oat, and hibiscus. Simply craft your infusion or decoction and add to your bath. Be sure to research any herb you are planning to include in your bath prior to brewing. This is especially important if you plan to use pre-blended teas, which frequently contain phototoxic and skin-irritating ingredients.
The skin barrier is naturally protected by lipids, which are fats and oils produced by our bodies. By adding oils to your bath, you can help restore this natural mantle while gently cleansing your skin. My favourite oils to add to a bath are jojoba, argan, hempseed, and olive oils. Check out my post on creating facial oils for more information regarding oils and their properties! I recommend adding about 2 tbsp of oil to your bath at a time. These oils can be infused with botanicals for an extra special experience! It is recommended to wash the bathtub well after use in order to avoid slipping, and to be very careful upon exiting the bath itself. Place a towel or mat down to ensure any remaining oil on your feet does not cause you to fall.
Salts, Vitamins, and Minerals
Epsom salt, which is a form of magnesium, can be added to baths. Other salts including sea salt and pink Himalayan salt can be added for a boost of other minerals as well. Skin naturally makes use of these kinds of minerals in its everyday functions. Some vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin D, can be absorbed into the body through the skin as well. Consider using a topical supplement in your bath at the recommended dose for a small and luxurious supplementation.
Clays and Charcoal
Clays and activated charcoal are particularly great for detoxifying the skin, and helping to reduce the amount of oil left behind after a bath. These additives are recommended for oily skin types. I suggest adding about 2 tbsp of clay or charcoal to a bath at a time. Some clay can leave behind a slippery coating on a bath tub surface and on the skin if not rinsed properly. Be sure to clean the tub and your skin thoroughly after use to avoid slipping. Put a towel or mat down as well.
Some bath tools can be used to enhance the bathing experience and leave your skin and body feeling relaxed. Here are several types of tools you can use!
Natural Loofahs and Sea Sponges
Loofah sponges are natural dried gourds that make amazing exfoliators. They soften in water to become a gentle scrubber, and can be used for several weeks before being replaced. I recommend dunking your loofah in hydrogen peroxide or alcohol at least once a week to ensure it stays clean between uses.
Sea Sponges can be used in much the same way as loofahs, and come from the ocean or a sea sponge farm. They tend to be less exfoliating than a loofah, and larger. They last about the same length of time as a loofah and should be cleansed frequently as well.
Using a neck pillow, rolled up towel, or something soft to relax onto can be incredibly beneficial. Not only does it allow you to fully relax when bathing, but it also provides support while you relax. I suggest using a towel that can be washed after use, or something waterproof to avoid mildew or mold growth.
Setting Up the Experience
Before beginning, be sure to have everything you need on hand to create a smooth, easy transition into a meditative bath experience. Light candles at a safe distance from walls and fabric, have your supplies handy, and pick out your clothes or robe beforehand. Relax and enjoy a luxurious bathing experience!