As a writer, it can be hard to keep imposter syndrome from creeping in whenever I write about something I don't feel like a total expert in. But if there's one thing I feel like I know enough about, it's baths. Not that drawing a relaxing bath is a marketable skill, but if it was, it would be at the top of my resume.
Last fall I wrote a bath guide for every occasion, but it was more about curating specific bath products according to your mood. See, I told you I was a bath pro! Have you considered the vibe of your bath before? If not, let me tell you, it's life changing. But first, I wanted to break down the bath basics. Even if you're a bath hater, this might just change your mind!
How to Turn Your Bathroom Into a Spa
Turning your bathroom into a spa-like sanctuary is key for achieving the full escapism a bath can provide. If you have a small apartment bathroom and shower/tub combo you’ve got a little work cut out for you, but I promise it’s possible. If you have a freestanding tub congratulations! You’re living my dream.
If you just want to know the one thing that will take your bath to the next level, it’s candles— lots of them. One candle just won’t do. I actually recommend using LED candles because they provide more of a glowing effect than the measly flicker you get from regular candles. My personal preference is to use a mix of LED and normal scented candles, so I get the glow and the fresh scent. Scented LED candles though are a no go for me. When choosing your candle scent, make sure it plays well with any other bath add ins you’re using. For example, if you’re using a lavender bath bomb, you might not want a super spicy candle to clash with it. That’s not to say that if you use a lavender bath bomb you have to use a lavender candle (although you could if you really like lavender) Think complimentary scents. Something like rose would pair nicely with lavender. Or when in doubt go for vanilla. It’s a nice inoffensive scent that plays nicely with others.
My other major recommendation is a bath caddy. A bath caddy keeps all your favorite things in reach— candles, beauty treatments, a book, a glass of wine... It doesn't have to be anything fancy! I used to have one that I bought from the store, but then when I moved into my current apartment it didn’t fit anymore. Instead of buying a new one, I made my own! Check out my last post for instructions on how I made my own wooden bath caddy. It’s super simple!
What to Add to Your Bath
This part is the hardest to narrow down because there are so many options! Did you think bath bombs were the only fun thing to put in your bath? Here's a list of all the major types of bath products and how to use them. Be sure to read all the way to the end to see some of my favorites from these bath products! It’s also worth noting that you can mix and match these things as you please. You don’t need to use all of these at once for the perfect bath. I think that might overwhelm you more than it would relax you. I often use a bath bomb and bubble bar together for example. Bath oil can be added to pretty much any bath. It may sound silly, but if you want help choosing the right mix for you DM me on Instagram or shoot me an email. I’m happy to be your bath guru.
Bath bombs mostly just put on a show by turning your bath water fun colors or exploding with glitter. They're fun to watch, but don't typically pack many skin benefits. It's also worth noting that you use one per bath, unlike a lot of other products that you can get multiple baths out of. Throw one of these in at anytime while your bath is running or after you’ve already filled the tub. I always get my bath bombs from Lush because I think they've got some of the best ones out there. My personal favorites are Dragon's Egg, Cheer Up Buttercup, and Big Blue.
Everyone is probably familiar with traditional liquid bubble bath of course, but I prefer bubble bars. I find them to be less stripping on the skin than traditional bubble bath, and (again) I usually get mine from Lush. Some of my favorites are The Comforter, Brightside, and Rose Jam. Bubble bars are great because you can break them apart to use for as many baths as you like, but whatever you do make sure to crumble them under running water! If you throw a bubble bar into a full bath without crumbling it under the tap nothing will happen. I have made this mistake!
Bath salts don't add much to your bath visually, but they're supposed to soothe and detoxify the mind and body. (Not to be confused with epsom salts, which are a specific category of bath add-in all on their own) Himalayan Pink Sea Salt is a common ingredient in a lot of bath salts, along with clay-based salts in the more detoxifying versions.
Epsom salts are another one of the most common bath add ins. They're particularly great for soothing sore muscles. I actually found out recently that you should use about 2 cups of epsom salts per bath! Apparently it takes a lot to reap the benefits! Most stores like Target or Walmart should have big bags of epsom salt which are just fine. There's really no need to splurge on any fancy epsom salts.
Magnesium flakes are relatively similar to epsom salts. In fact, magnesium flakes are made from magnesium chloride and epsom salts are made from magnesium sulfate. Sounds like the same thing, right? Well, they generally both make similar claims about restoring muscles, but a lot of people seem to prefer magnesium flakes because of their ability to calm the nervous system. I haven't tried them yet, but if it makes me feel more calm and rested before bed I'm interested.
As you might guess, bath oil is great for skin that needs a moisture boost. It’s especially nice in the winter months for this reason. A little bit goes a long way, so bath oil is something I like to add to all my baths. It's also interesting because there's a really wide price range between budget-friendly options and really high-end expensive options.
“Bath soak” is kind of a catch all term for any liquid you add to a bath. There are all sorts of bath soaks out there that serve various purposes, from relaxing muscle soaks to cold & flu soaks.
If you have dry skin and you’ve never tried a bath milk, you need to! Unexpectedly, bath milk actually comes in a powder form (not liquid), and it turns your bath milky when you add the powder to water. If you have eczema, a bad sun burn, or any other skin ailments a bath milk can be really nourishing for your irritated skin. Just don't make the water too hot!
Bath tea isn’t something you see all too often, but it’s a type of bath add-in nonetheless. It’s sort of a gimmicky product that you dip in your bath water like an actual tea bag. The contents are usually similar to ingredients you find in bath bombs or other dry bath products, but if your tub is prone to clogging, a bath tea is actually a great option because it means less bits are going down your drain.
I’ve never used soaking crystals myself, but I’m definitely intrigued. Apparently they’re similar to bath salts (both often made from Himalayan Pink Sea Salt), but just mixed with essential oils to create a larger form. Because of their size they pack a lot of nutrients and minerals that release slowly as you bathe.
What to Do In the Bath
Obviously, whatever you want to do in the bath is totally up to you. Some people like to relax in total silence, while other people (like me) get bored of that and just want to watch YouTube or Netflix. Or maybe even eat. Is that gross to some people? I like a good bath snack and beverage. It's not like I would eat a full meal in the bath, but next time you take a bath make yourself some chocolate covered strawberries. It's nice. A glass of cold water is a must, but I’ll never say no to a cup of tea (or maybe a glass on wine).
If you do want to go the more zen route, spa music is actually kind of nice. Spotify and Apple Music both have pre-made spa sounds playlists. Meditating in the bath is another great way to zone out. I've been using the Rituals app recently because they have really great guided meditations for various lengths.
The bath is also a great opportunity to take your time with beauty treatments you may otherwise skip. Do a hair mask, exfoliate your body, and just all around pamper yourself! Always wash your face before you get in the bath because the steam can clog your pores if you have makeup on. Then, when you’re about 15 minutes away from getting out of the bath slap on a face mask. That way when you get out your skin is ready to rinse and go (or glow)!
Have I earned a PHD in baths yet? Can this be my dissertation? Let me know if you're a bath person and what your favorite bath rituals are!