Treat yourself to tub time while also treating your skin.

By Erica Metzger
April 14, 2020
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This is part of our weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

My bathtub has become quite the destination these days. On top of the regular bath schedule, my 3-year-old daughter has taken to wearing her bathing suit for afternoon swims in her “pool.” Her 9-year-old sister has graduated to showers but requests a bath for her dolls. But after hours, it’s all mine, all mine. 

The tub has always been my place to chill, regardless of the season. (We don’t have central air-conditioning, so this habit really confounds my husband on a humid NYC summer night.) A 10-minute soak after a hectic day or hard workout relaxes me for sleep. The science behind the magic is simple: “Warmth is a stress reducer, so is the immersion in liquid,” says Mona Gohara, M.D., a dermatologist in Hamden, CT.

Yet, as blissful as mind-body experience is, a bath can be a problem for your skin if you’re not careful. “Excessively hot baths can actually cause skin issues inflammation, redness, itching, and even peeling or disruption of the natural skin balance, moisture, and lipids,” says L.A.-based dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D. Baths also can trigger breakouts in unexpected places. “Pimples on the butt (aka 'buttne'), believe it or it not, can be a byproduct of booty in bathtub,” Gohora says.

So what’s the best way to bathe? Here a few ways practices to take a better bath, plus bath products I’m can’t get enough of.

Rinse and Repeat

Start with a clean, thoroughly rinsed tub. “You want to make sure that cleaning chemicals have been adequately rinsed, so you aren’t soaking in Lysol or bleach remnants,” Gohara says. I like to quickly shower off my skin too (and also shampoo my hair if it’s due for a wash) so I’m not soaking in grimy water. When you’re finished with your bath, it’s a good idea to repeat both steps. Some bath products, oils, in particular, can leave your tub slippery, so give it a quick scrub or wipe down. Remember that buttne warning? A postbath rinse removes any dead skin or product residue so they don’t clog your pores. 

Set a Temperature

A too-hot bath will dry out your skin, and in my experience, makes it impossible to relax. (This coming from someone who has bathed during a heat wave, remember?) “Best to keep the water temperature to no more than 100 degrees. It should not far exceed your own body temperature,” Shamban says.

Keep It to 15 Minutes

Limit your soak to 10 or 15 minutes max. That’s the right of time to get the therapeutic benefits without turning into a prune, say our pros. How you choose to spend this time is up to you. I prefer to relax rather than try to tackle my regular shower routine. But if you want to multitask, rinse afterward to remove all the soap products and dead skin cells from your body and hair.

My Bath Soak Picks

These are a few of my must-have bath products.

Credit: Courtesy of Aveeno

Packed with proteins, vitamins, and lipids, colloidal oatmeal helps soothe sensitive and eczema-prone skin. Sprinkle a packet of this finely milled powder into running water for a calming, milky bath.

Buy It: Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment, $9.49 for eight packets, Walgreens

Credit: Courtesy of Old Whaling Co.

Fizzy, colorful bath bombs are amusing, but they often contain heavy fragrance or colorants that can irritate sensitive skin. This one gives you the effervescent show (baking soda and citric acid make the reaction) without any irritating ingredients. It also has moisturizing body oils to leave your skin soft.

Buy It: Fragrance-Free Bath Bomb, $6, Old Whaling Co.

Credit: Courtesy of Ren Skincare

A combo of skin benefits and natural aromatherapy turn a bath into a full body treatment. It has a nourishing plant extracts that leave skin soft and a blend essential oils like sage, rosemary, geranium, and cypress that smell like a spa.

Buy It: Ren Atlantic Kelp and Microalgae Anti-Fatigue Bath Oil, $32, Ren Skincare

Credit: Courtesy of Target

The key to this soak’s muscle-soothing powers are the unscented Dead Sea salts that contain magnesium and potassium, two mineral goods for tired muscles. Add a cup to your bath water and give the salts a few minutes to dissolve.

Buy It: Honest Mama Me Moment Soaking Salts, $14.99, Target

Credit: Courtesy of Kneipp

Sticking to a regular exercise routine always makes me feel fit … and sore. The natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory Arnica (plus pine, rosemary, eucalyptus oils) transforms the bath into a therapeutic experience that soothes aches and pains. You only need a capful so a bottle lasts eight to 10 baths.

Buy It: Kneipp Bath Oil-Joint & Muscle Arnica, $20, Kneipp

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