Epsom Salt Benefits
Epsom bath salts might provoke childhood memories of your grandparents bathroom (along with the dusky pink or avocado green suite). But using epsom salts may actually impart some health benefits your nan and grandad were acutely aware of.
In today's modern world, filled with innovative and scientifically backed skincare ingredients, it can be easy to overlook the simplicity of beauty products from years' gone by. But at Sönd we're rediscovering beneficial epsom salt uses and we're here to shout about them!
Adding these curious salts to our bath is a cost effective way of adding minerals to the water, in order to gain their health benefits whilst we take a well deserved, long hot soak.
So, what are the health benefits of epsom bath salts? Well, they include relaxing the body and mind and helping to soothe and nourish stressed out skin. But there’s much more than that to these relatively cheap and simple salts.
So here's our lowdown on the uses and benefits of epsom salts, and why we should all be making epsom salt baths part of our weekly skincare and relaxation routine.
What Are Epsom Bath Salts Made of?
Epsom salts, sometimes referred to as simply bath salts, are made from a substance called magnesium sulphate. Magnesium sulphate itself is a compound made up of three naturally occurring chemical elements - magnesium, sulphur and oxygen.
Although called bath salts, epsom salt is a completely different salt to the one we add to our cooking or to our food at the table. So called table salt is otherwise known as sodium chloride and is made up of two different chemical elements - sodium and chloride. Bath salts look similar to table salt, but they're very different.
Table salt has a familiar salty taste, but epsom salts are very bitter and certainly won’t complement a portion of chips or a Margarita cocktail like table salt does. Therefore consuming epsom salt orally isn't a pleasant experience.
Although some people do dissolve epsom salts in water and drink the solution (primarily as a laxative), we really don’t recommend that. There are claims that drinking epsom salts help to detox the body, but in doing so, they can cause a sudden and severe upset stomach, which can lead to dehydration (which is no good for the body or the skin).
Epsom salts originate, unsurprisingly, from the English town of Epsom in Surrey. They were first discovered there and as they had a salt-like, crystalline structure, they were, again unsurprisingly, called epsom salts and the name has stuck ever since.
How Do I Use Epsom Salts?
Bath salts can be drunk by adding a teaspoon of epsom salt to a glass of water, to help relieve constipation. But be prepared for a possible upset stomach and griping pains.
In our opinion, the true health benefits of epsom salts are gained by soaking in epsom salts in a warm bath, where it's thought that the beneficial magnesium is absorbed through the skin.
What Does Soaking in an Epsom Salt Bath Do?
Sprinkled generously into a hot bath, just like table salt in a hot water gargle or mouthwash, epsom bath salts dissolve into the water until they’re invisible. They have no smell either, but you can find epsom salts with added essential oils such as lavender or rose that add a relaxing scent to bath time.
When we dissolve epsom salts into warm bath water, they release magnesium and sulphate ions into the water. These ions are then thought to be absorbed by the skin, helping to supply the body with essential magnesium that we don’t always get enough of in our diet.
We need magnesium for a whole host of reasons, primarily to help turn the food we eat into useful energy that the body can use to power other biological systems. We also need magnesium to support the health of the parathyroid glands which produce parathyroid hormones that are essential for good bone health.
Good food sources of magnesium include green, leafy vegetables, nuts, wholegrain bread and brown rice.
However, the science is still out when it comes to the health benefits of an epsom salt bath. Whilst there are many believers in the power and benefits of an epsom salt bath, there are scientific papers that say the evidence so far is inconclusive. So called ‘transdermal’ (through the skin) magnesium from epsom salts doesn’t necessarily enter the body, they say.
But advocates say the health benefits are plentiful…
What are the Health Benefits of Using Epsom Salts?
Aside from potentially providing the body with magnesium on the inside, there are health benefits to having an epsom salt bath for the outside of the body.
First and foremost, bath salts can relieve pain and swelling caused by conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis - a chronic inflammatory disease, lupus and gout. It can also help to reduce stress by relieving muscle tightness and soreness. They may also soothe minor skin infections.
Epsom salt is a natural soothing agent for the pain, irritation and discomfort of haemorrhoids, too. Haemorrhoids, or ‘piles’ as they’re more commonly known, are the result of enlarged veins in the anus. A long soak in an epsom salt bath can help to relieve the discomfort and reduce the swelling of the veins, which can be particularly problematic during pregnancy.
What About an Epsom Salt Foot Bath?
What's more, another health benefit is that an epsom salt foot soak can be great for a reduction in foot odour! Great if you're on your feet a lot for work or you do a lot of running and training.
Soaking your feet in epsom salts can also make it easier to remove splinters, without the risk of pushing the foreign object deeper into the skin.
Plus, if you’ve ever experienced athlete's foot, then you’ll know how incredibly annoying the intense itch is. The same goes for an infected ingrown toenail - the discomfort can be unbearable. Adding epsom salt to the water for a foot bath can soothe the itch and discomfort of both conditions. It can also help to speed up the healing process.
For us here at Sönd, perhaps the most exciting benefit from having an epsom salt bath is its effect on stressed out skin. Soaking in a warm bath full of epsom salts can help to soften dry or rough skin and it can also help to soothe skin affected by eczema and psoriasis.
What Are the Side Effects of Epsom Salt Baths? Are They Safe?
Epsom salt is generally safe when added to your bath water and even though the science is mixed, used safely they will do no harm. (Unless you ingest them - as mentioned above, taking epsom salts internally can have a serious side effect for the gut including a severe laxative reaction.)>However, epsom salt baths are not recommended for people with severely inflamed or infected skin, sore, weeping or open wounds or severe burns.
Can I Take an Epsom Salt Bath while Pregnant?
By all means yes! Epsom salt baths are great for relaxing and soothing tired muscles and a warm bath with a sprinkling of Epsom salts is perfectly safe for during pregnancy. (Just make sure the water isn’t too hot.) In fact epsom salt has been used for generations of pregnant women - but if in doubt, always check with your midwife or GP.
Do Epsom Salts Work?
There’s no understating the power of a long soak in the bath, especially after a long day at work or with the kids or after a particularly long run or intense gym session.
If you’re using epsom bath salts to relax, then there’s no doubt that they’ll help you. If you’re using them to soothe stressed out skin, then there’s every chance they’ll help that too! Like most things, they work differently for different people.
But since they’re not damaging your skin or making your skin feel worse, they’re well worth adding to your skincare routine and holistic approach to looking after non conformist skin.
How Much Epsom Salt Should I Add to My Bath?
It’s recommended that you add roughly 2 cups of epsom salts to a standard sized bathtub full of hot (not too hot) water. You can add them whilst the water is running, or you can swirl them in once you’re ready to get into the water.
How Long Should I Take an Epsom Salt Bath For?
Make sure you soak in your epsom salt bath for at least 15 minutes to gain the maximum health benefits.
How Often Can You Make Use of Epsom Salt Baths?
There’s no strict limit on how often you should take an epsom salt bath, so aim to have at least one a week to gain the benefits. Epsom salt can be used in the bath as often as you like - enjoy!
At Sönd we love talking about stressed out, non conformist skin and how you can make it better - so make sure you keep an eye out for more of our articles!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.