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What are Epsom bath salts and what are they for?

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Bath salts are a cost effective way of adding minerals to bath water, in order to gain their health benefits whilst we take a well deserved, long hot soak in the bath.

The health benefits of bath salts include relaxing the body and mind and helping to soothe and nourish stressed out skin.

So what are bath salts and how do they benefit us? This week, we took a deeper look to find out more…

What are bath salts made of?

Bath salts, more commonly known as Epsom 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 isn’t the same as the salt we add to our cooking or at the table. Table salt is otherwise known as sodium chloride as is made up of two different chemical elements - sodium and chloride.

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.

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 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.

What does 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.

When Epsom salts dissolve into 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 Epsom salt baths good for?

Aside from potentially providing the body with magnesium on the inside, there are health benefits from having an Epsom salt bath to the outside of the body.

First and foremost, an Epsom salt bath 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.

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.

Are Epsom salt baths safe?

Adding Epsom salts to your bath is a safe addition and even though the science is mixed, used safely they will do no harm. (Unless you consume them, when as mentioned above, can have a severe laxative reaction.)

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.)

Do Epsom salt baths 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 doing to damage 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 two 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 take an Epsom salt bath?

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.



Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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