There’s something so self-indulgent and luxurious about creating the ultimate bath experience.
A bathtub is a prerequisite in every home I’ve ever lived in and the very first thing I admire in a hotel room. On work and holiday trips, I’m so determined to make use of a lovely tub—freestanding with a view surely would be ideal—that I’ve been known to soak for hours to simply unplug from the world. In this current global pandemic, baths have become my safe space away from the headlines. In a bath, I can lay completely motionless with a quiet mind and still come out feeling like I accomplished something. My body is clean, my skin feels soft, and my mind feels refreshed.
The pleasure of a bath lies in the luxuriating, not the practicality. It’s no wonder that designer Tom Ford infamously said he takes all of four baths in a day. But in order to maximize relaxation, the conditions have to be just right. My perfect ultimate bath involves a book in my hand, a candle flickering on the side, and my boyfriend on FaceTime.
Running the perfect-temperature bath boils down to (no pun intended) an actual science. So, what are the conditions for the ultimate bath experience?
Dr. JoAnna Nguyen, a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills and avid bather outlines the basics.
Normal body temperature is 98.6°F and the ideal temperature for the ultimate bath is between 104°F and 113°F. “The water should feel warm, but not uncomfortably hot,” says Dr. Nguyen. The stratum corneum, or the outermost layer of the skin, forms a barrier which protects the deeper layers of the skin, preventing the entry of bacteria and toxins, while maintaining moisture. Dr. Nguyen says that at temperatures higher than 113°F, this layer breaks down, which can lead to dryness and inflammation of the skin.
Baths are also a great opportunity to soothe dry, irritated skin by adding comforting compounds such as oats, salt, or bath oils. Dr. Nguyen suggests adding avocado or sunflower oils to the water to moisturize your skin while soaking. You can also add your favorite essential oils to further stimulate the senses. My pick: Fur Bath Drops. The soothing blend of oils feels super luxurious in the bath and leaves your skin feeling silky soft. BUY HERE ($34)
According to Dr. Nguyen, baths should last no longer than 15 minutes. Any longer and the skin is stripped of its natural oils, which can lead to irritation and inflammation. Keep your baths short and sweet to save your skin, but feel free to bathe as often as you’d like. A bath a day keeps the stress away.
It is also important to moisturize your skin when it is still slightly damp to seal in the moisture. This can be done with your favorite moisturizing lotions or body oils. Whether you are enjoying a bath or a shower, Dr. Ngyuen suggests moisturizing immediately after for soft, supple skin all over the body. I love the Glossier Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream. BUY HERE ($22)
We all know that a nice bath can melt away the stresses of the day, but scientific studies have shown that a simple bath can reap great health benefits. One study found that baths increase the body’s core temperature, which in turn helps regulate the circadian rhythm. “The ideal time to take a bath is 90 minutes prior to bedtime, as this has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep by 10 minutes,” says Dr. Nguyen.
In a small study, depressed volunteers demonstrated a greater reduction of depressive symptoms from taking a bath each day compared to those who exercised. Imagine the compounding benefits of exercise and baths on helping those with depression.
“Physiologically speaking, baths condition the circulatory system, improving cerebrovascular health. Think of it as exercise, without the exertion,” adds Dr. Nguyen.
Exercise from dunking your body in hot water? Goodbye, indoor treadmill – possibly forever!