‘Tis the season… for baths? Yes, for baths. They provide some indulgement during what’s supposed to be a joyful time but tends to be comprised of stress due to lack of money and impending year-end deadlines. Plus, the weather’s dipping and showers have turned from pleasurable to torturous. Well, baths are like a warm hug after a long, strenuous day.
If you need more convincing, they’re also great for the skin. “Baths helps reduce cortisol levels which prevent premature aging and acne,” dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D. tells us. But there are some things to keep in mind to get the full benefits. For one, you shouldn’t be taking a bath for more than 10 minutes, dermatologist Dr. Doris Day advises. Otherwise, you’ll strip the skin of its moisture. “Water is hydrating to the skin, but if you’re in [a bath] for too long, that can actually pull the natural oils out of your skin and can leave you drier,” she says. How can you tell you’ve overstayed your soak? When your fingers start to wrinkle. She adds, “When you sit in the bath too long and your skin is kind of pruney, that is waterlogged skin; it’s just full of water, and that’s why it makes it look ripply in that way.”
You can stretch out the time, she says, but you’re going to have to add in some hydrating reinforcements. “If you’re going to stay in longer, then you’re going to want to add in protection. So things like whole milk, oatmeal, honey, and certain oils are good.” Another bath caveat: Don’t make the water too hot, as that can also strip the skin of its natural oils.
Now that we’ve laid down the ground rules, we’ve consulted both Dr. Bowe and Dr. Day about the secrets of and best products for a really successful bath. They’ve even doled out some advice for creating a bath-like experience for those not #blessed enough to have one in their home—or who don't have one they trust is clean enough to sit in.
Some general rules to remember first: relax, slow down, and try to stay in the moment.
Philips, Hue Wireless Dimming Set, $34.99, available at Philips.
The key to taking a bath from good to great is creating a relaxing ambiance, both Dr. Bowe and Dr. Day tell us. Unless you're a full-fledged adult, which in this case means you have your shit together enough to have specialized lights, chances are your room doesn't include a dimming feature. This one from Philips not only comes at an affordable price point, it's also easy to set up. Simply replace your bulb and tack the switch somewhere on the wall and the wireless feature will allow you to raise or lower the lights as you see fit. The dimmer the better, in this case.
Showerdoordirect, Waterprood Bluetooth Shower Speaker with Suction Cup, $32.60, available at Home Depot.
Next, comes the music. Try not to bring your phone into your bathing arena: (1) it'll serve as a distraction and (2) you run the risk of dropping it in the water. You can do without it for the 10 to 15 minutes that you soak; we believe in you. This waterproof speaker connects to your Bluetooth, allowing you to stream music easily from any of the services you're currently subscribed to. We suggest a playlist with lots of Sade.
Yogi, Calming Tea, $4.89, available at Yogi.
Dr. Day is a big fan of utilizing all of your senses for a truly relaxing experience. She loves a good chamomile or mint tea to help jump-start your taste buds and truly ease into relaxation (wine is also encouraged if that's more your, ahem, cup of tea). "As much as you can, using every sense, vision, taste, hearing, and then the physical really does help your body appreciate the full value of that bathtime," she says.
Keap, Hot Springs Candle, $35, available at Keap.
What's a bath setting without a candle? Incomplete, that's what. This version from Brooklyn, New York-based brand Keap includes notes of lavender and eucalyptus to help channel a spa-like experience.
Lush, Frozen Bath Bomb, $8.95, available at Lush.
Now that we have the outer area handled, it's time to zone in on the actual bath itself. We already know that scalding hot water is frowned upon, and both Dr. Day and Dr. Bowe say that our beloved bubbles should take a backseat, also. "The old bubble baths were not so good because they had a lot of surfactants," Dr. Day explains. "It was fun to have in the water, but all those bubbles—soap particles, essentially—were very drying to the skin."
Instead, she says to opt for a bath bomb. Lush is the OG carrier of them, and this particular one (which goes by the name of "Let It Go") is made up of rose, neroli, and grapefruit oil.
Now Foods, Rose Absolute Essential Oil, $12.22, available at iHerb.
Dr. Bowe says adding a couple drops of essential oil is also a great addition to bath time. "Lavender and rose are great to add to bath water to help relax, and they can also offer some skin-care benefits," she tells us. "Rose oil provides benefits, like being rich in antioxidants and helping hydrate and purify the skin. Its oil also helps to soothe inflamed skin."
Uma Oils Deep Clarifying Face Mask, $70, available at Uma Oils.
For the multitaskers (aka the ADD generation), Dr. Bowe says this is the perfect time to slap on a face mask or hair treatment as you get some R&R. This one from natural brand Uma includes acne-fighting ingredients like turmeric and clay, as well as calming essential oils.
Too Cool For School, Egg Mousse Body Oil, $25, available at Sephora.
You've came, you've set up, you've soaked, you've conquered. The last and most important step is to moisturize. This awesome body oil from Korean brand Too Cool For School is released in a manner similar to shaving gel and even comes out in mousse form. Once you rub it onto the skin, it transforms into a (delicious-smelling) oil comprised of shea butter and avocado and olive oil.
You're going to want to apply it directly after stepping out of the bath, Dr. Bowe says, so keep it close. "By taking a 10-minute bath, you will help absorb moisture as long as you apply a moisturizer or oil immediately stepping out of the bath," she says. "Otherwise, the water will evaporate, leaving your skin dehydrated."
ASOS, New Look Frosted Fluffy Robe, $38, available at ASOS.
For those without the luxury of indulging in their own baths outside of when they visit home, Dr. Bowe and Dr. Day say there are some alternatives to recreating a similar aura. Dr. Day recommends letting the shower water run ahead of time on hot to steam up the bathroom. The steam and heat will provide you with a similar warm embrace that you experience with a bath.
Dr. Bowe says it all comes down to the atmosphere. "You can still feel relaxed while taking a shower... Light a scented candle, play some soft music, have a freshly washed fluffy towel and robe nearby, you can even break out the luxurious bath products you save only for special occasions," she says. "This is also the perfect time to use a body scrub beforehand, so you can easily wash it off in the shower."
We're partial to Yes To Coconut Polishing Scrub, while a fluffy lined robe, like the one shown here from ASOS, is just about the perfect end to a bath/shower that we could ask for.