Staying at home has presented its own unique set of challenges.
Are you struggling to sleep despite your day-to-day life being less frantic than usual? Are you feeling lethargic yet having more sleep than you would in a typical working week? Or are you feeling sluggish and in need of some self-care?
A relaxing, warming bath can help with a lot of those scenarios. After a long day spent in the (home) office, a soothing soak in the tub can ease tired muscles, help switch off an overworking mind, and present the opportunity to indulge in a little much-needed pampering.
With many of us now in close proximity to our bathrooms most days, it’s never been easier to run a quick bath before jumping into bed any given night.
But how do you make sure you have the most relaxing experience possible? Here, find our top tips on everything from finding the best water temperature to the products to pour under your tap.
How hot should the water be?
We’ve all been there: you accidentally run either a steaming hot or tepid bath, only to hop out 10 minutes later a sweating or shivering mess.
You want a temperature that, in the words of Goldilocks, is just right – aim for warm rather than outright hot.
“For a relaxing bath, the water should be warm, but not hot, as hot baths can often lead to sweating, an increase in blood pressure and the skin drying,” says Yuki Kiyono, spa director at the luxury hotel group Aman Resorts. “It needs to feel a comfortable temperature in order to promote relaxation.”
Somewhere between the 32 to 35 degrees Celsius mark is ideal, nutritionist Suzi Grant wrote in her book 48 Hours to a Healthier Life. Dermatologists seem to agree that 38°C is the hottest end of the spectrum you ever want to hit.
If you don’t have a thermometer to hand, you can still use the trick for babies’ baths on your own. Stick your elbow in the water for 10 seconds – if it feels like it’s veering towards scorching as your skin acclimatises, put the cold tap back on for another minute.
How full should your bathtub be?
Again, this is completely down to how deep you like to be submerged, but a flooded bathroom doesn’t exactly create the relaxing experience you’re probably aiming for. Try to get the water level at about 65 to 70 per cent full – this shouldn’t overflow once you get in, but should cover you up to your neck in water, rather than leave cold knees poking out of the suds.
What should you put in your bath?
Personal preference will naturally dictate whether you’re a bubble, bomb, salt or oil kind of bather. Our top tip is to mix a cocktail of products, depending on what you need.
If you have drier skin, opt for a nourishing bath oil, which will leave you encased in a layer of moisturising product when you emerge. Just be careful to properly wash the tub out after you’re finished, so you don’t slip on the remnants next time you get in.
If you can’t live without some bubbles, add a small capful to the water to ensure an even spread of foam. Many formulas contain potentially irritating fragrances or drying chemicals that may aggravate sensitive skin, so reign in your desire to pour in a generous glug.
Bath bombs can equally be rich in perfume and essential oils, as well as colouring and glitters that can stain your tub, but if you opt for a version with an emollient base, such as cocoa butter, you’ll get some skin-conditioning benefits.
Epsom salts, also known as magnesium sulphate, meanwhile, make a worthy addition to any bath, with their ability to ease aching muscles and treat skin inflammation.
Add about two cups to running water, and stir to dissolve (you don’t want to sit down on a crunchy surface), alongside your chosen oil, foam or bath bomb.
“If you are looking for relaxation, then bath salts with a small amount of oil is the best option,” says Kiyono.
What should you do in the bath?
First things first, leave your phone in another room – this is not the time to check your emails, take work calls or fall down the virtual rabbit hole of news headlines. To help your mind switch off, now’s a great time to crack into that bestselling book you’ve always been too tired to open at bedtime.
You could also listen to a podcast, play some soothing music, or watch a little light entertainment on a laptop propped up on a suitable surface. (While you should limit screen time as you near your bedtime, let’s be honest – a little Netflix a couple of hours before sleep can be just the escapism you need).
How can I up the ante?
While you’re already submerged, a bath makes for the perfect time to indulge in a little self-care, the kind of stuff you don’t have time for in your quick-smart morning shower.
Use a pre-made scrub with salt, sugar or coffee, which aren’t as abrasive or damaging to the environment as microbeads, or a loofah to slough off your limbs, and make sure to lock in all that moisture with a body lotion once you’re out of the tub and dried off.
Since baths are often used to relax before bed, take your make-up off before getting in, and use the time to apply a face mask. You’ve got plenty of time to let it sink in, and you can wash it off in the bath instead of having to splash around blindly in the sink.
How long should you spend in the bath?
Although it’s tempting to while away hours in the tub, if you take regular baths, you should limit the amount of time you spend in them.
Dr Jeffrey Fromowitz, a US dermatologist, says a “prolonged immersion in water supersaturates the skin and can lead to skin breakdown”. Fromowitz told news website Digg that wrinkled toes and fingers are actually a sign of vesicles, bubbles that have water trapped between two layers of skin – the epidermis and the dermis. If you were to take prolonged baths on a daily basis, you’d be opening yourself up to an increased risk of infection.
You should bathe for up to 20 minutes, says Kiyono.
What else do you need?
Take a glass of water or a refreshing drink into the bathroom to have on hand; a warm bath can sometimes make you sweat, so try not to become dehydrated.
Consider buying a neck pillow that attaches on to your tub with suction cups, so you can lie back on the bath’s edge without adding tension and pressure to the base of your head.
Many find dimming the lights, or lighting a few candles, particularly soothing – just make sure you don’t have an open flame near any furniture or textiles that could catch fire, and don’t leave candles unattended.