Your Mom Is Right—Soaking in an Epsom Salt Bath Has Several Health Benefits
The self-care movement aside, you've likely heard about the healing powers of Epsom salt. Also known as magnesium sulfate, this mineral has been hailed as a muscle soother (and a trick up Mom's sleeve) for decades. Cordelia Smith, the founder of Formulary 55, notes that this substance is usually likened to regular sea salt—but the key difference is that magnesium sulfate isn't a salt at all; they are simply found in water and look like salt grains. Epsom salts' name might be misleading, but their healing properties are not: According to Trevor T'úýtemken Ellestad Van Somer, an herbalist, aromatherapist, and the natural wellness director of PR, communications, and social media at Saje, they are "purported to have many health benefits, from soothing sore, overworked muscles to quieting and calming the mind in a hot bath."
However, not all Epsom salt varieties are the same. "Many conventional bath salts on the market today use synthesized or man-made salts that are chock full of artificial fragrances, ingredients, and dyes," T'úýtemken Ellestad Van Somer says. If you choose better formulas, however, you can experience all the perks listed above—and a few more. Here, discover all of the health benefits associated with soaking in an Epsom salt bath and learn how to effectively take one.
What are the benefits of Epsom salt?
Humans have been taking Epsom salt baths for centuries to heal and ease muscular aches, soreness, and stiffness, and even mental stress. Thanks to their magnesium content, Epsom salts really work; the chemical can reduce inflammation and aid in relaxation. "When you soak in Epsom salts, your body absorbs the magnesium (it is highly soluble), allowing for overall mind and body benefits," Smith says. To reap even more benefit from the salts, T'úýtemken Ellestad Van Somer recommends using varieties that are blended with a high concentration of essential oils. "A busy mind can be quieted with soothing lavender and chamomile in stress-release bath salts," he notes.
How much Epsom salt should you use in a bath—and how long should you soak?
As for how much salt to use in each bath? Smith recommends two to three full cups, which should allow you to feel the calming effects, so long as you stay in the tub for a certain amount of time. "Be ready to soak for at least 30 minutes, as you want to give your skin enough time to absorb all of the benefits of the bath," Smith shares. You can also tailor the amount you use, depending on the Epsom salt formula. "Saje's salts are saturated with essential oils in a concentration that is both aromatically and therapeutically beneficial, so only a small amount (two to five tablespoons) is needed to achieve great results," T'úýtemken Ellestad Van Somer says.
How often should you take Epsom salt baths?
If you are experiencing physical pain or emotional stress on a daily basis, soaking every night could be helpful, say our experts. Otherwise, Smith suggests taking these salt-infused baths three to five days a week. "So that you're able to keep the aroma locked in and create a spa-like steam experience, I recommend closing your shower curtain around the bathtub, if possible—or at the very least, keep your bathroom door closed," says T'úýtemken Ellestad Van Somer. "To ensure that the oils do not dissipate aromatically and that their beneficial properties are not lost, add bath salts once the tub is full and you're ready to climb in." Another pro tip? Try taking an Epsom salt bath just before bed—it will help you sleep more deeply.