Does this spa-like bath have any benefits besides being relaxing? We took a closer look at the science.

Lisa Valente, M.S., RD
December 14, 2020
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I feel like I should start by saying, I’m not a bath person. Give me a hot shower—with good water pressure—and I’m happy, relaxed and clean. But baths are popular with plenty of people and for good reason. For starters, they can turn your bathroom into a bit of a spa (try these DIY recipes for a spa day at home). Soaking feels relaxing. But beyond the mental health benefits of taking a breather in the bath, are there other benefits to bathing? More specifically to adding epsom salts to your bath? I dug in more to the research to find out—and to see if I could be convinced to switch over from showers. 

Bath benefits 

New research, published in Heart this year, found that taking a bath could be great for your heart health. People who took a bath most days of the week had a lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke, over a 19-year period. It’s not just that baths are relaxing—and we know stress is linked to heart disease. The researchers think that the heat from the water helped improve vascular function, the same way that exercise does (although exercise is still super important for your health!). Three baths a week were needed to see benefits for your heart. Other research shows that taking baths regularly may help lower blood pressure and help you sleep better. Plus, a hot bath may burn as many calories as a walk

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7879937/are-epsom-salt-baths-healthy/bath-epsom-salt-bubbles/
| Credit: olegbreslavtsev /getty images

What are epsom salt baths? 

All those benefits are convincing me to fill up my tub, but should I add epsom salts too? Epsom salts are not the same as the salt you’d find on your table (sodium chloride). Epsom salts are actually magnesium sulfate and named after Epsom, a town in England. People add Epsom salts to their bath where they dissolve and the claim is that then the minerals can absorb into your skin for extra health benefits. Many Epsom salt products also have added essential oils and some soaking salts are a mix of sea salt and Epsom salts.

Epsom salt bath benefits

Proponents of Epsom salt baths claim they can help achy muscles, reduce stress, help headaches, benefit your skin and even help you lose weight. People believe your body absorbs magnesium from the bath. While we know magnesium has health benefits—helping keep your heart healthy, reducing your risk of diabetes, helping you sleep and helping bones stay healthy—there isn’t much research to support an Epsom salt bath for those same benefits. A recent review study that looked at magnesium absorption through your skin, found that more research would be needed about absorbing magnesium through your skin.

Bottom line

It’s possible there are some benefits to soaking in an Epsom salt bath, and the salts are inexpensive and easy to use (and may help you take more baths!) but they also aren’t a magical cure all. I’m all for adding them to your bath, especially if you find they help you relax or make your skin feel softer. One caveat, please don’t ingest your Epsom salts. And, if you’re worried about magnesium intake, up your intake of magnesium-rich foods, like pumpkin seeds and almonds.

Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.