Could the secret to glowing winter skin lie in the bath tub? Kate George-Weaver investigates how smart soaking can soothe the senses, banish cellulite and improve skin tone
Bath oils. They feature around 3 on the 1-10 scale of beauty essentials; they’re a nice to have rather than a must have. We rarely make a special trip to replenish bath oils the way we would our foundation, but with the arrival of colder weather, this somewhat overlooked bathroom indulgence is slowly inching up the priority scale.
For centuries, cultural practices have documented the merits of bathing, with the Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans, the ancient Greeks and Romans all harnessed its healing qualities. Today, experts agree that the integration of aromatic oils in your bathwater can significantly nourish skin in the drier, cooler months.
“Taking care of your skin throughout the winter months is vital, due to the cold air and heaters. These conditions play havoc with your skin, causing it to become dry, cracked and unable to maintain its moisture levels” says Shan Toth, treatment manager at Mandarin Oriental London. “Warm baths and body oils are a great way to nourish the skin”.
At the same time, resist the urge to get too steamy – dry skin lacks both moisture and epidermal lipids, and taking a hot bath (above 38C) could actually further strip these protective layers and contribute to overall dehydration. For optimal results, Suzi Grant – author of 48 Hours to a Healthier Life – recommends soaking for 15-20 minutes in warm water at 32C-35C. Within this range, our pores open to release toxins and absorb moisture.
“Make sure to add moisturising oils to your bath,” says Sharon Codner, spa director at The Peninsula, Hong Kong. But where should we invest and when?
The calming and regenerating qualities of lavender have been used since Roman times to aid relaxation as it is thought to balance emotions and reduce stress. Jo Malone’s Amber & Lavender Oil infuses the water to gently scent the skin, and the exquisite fragrance has long been a favourite. But for today’s multitasking woman who expects similar from her beauty product, a combination of essential oils will help deliver multiple results.
Almond oil, for example, is said to increase the skin’s moisture due its high levels of protein and essential fatty acids. The addition of clary sage in Penhaligons’ Lavendula will leave skin silky smooth and the body relaxed. Recently opened in the IFC mall and with two royal warrants on their mantel, the 140-year-old British perfumery provides skin nourishment with a royal seal of approval.
Meanwhile, Dr Hauschka’s Lemon Lemongrass Vitalising Bath Essence contains lemon, sunflower oil and lemongrass to moisturise and tone the skin, and can be followed with Lemon Lemongrass body oil to help reduce the appearance of cellulite as AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) found in citric acid help to firm skin’s connective tissue. Massage it regularly into problem areas for maximum firming effects. Should you also succumb the seasonal sniffles, opt for oils such as rosemary, juniper, thyme and clove, which will stimulate circulation, ease muscles and clear the head.
“Body products are easily absorbed into moist skin, which will enable the product to penetrate deeper,” says Toth. So, after a bath, pat skin partially dry and apply moisturiser while it is still damp. Lipid-rich ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural moisture will also help target seasonal dryness. “Coconut oil is a fabulous moisturiser and conditioner of the skin”, says Codner “When used for prolonged periods it can reduce the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks”. Elemis’s Frangipani Monoi body oil cleverly combines copra coconut oil with frangipani flowers for all over hydration and can even be used as an intensive hair treatment – simply rub in a small amount, cover with a towel and relax for 15 minutes before shampooing.
As Sylvia Plath once said, “There must be a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know any of them.” Certainly there must be. But spring prepped skin and heightened well-being are just two reasons why bath oils are fast becoming a must have this winter.