As someone who won’t even go near the sea if there’s seaweed floating in it, I was nervous to find myself stepping into a murky bath filled with green water infused with tendrils straight from the ocean. While this was never going to make a lust-worthy bathscaping experience, it's definitely another hot bathroom trend for 2021: the seaweed bath.
The mighty kelp is a time-honoured favourite in spa treatments (seaweed wrap, anyone?) for the way it's able to rehydrate the skin with natural oils, alleviate muscular pain and eliminate toxins due to its magnesium content, which also helps to promote a good nights sleep. We're not talking shower gels with a hint of kelp essence. This is big ocean energy with smells to match.
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Online health and beauty destination Victoria Health has stocked Irish brand Carraig Fhada's Atlantic Seaweed Bath , £12, for years, but this year had a 1,500-strong waiting list for this net filled with real seaweed fronds. VH founder Gill Sinclair dubbed it the 'sleep bath' after an insomniac customer raved about having the best night’s sleep in several years after tub time soaking in the green liquid.
Meanwhile, holistic skincare brand Quantum Botanika this month launched an Ocean Bathing Pack , £25, with seaweed sourced from the British coastline for a face and body treatment.
“During lockdown I realised that people couldn't travel to spend time beside the sea so I thought it would be nice to offer a way to enjoy the benefits at home,” explains Nataliya Robinson, Quantum Botanika's founder. “I created Ocean Bathing, which brings the sea’s therapeutic benefits and is also wonderful for the skin and joints.”
So where does the magic of seaweed come from? “Seaweed is concentrated seawater and therefore is rich with minerals including iodine and sulphur ,” says Shabir Daya, pharmacist at Victoria Health. “These are released when infused in the hot bath and are absorbed into the skin and for overall relaxation. The benefit can be felt instantly.”
Seaweed is. a proven and powerful stress reliever too, he adds. “Scientific studies have confirmed that seaweed bathing helps lower body stress and relieve skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. It may also help in the treatment of some circulatory problems and eases aching muscles.”
After my seaweed soak in Carraig Fhada's Atlantic Seaweed Bath I slept soundly, drifting off easily and not waking until morning, whereas I usually wake a few times in the night.
How do you take a seaweed bath?
Seaweed haters like myself will be pleased to know the slimy fronds don't have to float about your bathwater with you. In both Victoria Health’s Atlantic Seaweed Bath and Quantum Botanika’s Ocean Bathing kit, the tendrils are contained inside a net (white mesh for Quantum Botanika, green plastic for Victoria Health).
First, you soak the seaweed net in hot water for five to 15 minutes to release the moisturising oils and gels. Quantum Botanika recommends doing this in your bathwater, while Victoria Health suggests soaking it in a separate container and then adding the water to your normal bathwater. Be warned, it is fairly smelly. That slightly fishy seaweed smell that's so familiar from the beach will fill your bathroom, which you may love or loathe. But there are always scented candles of course.
Carraig Fhada's Atlantic Seaweed Bath warns that there could be 'crustaceans, shells and stones' in the net. I kept an eye out for Sebastian, but I was pleased to report no crabs made themselves known.
The seaweed releases an amber colour from the iodine, which thankfully doesn't stain your skin or your bath. Once you’re in the bath, you can use the net full of soaking seaweed as a loofah to apply directly to your skin as a gentle exfoliator. Avoid using your normal bath products such as bubbles, shower gels or body washes because this can make the natural oils in the seaweed less effective if you wanted to reuse it.
Quantum Botanika’s kit also comes with kelp facial wraps, two rolled-up pieces of seaweed that look a bit like sushi nori. You apply them directly to your face, neck and décolletage when you’re bathing like a face mask. As Pumba says in The Lion King, 'slimy, yet satisfying'.
You should soak in your seaweed bath for 20 minutes for the full benefits and your bag of seaweed can be up to four times, so post-bathing squeeze the net to remove excess water then hang it to dry for next time.
Carraig Fhada Atlantic Seaweed Bath: soak in hot water, squeeze out the bag and add the water to your bath
How did I feel after my seaweed bath?
When I took a dip accompanied by Carraig Fhada's Atlantic Seaweed Bath I could definitely detect an oiliness from the seaweed and it certainly made my skin feel silky. This remained after my soak, however this seaweed smell didn’t linger on my skin which I was pleased about. My pink towel remained pretty too, with no brown seaweed colour remaining on it.
I’d had fairly achy calves for a few days following an online step class I did and they definitely felt less tender post-seaweed soak, so I can vouch for the muscle-easing powers too.
After you’ve used your seaweed bath it can be used in the garden as it's an excellent fertiliser. I have no garden, only houseplants and I’m not sure I want the shoreline smell to linger in my house for that long…
Seaweed soaks to buy now
With kelp, harvested from the Atlantic waters off the North West coast of Ireland, this is a no-frills way to get your seaweed bath fix. An abundance of nourishing oils are released from this big bag of seaweed. It naturally contains iodine, vitamin A and vitamin E for skin nourishing. You soak the whole netted bag of seaweed in hot water and leave it in the net rather than let it loose in the tub. This way it can be reused a couple of times.
A more luxe take on the trend, this seaweed set comes housed in a purple velvet bag. Sourced from UK seas, it’s 100 per cent natural and can be used up to four times. This set was created with the Blue Marine Foundation and for every purchase, Quantum Botanika contributes to the charity to help them protect and conserve the ocean. It has netted seaweed for soaking in the bath and little seaweed 'face mask' rolls too.
All of Voya’s skincare and bathing products harness the powers of the sea with kelp one of their main ingredients. The brand is known for spa seaweed treatments and this is your chance to experience a slice of that at home. The seaweed used by Voya is wild-harvested (from the west coast of Ireland) which means that biodiversity of the reefs is protected allowing algae to regrow and flourish. It comes in a net bag like the others although you can rip it open and allow the seaweed to float with you. On contact with water Voya’s seaweed springs into life, releasing the soothing and moisturising properties. If left in the bag, this seaweed can be used twice.
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