Think of self-care and a long soak in the bath is sure to spring to mind; there’s something about slipping under the water surrounded by the rising steam that immediately lowers the shoulders and comforts the mind.
“A bath is proven to lower the stress hormone cortisol and stimulates the release of endorphins,” says Christina Salcedas, director of education and wellness for Aromatherapy Associates . “There are also studies that show that bathing can lower blood pressure supporting heart health.”
While we’ll always make space for a bath bomb or a sprinkle of magnesium flakes and there's nothing quite like a tub brimming with bubbles, there’s something luxurious about adding a capful of oil to the water. This is how and why to use them.
Bath oils are nourishing and free from harsh foaming agents
“Bath oils are generally more nourishing than bubbles as they don’t contain foaming agents that can be tough on your skin, stripping the protective layer,” says David Delport, global ambassador for Ren Clean Skincare .
They are a powerful way to absorb essential oils
Jo Foster, founder of Kiss The Moon explains: " Essential oils enter and travel around our body in two ways - through our respiratory system when we inhale their aromas and also through absorption through the skin where they then enter our blood system. An aromatherapy oil bath is powerful because it taps into both of these simultaneously."
One word of warning - if you've got sensitive skin, tread carefully when it comes to essential oils. Read our guide to essential oils and sensitive skin for everything you need to know before choosing.
They can put you in the right mood
Bath oils can pep you up, calm, you down or help with recovery. When choosing essential oils for your bath Olivia Taylor, head of spa at Elemental Herbology advises:
For tired muscles: products with essential oils of nutmeg, ho wood (an extract from wood and berries that calms) and rosemary as these can help to aid muscle repair. Arnica is also great in bath products to heal and promote healthy skin and ease sore muscles.
For relaxation and sleep: lavender, chamomile and vetiver aid a restful night of sleep. Frankincense helps the mind wind down, ylang-ylang has the power to relax and rebalance while chamomile is known for its ability to calm the senses and soothe dry or irritated skin.
For energising and mood-boosting: bergamot cedarwood, lemongrass and rose are mentally uplifting and help to increase serotonin levels. Orange helps lift the spirit and encourages a healthy circulation, and bergamot lifts the mood.
But don't add oils to the bath until you are ready to climb in
Whatever you do don't put them under running water like bubble bath. "That's great for bubble baths but is a bit of a waste for oils," cautions Jo. The rule is 'draw then pour'.
"The biggest release of essential oil aromas is when the bath oil first hits the water. So turn off the taps and pour your oil into still water, give it a quick swirl with your hand if you like then get straight in. No point letting those precious aromas escape."
Best energising bath oil
This zesty scent delivers an energising boost to the senses with peppermint and eucalyptus to enliven even the sleepiest of morning bathers or prep you for an evening ahead. It also has rosemary to help focus the mind if you have a busy day ahead and sweet almond oil to nourish the skin.
Best bath oil for tired muscles
Elemental Herbology’s Bath and Body Oils are based on the Five Element Theory from traditional Chinese medicine (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) that everything in life needs to work in harmony in order to achieve perfect equilibrium. This one, wood, mingles with rosemary and nutmeg together in a multi-use bath oil to ease aches and pains, leaving the body and mind rejuvenated. Perfect after a long walk or workout.
Best refreshing bath oil
We're always impressed with the value of Rituals products - and how nice they look on the side of the bath. This turquoise bottle of oil is enriched with nourishing argan oil and invigorating eucalyptus; it uses vitamin A as a powerful antioxidant to leave your skin feeling sublimely soft and as argan oil is rich in vitamin E it keeps your limbs moisturised long after you emerge from the water.
Best budget and eco-friendly bath oil
Eco-conscious Lush bath oils come in solid form rather than in a bottle but they still pack a very powerful punch when added to your bath. Our pick of Lush bath oils (of which there are many!) is this pretty pink star. It has a shea butter centre for moisture and Sicilian lemon oil and peppermint for a zingy refreshing soak.
Best invigorating bath oil
It wouldn’t be a bath oil edit without an appearance from Aromatherapy Associates. Inspired by the Japanese art of Forest Bathing (which doesn't actually involve water but rather immersing yourself in the scents and textures of a walk in the woods) the warm woody aroma helps you reconnect with nature without stepping out of the sanctuary of your home - perfect in the era of social distancing. We can't go without also mentioning the Deep Relax bath oil which at the opposite end of the spectrum has led to some of the dreamist sleeps we've ever had.
Best bath oil for sleep
, £27 for 100ml
On the subject of snoozing... Sleep-inducing essential oils lavender, cedarwood and chamomile are blended with mood-enhancing bergamot as well coconut and jojoba to leave you relaxed and moisturised from top to toe. Squeezing two pipettes of it into the water or massage it into your skin beforehand for an extra indulgent soak.
Best bath oils for relaxing
Kelp and plankton extracts come together with Ren’s exclusive Anti-Fatigue Essential Oils blend to refresh and destress your body and mind. It also contains active levels of relaxing magnesium best absorbed through the skin, resetting muscles making the body feel less tight. This is one to use at the end of a very long day when you need to switch off entirely.
, £20 for 150ml
This oil from vegan and eco-conscious brands Sister & Co turns into a milk on contact with water meaning it blends into your bath rather than sitting on the surface. Organic black pepper, cardamom, lemon and almond oil merge together for one of the most sensual spicy bath oils we’ve tried. If you like to share your oils (or your bath) this has a genderless scent to suit everyone.
Best bath oil for self-care
We know there’s already one Espa oil on this list, but this brand new one is so decadent we couldn’t leave it out. It’s part of the new Modern Alchemy range inspired by ayurvedic healing and shamanic practices. Each product is scented with an aromatic blend of ylang-ylang, sandalwood and vetiver to nurture the skin and create an at-home sanctuary. This oil was inspired by traditional anointing rituals - ingredients include andiroba oil which plumps the skin and hemp oil to treat inflammation.
Best luxury bath oil
A Jo Malone bottle perched on the edge of the bath always looks impressive and none more so than this pink-tinged beauty. The oil blends together seven of the most exquisite roses in the world for a heady, long-lasting scent that scents the whole house. The base oils are nourishing sweet almond, jojoba seed and avocado. All you need is a few drops.
MORE GLOSS: The best body oils for silky soft skin