The many benefits of the perfect bath.
The all time best bath I’ve ever had was the Marie Laveau Voodoo Love Bath at the Ritz-Carlton Spa. I was on assignment, writing an epic feature article for New Orleans Magazine about the bourgeoning spa scene in New Orleans. My source, spa director Daisye Sudaran, began filling me in on the more interesting treatments available at the spa. By the time she finished describing a hot bath steeped in local lore about the city’s most infamous voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau, I knew I had to try it. A few days later, I was led into the candlelit room. Voodoo music chanted by a local priestess pulsated at a low volume and the scent of incense and the musky, floral and mysterious perfumed oil Laveau is said to have prescribed to her clients infused the darkened chamber. Rose petals were strewn on and in the deep, whirlpool tub and in the shape of a heart on the floor leading up to it. A glass of chilled Champagne rested on the bathtub surround. Dear readers, it is here that I found my happy place and the be all and end all of decadent baths.
At home, I go for something a bit less elaborate, but no less luxurious. Epsom Salts, essential oil and Vitamin E oil are my non-negotiable ingredients, but various sea salts and bath washes pop in and out of the mix. While stress relief and relaxation top the list for reasons to enjoy a hot bath, there are myriad additional benefits to this particular form of hydrotherapy.
The salts and oils are great for your skin, which has made it an integral part of my beauty routine. A nice hot soak also eases sore muscles. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a particularly advantageous additive. According to “The Benefits of Epsom Salt,” on the Livestrong website, magnesium, which can be absorbed through the skin, does everything from treating colds and skin problems, such as psoriasis, to increasing serotonin (for you insomniacs out there), as well as boosting energy and endurance (by producing adenosine triphosphate, “considered by biologists to be the energy currency of life"). It reduces swelling, softens skin and is a detoxifying agent. Honestly, if you’ve ever done anything your grandmother told you to do — besides minding your manners — I hope it was soaking in Epsom Salt to cure what ails you.
Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, try my formula for a perfect bath about three times per week and you’ll begin to see the benefits right away.
The Perfect Bath
1. Run hot or very warm water into the bath and add 2 cups of Epsom Salts.
2. Shake 10 to 15 drops of essential oils into the water (I like lavender for evening and eucalyptus for a daytime energy boost and when you have a cold or feel congested).
3. Add a few drops of Vitamin E, olive or almond oil.
4. Soak for at least 10 minutes to allow the magnesium to absorb into your skin.
On days when you have time to spare or just want to take your bath to the next level, add anything from flower petals to a little bubble or milk bath. Light scented candles and incense and experiment with essential oils. Visit Bourbon French Parfums to get the Voodoo Love bath salts used at the Ritz-Carlton. For the pièce de résistance, select your favorite soothing music (I like Classical Baroque, but whatever suites your fancy). Parents with small children will want to lock the door (making certain the children are supervised, of course), and also those with nosey felines, because this is a time for you to be alone, calm and silent (or to do your best rendition of “Kiss” by Prince, like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” — Circa 1990 Richard Gere not included). Take another cue from the Ritz-Carlton or your favorite spa by sipping hot tea, cool cucumber water or a glass of Champagne or wine.
Finally, a few words on the subject by St. Thomas Aquinas who is reported to have said, “Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”
Who am I to argue with a saint?