Are Hot Baths Good For You?

clawfoot bathMy housemate and I have rediscovered the luxury of having baths. We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to house sit this gorgeous house in the inner city suburbs of Brisbane for three months. One of the best features of the house – two huge claw foot baths.

I’ve never really been a “bath person” (whatever that means). I’ve lived in houses and apartments before with baths but they’ve always been those lame bath and shower combos so it’s never really felt quite right. So I guess because this bath is the traditional free standing style it’s a little more luxurious.

The occasional once a week bath when I first moved in has now turned into more of a daily habit. I now proudly admit that I’m in that bath almost nightly. Even at times when I get home after midnight I can’t resist the urge! It seems to be the perfect way to wind down.

Last night I arrived home after 11pm and headed straight to the bathroom to get a hot bath started. Fifteen minutes later I found myself lying in the water feeling all heavenly and relaxed watching the steam rise out of the water, and then thinking …I wonder if these regular baths are healing for my body? Or are they actually bad? I mean, it must do something to your skin lying in hot water like that for a good 20 minutes.

I know my Chinese Herbalist doesn’t think much of them for us “weaker” types (thinner, more sensitive). I questioned him about saunas recently and he told me that the heat in saunas (and therefore baths too) can actually take the energy out of your body. So this is why you feel beautifully relaxed after a sauna or bath. A chunk of your energy has been taken away with that heat. He did say that they can be very healing and detoxing for more robust body types, but unfortunately that does not include me. He says the reason why I experienced a “healing crisis” after my series of far-infrared saunas and colonics recently was because my body is too weak for such strong detoxing cleanses. Hmm, definitely something to think about.

There is also the issue with the temperature of the water drying out your skin. The hotter the water the more drying it is so it’s better for your skin if the water is cooler. Unfortunately I only get that amazing heavenly feeling when I first step into a very hot bath, so cooling the water down almost defeats the purpose. My skin has been a lot dryer for it though. It is coming into winter here so my skin naturally begins to get dryer, but the skin on my legs has been excessively dry. And I had my regular skin cancer check yesterday (which was all clear by the way, yay!) and the doctor pointed out a patch of dry skin on my back which I had no idea was there because I couldn’t see it.

There are also some people out there who warn against baths because apparently the really hot ones can raise your blood pressure or heart rate. I’m not a doctor so I don’t know if this is true, but personally I’m not particularly worried. But if you do have a heart or blood pressure condition, perhaps it’s a good idea to seek some professional advice before you jump in your bath or hot tub on a daily basis.

On the plus side, after a bath I’m usually more relaxed and I tend to sleep better. So if you’re highly strung or stressed then perhaps the relaxation of a bath outweighs the possible negative effects. High on Health is definitely the best job in the world and I’m lucky to have it, but it has been a tad stressful lately with the workload so the relaxing baths have definitely been a good addition to help me relax at the end of the day.

How to make your bath a little more healing

You can get a little more creative than me and add some aromatherapy oils to the bath, which does make it a little healthier. And these oils don’t have to be the usual (and a little boring) lavender smell. You can add whatever mix of oils you need. So you might add some oils to help motivate you, help clear a cold or even to help you feel happier. Get a book or do a Google search on aromatherapy. You can use oils to treat just about anything physically or mentally.

bath saltsBaths salts are also very fashionable at the moment. But be careful with the type of salts you use. There are some sketchy salts out there that won’t do a lot for your body. A good quality bath salt should be packed full of natural minerals and actually help to detox your body and skin. I haven’t fully tested baths salts myself so I’m not sure how effective they are. I was using baths salts for a while but did not notice any difference so forgot to replace them when they ran out.

But if you want your own salt bath, you can use sea salt, baking soda, clay, or Dead Sea salts – all of which you’re likely to already find in your own bathroom or kitchen. And if you’re feeling adventurous try making up your own mix. I have stumbled across a few bath salt recipes which look really easy to make.

In conclusion? I don’t think hot baths are THAT great for you but I’m not convinced they’re that bad either. I have two more weeks left in this beautiful house so that’s two more weeks worth of baths. Perhaps if I was looking ahead to two more years then I’d amp up my research :)

16 comments… add one

  • Another great addition to the bath is some yoga stretches!

  • Dunners

    i live in the bush and have a natural rain water dam nearby. I use that water. It’s very brown from the runoff and probably from yabbies stirring up the silt, but my feeling is that it contains a large amount of good minerals. I heat the water in a drum and run it into my bath. I sit in a steaming hot bath for up to 2 hours (drinking plenty of water and a magnesium calcium tablet). I feel sensational afterwards and my skin feels fantastic. I never get sick.
    When i used to live in the city, i had misgivings about soaking in chlorinated and flouridated water and never felt as good. To the poster who reckoned that the miniscule amounts of poisons in your tap water are harmless, i would suggest you remember that you’re drinking those miniscule amounts over your entire life.

  • steff

    hii fran,
    great article btw i lovve baths there so relaxxing but i find it hard to find timme to have baths. anyways i hav heard that steam from hot water can opean ur pores so does that mean that if u have large pores that u shouldnt have hot baths tks

    p.s how do u get rid of inlarged pores

  • Carly

    If you are concerned about your water being to chlorinated there are filters you can buy for your bath as well as your shower head. they sell them at this website http://www.gaiam.com/category/eco-home-outdoor/bathroom/shower-bath-filters.do

    I am considering getting both one for my shower and one for my tub . I will also be getting one for my kitchen sink. I’m stating to think maybe the water is making me sick and drying my skin out. so I do have concern

  • katya

    This thing about sitting in a hot tub absorbing chemicals MUST be a joke……Do you remember we actually DRINK tap water????Hello?OK,I use a filter but there are millions of people that dont!Plus, did you know that the pools have much more chemicals added?Yes,those that wash out the color of your swim suit……Dont tell me you are avoiding swimming pools ,too.
    I love staying healthy but this also includes not being a psycho about every little thing in the air,water,food….
    The only thing to be considered here is the temperature- yes, too hot of a bath CAN make you sick and can make you faint.It has happened to me a couple of times ( I have lower blood pressure).There is a great risk for those with high bp or a heart condition,plus skin doesnt like too hot or too cold.

  • I find sitting in the bath relaxes my muscles. But I wouldn’t do it every single day.

  • Hi Mike,

    There is plenty of evidence from the research done by the Environmental Working Group and even the EPA that shows the levels of chemicals in tap water to be a concern, even if only in parts per billion.

    For example, the EWG discusses in this article how testing in 2007 showed the water in Washington D.C. to contain levels of disinfection byproducts that are indeed very dangerous.

    From the article: “The state of Oregon has warned that long term exposure to HAAs at levels equal to those found in DC tap water could cause injury to the brain, nervous system, the eyes, and the reproductive system.”

    The article also says that “EPA scientists have identified a total of 600 disinfection byproducts in tap water but EPA has set legal limits in tap water for only 11.”

    More of EWG’s research can be found here.

    It’s also important to consider that the EPA has two sets of standards. One is a goal and the other is what’s actually enforced. The goal is based on the level of danger of a particular contaminant based on research while the enforced amount is based on what water suppliers are capable of meeting.

    From the EPA’s website: “MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as possible, considering the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.”

    For several disinfection byproducts, the EPA has set the goal to zero meaning that they are dangerous in any amount. But since most water providers can’t meet this goal, it’s not enforced.

    The point here is not to be “alarmist or mystical”, but simply to filter your water!

  • Kit

    I can’t take hot baths. The last time I sat in hot water for more than 15 mintues I passed out. Not a good thing to happen when you’re sitting in water. So I take warm baths. I put milk, honey, and herbs in the water… it’s heavenly :) It’s good for my body and really relaxing. Especially when I use a nice scent. I don’t think the water has to be hot to relax. Just laying there doing nothing is good enough for me.

    Thanks for the post Fran. It’s always nice reading your blog posts. And I know it’s kind of off topic, but I’m a choca-holic too so I bought Cacao Powder and I’ve been trying to think of some interesting ways to use it. The other day I made chocolate ice cream! Here’s the recipe I used –

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Chocolate-Velvet-Ice-Cream/Detail.aspx

    I just changed the chocolate. Some of the reviews said milk works fine, so maybe next time I’ll use almond milk so it gives the ice cream a sort of nutty flavor.

  • Ashley- If it’s bumpy “rash like” acne then it’s likely to be caused by Candida. But I really can’t tell you what it’s from or the best way to treat it without knowing an age/gender + history from you. Have you gone through the mini-course?

    Seema- 2 minutue showers in the UK too? Wow, yeah ..they had that here too during the drought. I forgot about it :\

  • Seema

    I don’t think having baths is very good for the environment especially in the current climate. It costs more than quick showers and this really is a time to watch the pennies. Having a bath wastes way more energy than having a quick shower, here in UK they are encouraging 2 minute showers!
    I couldn’t help but feel really relaxed when I read your article Fran, nicely written!

  • Ashley

    Hi Fran

    I was hoping you could help me on a skin issue that has been bothering me for years. I keep getting persistant spots on my forehead. They just don’t want to go away! What can i do? I heard it is a sign of digestion problems?

  • I love hot showers and baths, but I definitely think they aren’t very healthy, so I have really cut down on them. They are really stress relieving though!

  • Mike

    Tap water is not dangerous. Chlorination by-products are present in miniscule quantities in tap water (on the order of parts per billion).

    To quote that article for example: “The byproducts of chlorine are linked to cancer, are known to damage vital organs including the heart, lungs and kidneys, and can also damage the central nervous system. They also kill the beneficial bacteria in the intestines that are crucial to immunity and digestion. ”

    Yes, the byproducts are linked to those things, but in what quantity? Absolutely not in the quantities present in tap-water.

    Holistic health can be very unscientific at times, and sometimes alarmist or mystical. It doesn’t have to be this way.

  • Hi Fran,

    Great info on hot baths! They’re definitely relaxing and could be a good way to improve your skin and soothe sore muscles, but there’s an other reason why they can be bad. As I’m sure you know, your skin absorbs much of what it comes in contact with, and this includes the many chemicals that may exist in your tap water. Since you’re more likely to sit in a bath for an extended period, this means more absorption of chemicals.

    Even worse, the hot water causes dangerous chlorination byproducts to become vaporized which results in them being absorbed easily through the lungs.

    You can reduce this risk by using a filter. Sante makes a filter called the Bath Bubble that is designed specifically for bath tubs and is really easy to use.

    If you’d like more information, I wrote an article about the dangers of tap water that you might find interesting.

  • Thanks Taylor, I love your site and your vids are awesome too :)

  • I just wanted to stop by because I have been watching your Youtube videos for some time now. I also make Youtube videos. You may be familiar with my “how to use Proactiv” videos.

    Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and subscribe to your site. Keep up the great work.

    Have a good night.
    - Taylor Thompson

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