There's No Point Taking a Bath Unless You Do It Right—Here's How

We take bath time very seriously here at Byrdie, and since it's freezing right now, we want to share our guide to bath time joy with you. The sad thing is that as our lives have become busier and spare evenings have become rarer, taking a bath has slipped slowly to the bottom of our list of priorities, superseded by its practical (but quite frankly lesser) cousin, the shower. If we do manage to find the time to while away an hour in the tub, it'll only be on a rare occasion like a fancy hotel stay, a birthday or a once-in-a-blue-moon lazy Sunday. Or a day like today, because the clocks have gone back, it's dark and we need some serious TLC.

As bath time hits near extinction, when we do take one, it's imperative that we get it right. So that means running the water with military precision, perfecting the ratio of bath products as though they were ingredients and we're competing on The Great British Bake Off and controlling every single variable that effects the general ambience of the bath time experience.

We're not the only ones who think it's a big deal either: According to Noella Gabriel, co-founder and creator of Elemis, "having the body surrounded by water, this vibration induces a deep level of relaxation." It's time to get serious—keep scrolling as we talk you through exactly how to take a bath.

The Prep Work

Bathing is known for its ability to detox the body, but you can amp up that process with a bit of dry body brushing before you get in. "Brush lightly across the hips, thighs, bum, tummy and backs of arms to speed up the detoxification process," recommends Gabriel. "The skin is the largest eliminative organ of the body and when working at its peak it eliminates a pound of toxins a day, so it's well worth doing this on a daily basis." Try Elemis Body Detox Skin Brush (£21), which has an extra long handle to help reach the backs of thighs.

The Perfect Temperature

Getting the temperature right can be the difference between a rather uncomfortable sweat session and a heavenly soak. According to aromatherapist and well-being expert Michele Roques O'Neil, "a warm but not tepid bath is actually much more calming." 

"The water should be close to body temperature around 37 degrees," adds consultant dermatologist Sharon Wong, MD. "Hot bath water is more drying on the skin and effectively removes the skin's natural surface oils, and can often make skin more inflamed, red and itchy, especially if you have an underlying skin problem such as eczema."

Be sure to test the water with your wrist rather than your fingers, as your hands can tolerate much higher temperatures than the rest of your body. And don't underestimate the power of steam. "The steam is beneficial as it layers skin with moisture and heat, which helps soften the skin and aid detoxification," Gabriel adds. 

Salt, Oil or Bubbles?

Your bath condiment of choice is totally a matter of preference, but you should look for products with potent aromatherapy oils to aid relaxation and to slowly lull your mind into a deep state of calm. According to aromatherapist Michele Roques O'Neil, "the most calming essential oils are lavender, chamomile, neroli and vetiver."

Bath salts are a great muscle relaxant, so perfect if you've just pushed yourself through a tough run or sweaty spin class. However, bath oils are perfect for remedying dry skin and can do the work of a body lotion, while you bathe. If you have sensitive skin, it's probably best you avoid bubble baths. "In essence anything that foams or lathers will have a detergent like effect on the skin and will strip away natural oils and damage the skin barrier," adds Wong, thus aggravating any underlying skin concerns.

Getting the right ratio is also vital. For bath salts, O'Neil recommends using a handful in each tub, whereas if you opt for a bath oil, one to two capfuls will suffice. Depending on the foaminess of the product, a dollop of bubble bath the size of a conker will build enough foam without spilling over the top of the tub.

Set the Ambience

Look along the edge of any self-respecting bath tub and you'll find a cluster of candles. The soft flickering glow of candles have an almost hypnotic effect on the mind and is so much more relaxing than any harsh electrical light. "There's nothing better than zoning out to a relaxing flicker of a candle," says Nicola Elliot, Neom Organics founder and creative director.

But candles aren't just pleasing on the eyes: Scented candles have the power to drift up your nose and play tricks with your mind, helping you forget about tomorrow's big meeting or those looming deadlines. Again, look for candles that contain calming lavender, chamomile, vetiver or neroli here.

The All-Important Breathing Technique

Once you've sunk into the warm water, it can be all to easy to fill your mind with all the worries and anxieties you didn't have time to conquer during the day, but the right breathing technique can remedy this. "Practice abdominal breathing," recommends Gabriel. "The exhale breath is your cleansing breath." Focus on every deep breath in, drawing it from deep within your abdomen to start to reset your body's rhythm. "This will allow the body to soften and sink into a deep level of relaxation," she adds.

When to Get Out

As much as we'd like to spend a full hour chilling in the tub, there is benefit from knowing when to get out. "Generally if your fingers and toes start to wrinkle, it's probably time to get out, as that's a sign that prolonged contact with water is starting to damage the outer layer of the skin," Dr. Wong tells us.

The Fluffiest Towels

When you finally emerge from the tub, nothing brings you crashing back down to reality than the harsh hit of your cold bathroom air, so be sure to cocoon yourself in a giant fluffy towel as quickly as possible. If the towels at London's fancy new hotel The Ned are anything to go by, you're looking for 100% cotton with dense stitching. "The general rule of thumb is the closer the loops, the better the quality. If you can see the base of the towel, this is a poor-quality towel," advises Anja Panitz, executive housekeeper at the hotel.