Are Bubblebaths Actually Any Good For You?
The Debrief: They might be relaxing but, from a health perspective, baths aren't actually a good thing.
Dim the lights, get the candles out and submerge yourself in a tank full of water whilst nude, because today is National Bubblebath Day. Bathing has been around ever since the first caveperson fell in the first river and realised they felt way better than they did before but does this mean it’s good for you in 2016? From UTIs from bubble bath to general hygeine, you can’t help wondering whether something the Ancient Greeks used to do is something we should be doing now. They whitened their teeth with their own piss.
‘If we’re talking bath versus showers in the hygiene stakes then a shower would definitely win,’ says Dr. Christou. Which is something, let’s be honest, you knew already. ‘You clean off the dirt, and you sit in it. That’s just logically not as effective as a shower, where you’re washing everything away.’ Before we start laying into baths though, she adds that the psychological - and indeed physical - benefits of a good soak shouldn’t be overlooked. ‘Anything that warms the muscles will relieve tension - like the pillows you can put in the microwave. A fifteen minute warm soak in a bath can really help de-stress.’
However, psychological and de-stressing aspects aside, submerging yourself in perfumed water for long periods of time isn’t great for you. Sorry, bath fans.
‘The skin is designed to be a protective barrier to the body, protecting the internal organs and to regulate temperatures. If you’re bathing in hot water, it increases the porousness of you skin so that chemicals from your bubble bath can affect your skin a lot more,’ she says. So basically, warm water opens the pores. And if you’re soaking in some bath bubbles, you don’t necessarily want to have it penetrating layers of your epidermis because it’s not made of plants and mountain dew like the label might imply. In fact, it’s made with pretty much the same thing you scrub your kitchen surfaces with. ‘Bubble baths are basically watered down detergents, so while the stuff you use on the kitchen counter is more concentrated, you still don’t want to be putting that all over yourself,’ says Dr. Christou. ‘Sodium Laureth Sulphate is especially bad for you and can cause all sorts of allergies or irritation.’
It’s not a simple case of cause and effect: as in, bubble baths will hurt your skin, but the harsh detergents used can irritate or cause dermatological problems. Especially if you’ve got a vagina because, when lying in a bath, you’re essentially douching yourself for however long you decide to stay in the tub. And no health expert would recommend douching with Sodium Laureth Sulphate, unless you’re really up for some sweet, sweet thrush. Not the bird.
‘Baths don’t directly cause UTIs, but the chemicals in bubble bath changes the bacterial composition within the lining of the vagina and uterus, which can cause a developing UTI to get worse. Or, if someone’s prone to UTIs, it could trigger one,’ she explains. ‘Women might find an increase in discharge, itchiness and soreness.’
There’s a reason that ‘perfumed bath oils’ are listed as a cause for such pleasant things as bacterial vaginosis, thrush (again, not the bird) and cystitis. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a UTI, you might want to steer clear of suds.
Even without the suds, baths still aren’t as good for your skin as a shower. ‘We are land mammals, we aren’t supposed to live in water. Soaking the skin for long periods of time can strip us of essential oils, cause inflammation, itchiness, or other skin complaints,’ Dr. Christou explains. Makes sense. We’re not frogs.
So next time you want to get clean, probably skip a bath. Not every time, because it can be great for relaxation, but the oils and the bubbles aren’t doing you any favours, so it’s best done sparingly - like running naked in an Olympic tournament you’ve just invented. Look, I can’t impress upon you how little we should copy the Ancient Greeks. They used napkins made out of bread. Now go have a shower.
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