It’s official: Epsom salt baths are back in fashion. Once the go-to solution for professional athletes looking for a little muscle relief, it’s now a self-care staple for a whole host of A-listers from Kourtney Kardashian to Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham. So why are so many celebs loving the old fashioned bath salt? It’s about more than just easing muscle soreness, we can tell you that. From glowing skin to a better metabolism, the potential hidden benefits of Epsom salt are myriad. So we’ve done some investigating to find out why these granules need to find their way into everyone’s bathtub.
Keep scrolling for experts' take on the incredible benefits of Epsom Salt.
What Is Epsom Salt?
First things first, what exactly is Epsom salt? Also known as Magnesium Sulfate or Epsomite, Epsom salt is a bit of a tomato in the vegetable aisle; in that actually, it’s a mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate, rather than a salt in the traditional sense—which are mostly made up of sodium chloride. The mineral got its name after being first discovered in a spring in Epsom, Surrey, sometime during the 17th century (yep, it’s ancient). But while recent years have seen Epsom salt pigeon-holed as an old-fashioned treatment for aching muscles and joints, the recent wellness boom has reawakened interest in its wider benefits—and we’re already obsessed.
How Does It Work?
"When Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is used, the magnesium is absorbed directly into the skin and directly impacts processes in the skin and body as a whole," says dermatologist Caroline Robinson, MD.
Baths are the best way to get the benefits of Epsom salt. "In a warm bath, our vessels in our skin dilate and allow for enhanced absorption of magnesium salts throughout the skin. It is a little known fact that magnesium is much better absorbed transdermally rather than through the GI tract. This is why using magnesium oil (magnesium chloride) in a spray form or magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) in a bath or soak makes better sense than oral supplementation," says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD.
The Benefits of Epsom Salt
- Relaxation and stress reduction: Your Self-Care Sunday routine can be elevated with an Epsom salt bath, which promotes relaxation: "Magnesium is also a stress-busting powerhouse that promotes relaxation and a more chilled state of mind," add BOD experts.
- Reduces inflammation: An Epsom salt bath can help reduce inflammation: "Magnesium helps reduce inflammation caused by E-selectin which is a molecule that causes inflammation in the endothelial layer of the skin. Magnesium also helps to stabilize hormonal imbalances and improve cellular processes," notes Engelman. "As inflammation is the root of most things evil in health, magnesium helps to lower inflammation, therefore, improving skin health, function, and appearance—like blisters."
- Helps heal several skin conditions: Engelman also notes that Epsom salt helps with inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Internist and locum hospitalist Sunitha D. Posina, MD, also says it helps alleviate itchy skin and sunburns, which are also related to inflammation.
- Relieves joint pain: "It can also help relieve soreness after intense physical activities or workouts," says Posina of Epsom salt baths. She also says that it can relieve other joint conditions, like gout.
How to Make an Epsom Salt Bath
To really reap the benefits of an Epsom salt bath, the key is to be generous with how much you pour in. Westlab pharmacist Karen Davies advises two to three mineral baths a week, using between 500g to 1kg of salts to relax tired and aching muscles, or 100g to 250g for general use. She also recommends keeping the water at a temperature between 98.6 and 102.2 degrees Farenheit (which is pretty warm, you should sweat slightly), and bathing for about 20 minutes.
Epsom Salt and Your Metabolism
How does submerging your body in an Epsom salt bath have any real effect on your metabolism? According to Davies, the answer lies in the way magnesium is absorbed transdermally, i.e. through your skin.
“Magnesium ions play a critical role in the regulation of metabolism, hormone response, and cell growth in many cell systems," she explains. While we can of course get magnesium through our diets, Davies notes that a magnesium sulfate bath can give our bodies the top-up that modern lifestyles demand. Especially since many of us may not even be consuming enough magnesium in the first place.
“Our modern lifestyles mean that we have an increased requirement for magnesium, as we are often stressed, which uses up magnesium, and maybe eating too much sugar, which again increases the body’s demand for magnesium as that sugar has to be processed,” notes Davies. “A lack of magnesium also leads to inflammation in the body, and this inflammation also has a direct effect on your metabolism.”
Are There Any Side Effects?
"Epsom salt can be very drying, so it should not be used by those with sensitive skin and should always be followed by a moisturizer," says Robinson. Posina recommends testing Epsom salt on a patch of skin to see if you get a reaction before submerging yourself into a bath.
A nice Epsom salt soak is more than just your average bath. According to our experts, it can promote relaxation, reduce inflammation, water retention, and joint pain, and help your metabolism.
Shop some of our favorite Epsom salts below:
Gröber U, Werner T, Vormann J, Kisters K. Myth or reality—transdermal magnesium? Nutrients. 2017;9(8):813.