Whether you need stress relief or some alone time after being cooped up with your family, there are plenty of reasons you can’t seem to get enough of your bathtub this winter. But one variable to consider the next time you go for a much-needed soak: Would your bath be better with a bath bomb?
If you’re new to bath-related self-care, bath bombs are little pucks of scent and salt. They fizz and turn dips into a multi-sensory experience. While you can buy bath bombs at major cosmetic retailers, you don’t always know what’s in them. And when it comes to potential allergens, “there aren’t any bath bombs that are completely risk-free,” said Hadley King, a New York City-based dermatologist.
Making them at home, however, lets you control the ingredient list, said Jovana Ristić, the writer behind the beauty blog Be Spotted, which focuses on D.I.Y. beauty products. You may already have most of the ingredients in your pantry, too.
While the make-your-own approach allows you to avoid irritants, it also lets you add in beneficial ingredients. Ms. Ristić’s recipe for bath bombs includes colloidal oatmeal, which is known for its skin-soothing properties, Dr. King said. It also uses shea butter, which can help moisturize the skin.
Most bath bombs rely on the same base: Epsom salts, baking soda and citric acid. The soda and acid cause the fizzing, and when used together, they should cancel each other out when it comes to changing the pH of your bath water, meaning it will neither be too acidic nor too alkaline, Dr. King said. That’s a concern because significantly altering your bath water’s pH could lead to vaginal irritation or yeast infections.
If you have sensitive skin, patch test ingredients by applying a small amount to your forearm. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then rinse and see if, in 48 hours, you’ve developed a reaction, Dr. King said. (Essential oils are especially important to test, as they tend to be the most likely irritants, she said.) Finally, to play things safe, don’t soak for longer than 15 minutes with any bath bomb, and rinse off when you’re done.
Oatmeal Bath Bombs
This recipe, courtesy of Ms. Ristic, takes some practice. To get the bombs to the correct consistency, you’ll want them wet enough to hold together but not so wet that they start fizzing in the mold. The great news is that even ill-shaped bath bombs will fizz and smell great, so don’t sweat it if yours don’t look store-bought on your first try.
¼ cup colloidal oatmeal (you can also use ¼ cup of oatmeal pulsed in a food processor until it’s finely ground.)
½ cup Epsom salts
½ cup citric acid
1 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons of shea butter, melted (you can use other oils like coconut oil or almond oil, too)
20 drops of the essential oil of your choice
Water in a spray bottle
You will need a mixing bowl and some sort of mold. A meatball, ice cream or cookie scoop will work. Amazon sells purpose-built molds, too. You’ll also want to wear rubber or latex gloves since citric acid can irritate skin when not diluted with water.
Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Add the melted shea butter and the essential oil and mix to combine. Mist the mix with a small amount of water and fill the molds. With your gloves on, start pushing the mix into the molds. It should be just wet enough that it clumps together when you squeeze it. Let it sit for a minute or two before tapping the mold to release. Let the final products dry for at least two hours before using.