A warm bubble bath isn’t just a great way to relax at the end of a long, stressful day. Adding the right ingredients to your bath water—essential oils, epsom salt, or baking soda, for example—can actually give the spa-like experience real health benefits.
Though all are effective, each type of bath has its own bragging rights. Baking soda baths and epsom salt baths, for example, should not be regarded as interchangeable, says Dr. Stacy Chimento, a board-certified dermatologist in Miami. “Baking soda baths are typically used for skin concerns, while epsom salt baths treat more serious conditions, such as circulatory health, nerve function, and blood pressure.”
Provided you have no known allergies, taking a daily baking soda bath for anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes is perfectly safe (yep, even for down there!), says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC. Rarely do bathers experience any ill side effects, but those who are pregnant, nursing, diabetic, or have open wounds, skin infection, or abrasions should not take these types of baths, says Dr. Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist in NYC. Otherwise, baking soda has natural exfoliating, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties that make it a very effective remedy for a number of concerns, says Jaliman.
By letting up to two cups of baking soda dissolve in warm bath water, you’ll reap plenty of skin benefits from head to toe. Here, a closer look at some of the most prominent.
Relieve itching associated with eczema
Thanks to its alkaline nature, baking soda can decrease itching and help soothe skin, making a baking soda soak a particularly useful tool to for anyone with chronic eczema, says Dr. Sonia Batra, a board-certified dermatologist and co-host of The Doctors.
Just be sure to keep the water at a more moderate temperature and limit your soak—10 minutes or so should do the trick—as immersion in a long, hot bath can actually worsen your skin’s condition, she explains.
Remember to moisturize your skin right after you bathe while it’s still damp, too, says Chimento. “Do not scrub your skin with a towel to dry it, as that will irritate the skin. Instead, gently pat it dry.”
Soothe athlete’s foot
Due to its ability to destroy bacteria and some fungus, baking soda can be a great addition to your baths to relieve fungal infections like athlete’s foot, says Green.
For convenience, you don’t have to soak your whole body. Simply fill the tub with enough water to cover your feet, then perch on the ledge. Or, use a foot basin, if you have one.
Tame a poison ivy rash
While an epsom salt bath helps minimize the intensity and prevent the spread of a poison ivy rash, a baking soda soak is helpful if you’re already experiencing itching, says Chimento.
For best results, mix a half-cup of baking soda in a tub of warm water, then soak for up to 30 minutes, she says.
Calm symptoms of a yeast infection
Because of its anti-fungal properties, baking soda baths can relieve—but not cure—yeast infection symptoms, such as swelling, burning, and itching, says Chimento.
Studies suggest these types of soaks—or sitz baths—may even help prevent yeast infections in the first place. In one study, baking soda actually killed the candida cells that cause yeast infections.
Treat vuvlar vestibulitis
Similarly, baking soda can also help soothe the itching and burning associated with vulvar vestibulitis, a syndrome that causes discomfort at the opening of the vagina, says Dr. Durga Sunitha Posina, a board-certified internist and locum hospitalist in New York.
Since multiple soaks a day—up to three—may be needed, a sitz bath might be the most effective method. In this case, a few tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in warm water should do the trick.
Baking soda is a natural antiseptic that can be used to soothe hives, too, says Green. In addition to adding baking soda to your bath water to soothe the itchiness associated with hives, you can also make a paste for more targeted treatment, she explains. Simply add cold water to baking soda in a bowl and mix until a paste forms, then apply to hives.
Tame psoriasis flare-ups
One of the first defenses for this painful skin condition are medicated baths—and baking soda is one such treatment that’s been proven in clinical studies, says Chimento. How does it work? It serves to reduce the often incessant itchiness and subsequent irritation, she explains.
Alleviate symptoms associated with chickenpox
Chickenpox is a viral infection, so it’s important to consult a doctor immediately, says Posina. But if you’re looking for a remedy to alleviate some of the itching, irritations, and inflammation associated with chickenpox rashes while any anti-viral kicks in, you can try soaking in a baking soda bath, she explains.
Reduce body odor
Thanks to natural odor-fighting properties, baking soda is often used to keep laundry smelling fresh and minimize any strange smells in the refrigerator. It can also be added to baths to help keep you smelling fresh, says Green.
Soothe diaper rash
It turns out a baking soda bath can help the littlest set, too. Those bacteria- and fungal-fighting properties go a long way in relieving symptoms—redness, itchiness, and general discomfort—associated with diaper rash, says Green.
Never apply the baking soda directly to skin, which can further irritate. Instead, mix one or two teaspoons of baking soda into a warm bath and soak the affected area where the diaper rash has developed in the water, says Posina. Do this for about 10 minutes up to three times daily until the rash subsides.
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