By Lucas Anderson, RA®, EOT®
You get home from a long, tiring day. Maybe you’ve been doing some physical work and are feeling sore. What do you do? You decide to pour yourself a nice hot bath, with some bath salts, and think, “I’ll add some essential oils and make it an aromatic bath!” But here’s a dilemma for any person, and aromatherapist. How can we enjoy an aromatic bath without causing any topical reactions? Well, there are some options. What I have found in talking with people, therapists included, is that most still don’t really do it appropriately.
So how can you mix the oil with the bath water without it floating on top, ready to burn your skin or cause a dermal reaction? We know oil and water don’t mix on their own. They require emulsification to mix. But what do you use? Some people will mix essential oils with Epsom salt before adding them to the bath water. However, this does not emulsify the oils in the water, and you still end up with a layer floating on top of the water. Some add them to witch hazel, milk or aloe gel, none of which truly emulsify the oils with water. In most cases you still end up with essential oils floating on top of the water. You can’t even see this layer because it's very thin and spread out.
On top of all the mixing issues, there is the added frustration of longevity of aroma. Every time I’ve added essential oils to a bath, I get to smell them for all of five minutes and then the rest of the bath is, well, bathwater.
So, to address both issues, there are a few solutions. The one I believe is the best solution, I will share last.
First off, emulsification. To truly suspend an essential oil, you need an actual emulsifier. Aloe gel, milk and witch hazel are not actual emulsifiers. Even 95% grain alcohol doesn’t emulsify essential oils in water. It does somewhat, but not completely and properly. It's more of a solvent of essential oils, not an emulsifier. What I have found in the past year is that polysorbate 20 is an amazing emulsifier that works well for essential oils, and doesn’t require a lot, approximately equal parts polysorbate and essential oils. This will allow the oils to become suspended in the water and not be concentrated in one area. Another emulsifier is common soap! It makes the essential oil molecules water soluble, allowing them to become suspended in the water and not concentrated on top of the water. If you use an unscented soap, you shouldn’t have conflicting aromas.
Both these solutions only address the topical aspect of essential oils, but still have one problem in common. That is the fact that essential oils are volatile compounds and, even at room temperature, dissipate into the air. Add them to hot water and they’ll dissipate even faster! The one problem that I’ve always had with aromatic baths, apart from occasional dermal reactions, is that the aroma portion only lasts about five minutes and then I can only smell bath water. And when you enjoy your bath for 20 to 30 minutes, that’s rather disappointing, to say the least.
Here is my solution that I have come to over the years. I pour my bath, I add the plain Epsom salts, get that all mixed up nicely. Then, I will put my essential oils onto a facial tissue, which I place on the edge of the tub, next to my head. This way I don’t worry about possible skin reactions to any oils I decide to use, and as the oils stay at room temperature, they dissipate much slower than at the temperature of the warm bath water. I can enjoy the aromatic bath for the full 30 minutes and not be burned by a dermal reaction, or disappointed by the short occurrence of the aromatic portion of the bath!
I hope you find this blog post useful in your aromatic bathing routine.
About the author: Lucas Anderson, RA®, EOT®, with seven years' experience as an aromatherapist, has been focussing on men's health and helping men achieve freedom. He has a passion for health as close to nature as possible and currently works with more than 130 essential oils. Located in Edmonton, Lucas is past president of the CFA and is currently serving on the CAOA board of directors. You can learn more about Lucas at www.brotherhoodaromatics.com.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.