Taking a bath is not about getting clean — that's what showers are for. Baths are about calming your troubled mind and soothing your aches and pains, both physical and emotional. As a highly sensitive person, I find baths to be necessary, and I've gotten very good at them.
Photo by Denise Mattox.
This isn't to say that baths can't be cleansing in their own way, especially the steamier ones, but removing dirt is not your goal in the tub. (Plus, if you do remove a lot of dirt while in the tub, you'll just end up sitting in a body of dirty water. If your goal is to sit in a body of dirty water, I suggest a lake.)
Anyway. Taking a good bath isn't as easy as filling the tub and hopping in. Plans must be made. Moods must be set. Playlists must be curated. Learn from me, my children. Follow my bath-time plan and reap the most restorative benefits.
Step 1: Clean Your Bathroom
It's hard to relax in disordered, dirty surroundings, so take a few minutes to straighten up, wipe everything down, and maybe shake out your bath mat and give the floor a quick sweep, as there is nothing worse than emerging from the tub, all blissed out, only to have your joy stolen by the feeling of grit and hair sticking to your feet.
I'm not saying you scrub every tile and little line of grout, but give the tub a quick spray of all-purpose cleaner, wipe up any grody spots, and rinse it well. If your bathroom is in need of a deep clean anyway, go ahead and do that, then reward yourself with a very nice bath. (Honestly, my love of baths and bathing is what motivates me to keep my bathroom pretty clean.)
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Bath You Want to Have
The baths I take can be divided into four categories: Physically pain-relieving, beautifying, pre-date, and I'm-going-to-murder-the-world-if-don't-chill-out. Each one requires slightly different strategies and supplies.
The Pain-Relieving Bath
This is the bath to take if you have aches and pains from working out or — in my case — picking up your dog weird, because I'm old now, and never work out my core. This bath requires Epsom salts, an adult beverage, a cold glass of water, maybe a cold compress, and the hottest water you can stand. I'm a big fan of Dr Teal's Epsom salts because they're cheap (so you don't feel like you have to ration them) and come in a wide range of excellent smells. I like the Ginger & Clay, but there's even one for manly men, because sometimes masculinity is just too fragile.
If your pain is anywhere but your head, put on some Netflix or a good playlist (more on that in a moment), making sure it's something that will keep you in the tub for a while, so that you may reap the maximum amount of restorative benefits. If your pain is in your head, dim the lights, and put a cold, damp rag on your forehead or over your eyes.
The Beautifying Bath
This bath is slightly less relaxing than the others, but still soothing in its own way. The treatments you use will vary, depending on your skin type, but I recommend choosing one for your body and one for your face. A face mask is an obvious choice, and I cannot recommend the TONY MOLY sheet masks enough. Not only do they have one for every single type of skin concern you can conceive of, but they're easy to put on, cheap, and require no scrubbing afterwards. In fact, the serum they leave behind isn't meant to be removed at all; just gently massage it into your skin.
For body treatments, Epsom salts are once again a good option, but I'm a fan of a moisturising bath bomb or melt, usually from Lush. If you wish to exfoliate, however, get yourself some viscose. I have a Baiden Mitten, but apparently Korean Italy Towels work just as well and are much much cheaper. To use either one of these scrubby miracles, just soak yourself in hot water for 20 minutes and then rub your whole body with your viscose of choice. Dead, dull skin will roll off of you like magic, revealing a super smooth, new you underneath.
You'll want to use your mitten or towel at the end of tub-time, and rinse off in the shower after. No one wants to walk around with rolls of dead skin on them.
The Date-Night Bath
The date-night bath is similar to the beautifying bath, only a little less aggressive, and a little more mood-enhancing. You could do a face mask, but I don't like to do any intense or new facial treatments before a date, just in case my skin reacts poorly. Sensual, fragrant bubbles are must for the date-night bath, either by way of this bubble bar or (once again) a wonderfully scented Teal's product. A playlist is also needed, preferably something a little sexy but still relaxing. Cigarettes After Sex is my current go-to for cultivating date-night bath vibes. Feel free to use it yourself.
It also doesn't hurt to have a cocktail, because most good dates begin with cocktails.
The I'm-Going-to-Murder-the-World-If-I-Don't-Chill-Out Bath
Also known as the "screw-it-all bath", this is the bath you take when you have ceased to be able to even, and must submerge yourself in hot water to replicate the soothing feeling of being in your mother's womb, when things were simpler, less aggressive, and no one wanted anything from you. This bath is about indulging in whatever you need in that moment, and there's no wrong way to take do it. For me, it usually involves a cocktail (shocking), and some sort of fragrant bath product, but it has also included ice cream and macaroni and cheese (with potato chips crumbled on top).
The one thing this bath does not include is beauty products or, like, shaving. This is your time to sulk, not make yourself more pleasing to look at by patriarchal standards.
You can of course create your own bath, taking elements from each of mine as needed to craft your best bathing experience. I sometimes combine the pain-reliever with the screw-it-all; there are no rules.
Step 3: Gather Your Supplies
I am never more enraged than when I sink into the warm, caress of the my tubs embrace, only to realise that I left my drink or book in the other room. A little bit of prep work prevents such a disaster, and you will thank yourself for having such brilliant foresight. Before you even begin to fill the tub, gather the following:
- A couple of hand towels: Place them within easy reach of the tub, so you can dry your hands as needed to prevent your books, magazines or phone (tweet in the tub at your own risk) from getting damp.
- Entertainment: Set your laptop on a chair near the tub so that you may watch your favourite show, grab some reading material, or cue up a podcast or playlist.
- Beverages: Though a very concerned citizen warned me against it, I enjoy an alcoholic beverage in the bath; I even have a little cup holder for such imbibing. You should also take a big glass or bottle of water in there too, because dehydration is no fun.
- Any beauty treatments: Gather your bath bombs, face masks, or anything else you plan to apply to your person. This applies to exfoliation devices as well.
Step 4: Shower, or at Least Wash Your Feet
If you haven't showered recently, you probably will want to do it before your bath, lest you wish to stew in the filth you've accumulated that day. At the very least, make sure your feet are clean, otherwise all that grit and grime will float off of them and contaminate your otherwise perfect bath. Save yourself some rage and wash your damn feet.
Step 5: Unwindulax
Get in the tub, enjoy the blissful time in your tub, emerge renewed. Wrap yourself in a very absorbent towel, then put on pyjamas. (Unless you just had a pre-date bath. Then you should put on your sexiest little number, or just stay nekkid, depending on how you conduct your dates.)