Thursday, July 18, 2024
ENVIRONMENTfeatured storyHEALTH

Dialogues about environmental conservation praise shower over bath for people and the planet

Research shows a daily soak in the tub soothes skin, reduces stress, and helps you sleep, but taking a shower is far more sustainable. In the ongoing dialogue about environmental conservation, showers are often championed over baths for their lower water usage and energy efficiency.

This argument holds weight on average, a shower consumes significantly less water than a full bathtub, making it a more sustainable choice for daily hygiene. However, while environmentally prudent, this perspective overlooks baths’ benefits.

From muscle relaxation and stress reduction to improved sleep quality and skin health, bathing transcends the ordinary, elevating it to a ritual of self-care and luxury. “From Queen Cleopatra to the ancient Romans, if we look to history, then there does seem to be something to immersing yourself in water compared to just giving yourself a scrub down in the shower, and there’s a growing body of research on the topic,” says Charlotte Nisbet, bathing category lead at Lush, the brand known for its globally popular bath bombs.

There are few things better than a relaxing soak in the tub

As the body eases into the embrace of the bath, the water’s bounce alleviates physical strain, allowing muscles to unwind and release tension. This muscle relaxation is not just superficial, it penetrates deep into the body, soothing aches and pains that accumulate from daily stresses and physical exertion.

“A 2022 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that regular bathing at 40 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes helped decrease sympathetic nerve activity, which provides physical and mental health benefits. Other research from Japan suggests that bathing can also help you to fall asleep faster, particularly in the winter,” Nisbet says.

Beyond the physical relief, baths serve as a potent antidote to stress.

“Therapeutic baths not only allow us to benefit from the immediate aromatherapeutic effect of the naturally scented washes and milk, but they also allow time for the essential oils to penetrate the bloodstream, really deepening the overall therapeutic effect of your chosen bath milk or oil,” says Elizabeth King, skincare expert at Weleda.

Weleda has over 100 years of expertise in developing formulations using high-quality, effective natural ingredients, including its famous Rosemary Invigorating Bath Milk, first launched in 1926 and still a staple.

The serene state of baths also paves the way for improved sleep quality. The drop in body temperature after leaving the tub mimics the natural decrease in temperature that occurs before sleep, signaling to the body that it’s time to rest. This thermal regulation assists in falling asleep faster and achieving a deeper, more restorative sleep, addressing two of the most common challenges of our time: insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns.

“It can warm and release tired, overworked muscles to help prevent stiffness, helpful in the morning if you’re struggling to wake up and can even improve concentration ahead of those busy meeting days,” King claims.

Moreover, baths offer avenues for detoxification and skin health, turning a simple cleansing routine into a therapeutic ritual. The journey into this experience often begins with the choice of bath additives such as Epsom salts, essential oils, and bubble baths, which transform water into a potion that soothes muscles, nourishes the skin and calms the mind.

Aromatherapy takes this sensory experience a step further, harnessing the power of essential oils to influence mood, alleviate stress, and promote emotional well-being. King recommends scents like lavender to relax and unwind, citrus to refresh and uplift, and rosemary to invigorate and energize.

When it comes to skin benefits, Milly Ahlquist, skincare category lead at Lush, says bathing allows you to treat areas of the body that might not otherwise get much attention. “If your skin is dry, coconut and almond oils can be easily added to the bath to reintroduce moisture,” while an oat milk bath can soothe skin ailments ranging from dryness to sunburn. “A few drops of choice essential oil or absolute can also be added for a gently therapeutic effect, lavender being a popular choice for its benefits on the mind and skin,” she adds.

But what about the water itself?

Whether you are taking a bath or a shower, the quality of the water can also make or break your experience. In that realm, Jolie Skin Co, a beauty wellness company provides systems that purify your water

“The water we shower in has a fundamental impact on our beauty, whether we have a one-step or 10-step routine,” says the brand’s Charlotte Morse. “Nearly all of the water available for human use contains chlorine, heavy metals and other contaminants, which all contribute to many common skin and hair issues, such as dry skin, damaged hair, change in hair color and rashes or irritation,” she adds. Jolie’s filtered showerhead removes these contaminants, providing you with a better bathing (or showering) experience.

A key factor is finding the proper water temperature, pivotal in maximizing the bath’s therapeutic benefits. “Too hot may induce headaches, raise blood pressure, or cause anxiety. Too cool may have an overall cooling effect leading to feeling unwell or drained of energy. We recommend something around a blood temperature of 37 degrees Celsius,” King says. At this range, the warmth is sufficient to soothe muscles without overburdening the heart or causing overheating, making it conducive to both immediate relaxation and long-term health benefits.

How long you spend in the bath will also make a difference, with the sweet spot typically lying between 15 to 30 minutes. This time frame allows the body to reap the benefits of warm water, including muscle relaxation and stress reduction, without the risks associated with prolonged exposure, such as dehydration or overheating.

King also explains that, while the allure of daily baths is strong, bathing once a week is often sufficient to enjoy the therapeutic benefits.

 

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