Bath salts have long been used as an easy and inexpensive way to treat mental and physical health ailments. Bath salts, which are commonly made from magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) or sea salt, are easily dissolved in warm bath water and used for everything from stress relief to aches and pains.

Most of us use bath salts as a way to enhance a relaxing soak in the tub, but bath salts are believed to provide several health benefits for people with:

  • muscle pain and stiffness
  • stiff, aching joints
  • arthritis
  • circulation problems
  • headaches
  • anxiety and stress
  • skin conditions, such as eczema
  • dry and itchy skin

There are several ways to use bath salts, depending on what you want to treat.

Detox bath

A detox bath is generally made of Epsom salt. The minerals in a detox bath are believed to help remove toxins from the body to improve your health, relieve stress, treat constipation, and assist with weight loss.

Magnesium absorption is another important benefit of Epsom salt detox baths. This may be beneficial to those with a deficiency, such as people with fibromyalgia. A 2004 study of 19 participants found that 17 of them had increased levels of magnesium and sulfate in the blood following Epsom salt baths.

To make a detox bath using Epsom salt:

  1. Use 2 cups of Epsom salt for a standard-size bathtub filled with warm water.
  2. Pour the salt into running water to help it dissolve faster into the bath.
  3. Soak in the tub for at least 12 minutes, or 20 minutes to treat constipation.

Adding essential oils, such as lavender or peppermint, can offer additional aromatherapy benefits, such as relaxation and improved mood.

Muscle aches

Bath salts can help with muscle aches by relaxing tense muscles and reducing inflammation.

To make bath salts for muscle pain:

  1. Use 2 cups of Epsom salt for a standard-size bathtub of warm water.
  2. Pour the Epsom salt into the running water to help it dissolve faster. Stirring the water with your hand will help dissolve any remaining grains.
  3. Soak for at least 12 minutes.

Adding a few drops of diluted cinnamon bark essential oil may also help ease muscle pain. Cinnamon bark oil has a warming effect on the skin that some find soothing on sore muscles. A 2017 study also found it to be a promising anti-inflammatory agent.

Skin inflammation or irritation

Bath salts can be used to relieve skin inflammation and irritation caused by eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, and athlete’s foot. The National Eczema Association recommends adding 1 cup of table salt to your bath during a flare-up to help prevent stinging when bathing. You can also use Epsom salt or sea salt to treat skin irritation and inflammation.

To make bath salts to relieve itchy and irritated skin:

  1. Use 1 cup of Epsom salt, sea salt, or table salt for a standard-size bathtub.
  2. Pour the salt into the warm running bath water and use your hand to stir the water to help dissolve all the grains.
  3. Soak in the tub for at least 20 minutes.

Tea tree oil has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties that may make it effective for treating eczema and minor skin infections. Essential oils should be diluted before use, but tea tree oil does come in many strengths, some already diluted. Adding 3 or 4 drops to your salt bath can provide additional relief of inflammation and irritation.

Dry or itchy skin

You can use bath salts to relieve dry and itchy skin, including itching caused by insect bites and poison ivy. To do this:

  1. Use 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt and a tablespoon of olive oil for a standard-size bathtub.
  2. Pour the salt into the warm running water to help it dissolve faster.
  3. Add the olive oil and stir the bath water using your hand to help combine the salt and oil.
  4. Soak for at least 12 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week.

You can also add almond oil, oatmeal, or powdered milk to bath salts to soothe and moisturize the skin.

Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation recommends soaking and stretching in a warm Epsom salt bath to help relieve stiff and aching joints and for relief of muscle soreness after exercising. To do this:

  1. Use 2 cups of Epsom salt for a standard-size bathtub filled with warm water.
  2. Dissolve the salt faster by pouring it into the running water.
  3. Soak for at least 20 minutes a day as needed or after exercise.

Some essential oils, such as ginger, may have anti-inflammatory benefits. According to a 2016 study, ginger was shown to have anti-arthritic and joint-protective effects in arthritis. Adding a few drops of diluted ginger essential oil to your bath salts may offer additional benefits.

You can also target specific joints by using bath salts and ginger oil mixed with some warm water to make a paste that can be rubbed on the joint.

In the shower

You can still use bath salts and enjoy some of the benefits they provide even if you don’t have a bathtub. To do this, you simply create a shower scrub:

  1. Use 1 cup of sea salt or Epsom salt, 1/3 cup of almond oil, olive oil, or coconut oil, and 1 tablespoon of vitamin E oil.
  2. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, creating a thick paste.
  3. Apply some of the scrub to your body using your hands.
  4. Rinse.

Be sure to use a bowl or container with an airtight lid to store your remaining shower scrub.

You can add 12 drops of your favorite essential oil to your body scrub to enjoy some of the additional benefits listed above. Bath salt scrubs are also great for exfoliating the skin.

Foot soak

There are several benefits to using bath salts in a foot soak. Use bath salts in a foot soak to:

  • relieve symptoms of athlete’s foot
  • treat toenail fungus
  • relieve gout pain and inflammation
  • eliminate foot odor

To use bath salts in a foot soak:

  1. Add 1/2 cup of Epsom salt to a large basin of warm water and stir to dissolve.
  2. Soak your feet for 12 minutes, or 30 minutes for gout relief.
  3. Dry your feet thoroughly with a towel.

Repeat three times daily to treat nail fungus until your symptoms improve. Adding diluted tea tree oil has antifungal effects.

Soaking your feet in a warm salt bath also makes it easier to exfoliate dry, cracked heels. You can use the shower scrub recipe above to help remove dead skin and calluses. You may also want to try a vinegar or Listerine foot soak.

Bath salts are relaxing and provide a number of cosmetic and health benefits. Though generally safe for most when used properly, you should talk to your doctor before using bath salts if you have medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.