The Art of the Bath

All about body care > Relaxing > The art of the bath

Taking a warm, relaxing bath is one of life's simple pleasures. You lie back in water at the ideal temperature and enjoy time alone with your thoughts. But if you want to make it the perfect bath, you'll have to sacrifice a little simplicity for greater pleasure.


First, take the Japanese approach to bathing: don't wash in the tub. The Japanese view a bath as totally therapeutic. It's not about cleansing the body but about soothing the soul.

The most relaxing bath requires a little planning.

  • bath oil, bath milk or bath salts
  • sweet almond oil or bath oil for your elbows and knees
  • eye compresses (and why not a beauty mask?)
  • a headrest

Nicky Kinnaird, founder of the Space NK apothecaries and Spa NK retreats, says she reaches for different bath concoctions depending on her mood: If she wants to recharge her muscles after strenuous exercise, she would go for salt or seaweed-based products. If she's looking for revitalization, she uses a bath oil with lemon and bergamot along with soothing rosewood and clary sage.

There are bath products on the market to meet your every whim: relaxing, energizing, moisturizing...

The healing part --- especially of dry, rough or generally ignored skin ---- can be enhanced by the wide variety of bath-and-body products available. But pay attention to the water temperature as you run your bath, because an overly hot bath can further dry out skin unless you add some sort of moisturizer.

Too-hot water takes natural oil out of the skin while opening up the pores, disengaging one line of defense to the elements. Use a thermometer, because your bath temperature should vary based on a number of criteria:

Heavy, tired legs

The water should be about 35° C and you should end your bath with alternating sprays of warm (33° C) and cold (14° C) water.


Bath water at 38° C. The muscles relax under the effect of the heat.

Before going out

Water at 36° C. A bath at this temperature won't leave you feeling done in, and you'll be fresh and cool for the evening.

And then...

Ambience is the key between a good bath and a great bath," says Michelle Wilkos, director of Spa Bellagio at MGM Mirage's Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. "Much thought goes into the lighting, music, scents and candles. When I'm having a crazy day, the first thing I think about is going into the bathtub. There's something very tranquil about a bath; it's also very healing."

Pour the product into the water and stir so it is well combined. If you plan a manicure or pedicure after your bath, file your nails now - otherwise they'll be too soft.

Put on a little soft music, turn on the answering machine (it's a well-known fact that stepping into the tub makes the phone ring!) Light some candles, burn some incense... in other words, plan your relaxation time carefully.

When everything's in place, apply a little sweet almond oil or bath oil to your elbows and knees and slip gently into the scented water.

Lie back, apply the compresses to your eyes (for example, two lime-blossom or chamomile tea bags) and dream. Relax - that's what it's all about! Twenty to twenty-five minutes is a good average. Less is rushed, more is laziness!

You might also apply a beauty mask: the steam from your bath will enhance its effects and the relaxation will help your skin relax as well.


Photo: Sok overflowing tub, Jacob Delafon

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