When the world gets a little too much, there is a lot to be said for escaping to the bath.
In the bath, a certain kind of alchemy takes place – for some it brings clarity and a crystallisation of frenetic thoughts, for others it’s a time to gratefully let all thoughts go and just be.
The healing powers that come with immersing yourself in warm water have been sustaining us for centuries.
When it comes to what to put in the water, bath oils are the more sophisticated sibling of frothy bubble baths.
On dispersal, more often than not, they become invisible, their power is all in the water, not in showy clouds of foam.
Many contain essential oils and extracted plant essences which have been used for centuries for their powers to revive, relax, moisturise and decongest – the list goes on.
The majority of bath oils work to cleanse and moisturise, as well as perfuming water and skin, removing the need for multiple products. Here is our pick of the best.
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Mio Skincare liquid yoga bath soak
Ignore the fact that this oil has the look and texture of a kale smoothie (although that does tie in nicely with the yoga theme), the rather unattractive swampy green colour disappears in the water. A blend of Epsom salts, essential oils and herbs including sage and basil, citrus lemon peel oil and lavender, we found this deeply relaxing in the evening. It also contains murumuru butter to moisturise, which left our skin noticeably softer. All in all, it felt magically calming, as if we had done a yoga class followed by a massage.
Balmonds bath and body oil
The packaging won’t catch your eye, but what is inside is a revelation. When poured into the bath it does leave droplets of oil on the surface, but once you are submerged, it envelops you in a soothing, nourishing embrace. After getting out of the bath, we had no need to apply any moisturiser or further oil – our skin was left silky smooth and supple, an effect that lasted for days.
With a straightforward ingredient list full of natural elements, including hemp and chamomile, it is even gentle enough for babies over six weeks old. Formulated specifically for dry skin, it can also be applied directly to any part of the body or face.
ANI Skincare rose and geranium body oil
Handmade in the Cotswolds, this golden oil is imbued with bergamot, geranium and lavender, alongside rose and geranium. Dried rose petals and a sprig of lavender are suspended in the oil, adding a thoughtful decorative addition. Although billed as a body oil it works equally well in the bath. The instructions advise either the ayurvedic method of massaging the oil into the body before you get into the bath or adding a few drops to running water. You can also do both for real luxury.
Made with all natural, plant-derived ingredients and packed with antioxidants and vitamins, this oil is suitable for sensitive skin, as well as being vegan friendly. The gorgeous aroma turned our bathroom into a blissful sanctuary. We found it created a deeply relaxing bath which cleansed and moisturised: no need for soap or moisturiser.
Tisserand Aromatherapy National Geographic paradise bath oil
Aromatherapy experts Tisserand has partnered with National Geographic on a range of bath oils to help you “escape to the most blissful corners of the world”. This oil is inspired by a balmy tropical evening. A percentage of the money from the sales goes to aid the work of the society and, as you’d hope, the packaging is both recycled and recyclable.
Subtle, to the point of not being noticeable when we first put it in the water, we were initially disappointed. Until the next morning when we awoke to soft skin delicately perfumed with jasmine. Divine. Other essential oils feature here including 100 per cent natural grapefruit and mandarin. Adding more drops of oil than the instructions suggest succeeded in ramping up the citrus zing to no ill effect.
Sanctuary Spa calming CBD oil
Claims that CBD oil or cannabidiol, extracted from the cannabis plant, can ease pain and anxiety have led to a trend in CBD beauty products in the last couple of years, although the jury is out as to whether it has any real effect in such small amounts. Fear not, the oil used here has no psychoactive effects.
That aside, this oil is beautifully scented with jasmine, patchouli and frankincense. It comes with a dropper, making it easy and precise to use and means you can dispense just the right amount (something that is deceptively tricky when you are trying to pour oil from a bottle). A multitasker, it can be applied to pulse points or massaged into the body pre-shower. We used a few drops in the bath and enjoyed a calming, soothing and fragrant time. This one is popular, so it's currently out of stock – keep your eyes peeled for when it's back.
Slow Ageing essential bath essence
With rose geranium oil, juniper fruit oil, cypress leaf and rosemary, this botanical essence claims to invigorate and top up energy levels. The instructions advise adding either a capful to the water or half a capful to the bath with the other half massaged into the body before getting in. We chose the latter, which upgraded the self-care experience. The oil is beautifully scented and made for a truly relaxing bathing experience, and the pre-massage did seem to enhance the effects. After the bath, the oil remained on the skin and took a while to sink in, but by the morning it was wonderfully moisturised and silky-soft.
Beauty Laundrette skin spin triple oil bath fizzer
Beauty Laundrette makes beauty products that look like laundry products for “the most precious fabric on earth: your skin”. A fun concept which makes for great bathroom shelfies.
This bath fizzer contains moisturising shea, coconut, jojoba and camellia oils. We loved the quirkiness of combining sophisticated bath oils with a bath bomb – that perennial favourite of teenagers everywhere. Dropped into running water it fizzes and swirls, turning the water Palma violet. Contrary to what you’d expect, it caused no issue for our tester’s sensitive skin. It leaves a very attractive scent of clean washing with hints of jasmine. And the packaging cleans up.
REN Clean Skincare Moroccan rose otto bath oil
The liquid form of checking into a Moroccan hotel and sliding into a bath filled with rose petals. Once dispersed into water, this amber oil turns bath water into a nourishing and milky environment.
With rose otto, geranium and sesame oils, it boasts stress relieving, anti-inflammatory properties. We love it for the fresh, authentic rose fragrance which makes it feel like a very natural experience. Our skin post-bath was perfectly nourished and perfumed.
ESPA Skincare soothing bath oil
Here, sweet almond oil for supple skin combines with aromatic sandalwood, rose geranium, frankincense and myrrh to calm and soothe the senses. We found it hit the spot after a hectic, stressful day.
Following the instructions to “immerse yourself then deeply inhale the aroma”, we were reminded of a luxury spa experience and felt so relaxed afterwards that sleep came easy. The bathroom, gorgeously scented, became a haven of tranquillity for the duration of the soak.
NEOM Organics perfect night's sleep bath and shower drops
These drops have a distinct feel of luxury to them. The blend contains 19 essential oils, including English lavender, sweet basil and jasmine along with safflower oil and vitamins A and E for healthy skin.
The glass bottle has a pipette dispenser (although we found we could only fill half the pipette) to add the oil to the bath. You could also massage the oil into your skin pre-shower. Taking the bath option, we felt instantly relaxed thanks largely to the aroma which pervaded the house. Although the fragrance didn’t linger afterwards, the softness on our skin did.
We also appreciated the fact that it didn’t leave a post-bath oily slick in the tub, which some other oils do, the cleaning up of which can rather negate the relaxing effect of the bath.
E45 emollient bath oil
A classic known to anyone with small children or eczema, or both, the E45 range is a feature of bathroom cabinets up and down the country. While this emollient oil has no fancy packaging or luxurious ingredients, it does the job of providing a relaxing, moisturising soak that does no harm and plenty of good.
The oil does seem to sit in a slick on top of the water and we worried that skin felt oily immediately afterwards. However, it soaked in to leave skin calm and soft to the touch. Hands which had become sore and chapped from over-washing looked and felt better after just one bath. It cleanses and moisturises, so no other products are needed, another advantage for sensitive types.
Honest Skincare relax bath and body oil
Honest is an independent organic skincare brand based in Birmingham that make all products by hand. All natural, this oil blends patchouli, lavender and black pepper to improve circulation, cleanse and soothe. Recommended for dry skin, it also helps to calm inflammation.
On opening the bottle, we loved the fragrance which transported us from suburban bathroom to smart spa. Once in the bath, the scent seemed to vanish in the oily water. However, post-bath, the fragrance was once again apparent, scenting our skin beautifully. The screw top got a bit sticky after a few uses but overall, we loved the simple sleek packaging.
Elemental Herbology fire zest bath and body oil
We were intrigued by this one as it promised to "encourage a feeling of euphoria". With sweet orange, rosemary and basil, its aim is to energise and make you feel alert, so best suited to morning baths. The oil can also be applied directly to the skin to hydrate and nourish.
The cool apothecary-style bottle has a pump dispenser making it easy to squirt the oil straight into the water, avoiding any slipperiness elsewhere. It dispersed evenly, infusing the water with a distinct zesty aroma through which the orange, rosemary and basil were easily identifiable. Afterwards, our skin smelt and felt amazing.
Dr Hauschka lemon lemongrass revitalising bath essence
This is the bath oil writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron was talking about when she wrote “always use the good bath oil” in her essay on the tragic waste of saving the good stuff for that special day that never comes. Heed her advice: this oil made us feel good in mind and body, plus the clean, refreshing lemon scent fragranced the whole house.
The double shot of lemon is it’s definitely invigorating. A couple of drops can be added to water and applied to the face for an energising boost during the day too. It is said to firm and tone the skin, and we felt there was some improvement in this area, but our overall enjoyment of the oil meant that this wasn’t its top selling point.
The verdict: Bath oils
For its uncanny ability to relax us, and the genius addition of Epsom salts to ease our tired limbs, we gave top marks to Mio liquid yoga bath soak. You just might need to buy a louder alarm clock. Slow Ageing essential bath essence is a divinely sensuous treat if you have a bit more money to spare while for something completely different Beauty Laundrette skin spin triple oil bath fizzer gets our budget-friendly vote for good clean fun.
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