Essential Oils for Baths 101: A Celebrity Dermatologist Weighs In

Prepare to mellow right out with these expert tips
Essential Oils for Baths 101: A Celebrity Dermatologist Weighs In

Unpopular opinion: Even though colorful bath bombs make for a great Insta Story when they fizz out and transform your tub into a vibrant, glittery mess, they've got nothing on essential oils. Like, I used to assume that essential oils were just for my granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing friends (love u guys), but I've since learned that the right formula can turn any old boring bath into a spa-like oasis on a budget.

As someone who rides or dies for a hot shower at the end of a long-ass day, I was skeptical of giving an essential oil bath a try. So, I hit up two dermatologists, including one who counts Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Margot Robbie, and Hilary Duff (!!) as clients, to learn why (and how!) I should make the switch.

Essential oils are extracted from plants and flowers through a process called distillation, says celebrity dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD. "The preparation process is key, as essential oils are often used as topical products designed to reduce irritation and inflammation," he says.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, (um, hi, it me) you're probably a little cautious when it comes to incorporating face and body oils into your beauty routine. As someone who gets shiny within an hour of washing my face, I was super relieved when Dr. Lancer explained that essential oils, thankfully, don't cause acne. "Essential oils are often used on acne-prone skin to reduce inflammation, making clogged pores less likely to occur," he says. The only caveat? Those with sensitive skin types should avoid highly acidic essential oils (in their baths and otherwise) to avoid any irritation, says Dr. Lancer

Which essential oils are best for baths?

Now that you know you can put essential oils in your bath water without effing up your skin, you're probably wondering which essential oils are, well, ~essential~ for bath time. Just a heads up: Essential oil baths are mostly about mood, so finding the right formula for your tub is as easy as deciding the vibe you're going for. If you're down to zone the F out, go for a soothing formula (like lavender, rose, ylang-ylang, or bergamot). Need a pick me up? Try a citrus oil like lemon or sweet orange essential oil for a reenergizing vibe. If you're looking to hydrate your dry, winter skin, try spiking your bath with sunflower extract, says Dr. lancer, since it's "most likely to be absorbed by the skin during a tepid bath."

Can you put essential oils directly in your bathwater?

Unlike when you use an essential oil topically, you don't need a carrier oil (aka a non-essential oil, like almond or avocado, that acts as a diluter) for baths, says dermatologist Lamees Hamdan, MD, Founder and CEO of Shiffa. That means, yes, you can add essential oils directly to your bathwater. The only time Dr. Hamdan suggests combining your essential oil with a carrier? If the purpose of your bath is to soothe dry skin, since essential oils alone won't really do much for hydrating. "If you have dry skin, you can combine six drops of essential oil with one tablespoon of a carrier oil—the water in your bath will help push the hydrating carrier oil into your skin," she says. Your carrier oil depends on your skin type and concerns, BTW, so if you've got oily, acne-prone skin, look towards lighter oils like sweet almond or grapeseed. Dry skin, on the other hand, can handle a richer carrier, like avocado oil.

What's The Bottom Line

Incorporating the organic, sweet aroma of essential oils into your weekly bath sesh is an easy way to #TreatYoSelf and live your best life. As long as you're don't have any allergies and spring for an organic version, your essential oil bath should be a safe and relaxing experience. Personally, I'm about to load up my bath with a few drops of lavender oil, grab a glass of wine, and listen to a bomb playlist. And, yes, you're fully welcome to copy me.