Make your bath time work harder with these mind-soothing, skin-loving tips

This article is in partnership with Aromatherapy Associates and Aroma Active Laboratories

Few things in life have the power to change our mood for the better quite like a great bath. Every aspect, from the de-stressing aromas to the soothing textures, oozes relaxation. Having said that, here at Boots we’re all too aware that the struggles and stresses of modern life can make relaxing hard to do, which is why many of us would rather jump in the shower for 10 minutes than ‘indulge’ in a luxurious bath.

But the truth is, by telling ourselves that we are simply too busy for a relaxing bathing ritual, we might be unknowingly making our stress worse. "Bathing forces you to stop and take a few moments for yourself," says Christina Salcedas, global director of Education at Aromatherapy Associates. "It helps your muscles relax due to being completely submerged in warm water," she adds.

Baths have been championed as a form of self-care for millennia. The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan is considered one of the earliest known public baths, thought to have been built in the 3rd millennium BCE, while Cleopatra is thought to have soaked in fermented milk, and Ayurvedic practices encourages bathing as a healing, therapeutic experience. Many ancient bathing rituals can still be called upon today in our busy 21st-century lives to help promote a calmer mindset.

In a bid to uncover some of the most mind-calming and body-loving bath rituals out there, we caught up with Christina to outline the seven best things you can do to get the most out of your bath time – and they’re surprisingly easy.

Select your scent

Ask any bath expert around and they will tell you that the scents in which you choose to surround yourself with have the ability to make or break the experience. "Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful and primitive. We have the ability to be drawn to what we need most at that time," says Christina.

Before you run your bath, consider the scents you want to incorporate into your ritual, whether it’s essential oils, a body wash or maybe a candle or diffuser. "Lay out your oils and products without looking at their names and pick one simply by smelling the first two, putting down your least favourite. Then pick up another and compare again," advises Christina. This ensures you’re picking the scent your body and mind feels as though it would benefit from the most.

Try: Aromatherapy Associates The Atomiser

• Suitable for vegans*

This waterless diffuser fills the room with whatever essential oil you feel suits your mood best. Simply pop whichever blend you want to enjoy into The Atomiser and wait for the room to fill with the aroma in minutes. And the best bit is it can be unplugged and carried with you into the bathroom and beyond.

Try: Aromatherapy Associates Forest Therapy Pure Essential Oil Blend

• Size: 10ml

• Suitable for vegans*

With pink pepper to bring balance, cypress to help restore and ho wood to help emotionally ground, this earthy scent is the perfect way to unwind both pre- and post-bath.

Breathe in

If you struggle to unwind and relax, even when you have set the time aside, Christina suggests doing some breathing exercises before or during your bath time. "Try tuning into your breath with some breathing exercises to help you switch off," she says.

While there are plenty of wonderful breathing exercises you can discover online and try for yourself, they needn’t be complicated. In fact, the NHS recommends a de-stressing exercise that couldn’t be easier. Simply breathe in through your nose for five seconds and out through your mouth for another five. Doing this for three to five minutes is thought to help relieve stress and anxiety, helping you get the most from your bath ritual.

Get salty

When it comes to bath soaks, choosing the right product can make all the difference.  While oils can release calming aromas when infused into a bath (and leave skin feeling silky-soft), there are other options, like salts. Bath salts are a particularly good way to get the aromatherapy benefits of an oil without the slippery texture.

Try: Aroma Active Laboratories Sleep Salt Soak

• Size: 500g

• Suitable for vegans*

From Aromatherapy Associates’ sister brand, Aroma Active Laboratories, sprinkle a handful of salts into warm running water to create a relaxing soak to calm your mind and body.

Scrub up

Do you tend to get bored when having a bath? 

If so, and you often sense your mind going to stressful places, try to incorporate some simple beauty rituals into your bathing experience. Christina suggests using this time to exfoliate. While bathing itself is an Ayurvedic tradition, so is the act of body scrubbing. Not only does it help cleanse the skin through manual exfoliation, but it helps boost circulation and, subsequently, revive tired limbs.

Try: Aromatherapy Associates Revive Energising Exfoliator

• Size: 200ml

Refresh your skin while invigorating your senses with this glow-boosting exfoliator. Dead skin cells are effortlessly swept away thanks to exfoliating grains of sea salt, while the 100% essential oil blend leaves skin with an irresistibly beautiful scent – the perfect addition to your shower routine.

Unwind with massage

Massage is a wonderful addition to any bathing ritual. Ancient bathing traditions from all over the world include it in some way thanks to its circulation-boosting benefits. If you’re short on time, try incorporating it into the application of your body products, such as your body wash or scrub, while you’re bathing, taking the time to really massage them in. "You can even give yourself a facial massage in the bath and apply a face mask to help unwind," says Christina. Massaging an oil into the skin either before you get into the bath or once you are out is a great way to nourish skin and relax aching muscles.

Try: Aromatherapy Associates Muscle Shower Oil

• Size: 250ml

This therapeutic oil can be massaged into wet skin in the shower, where it will turn into a gentle, sore-muscle-relieving cleansing milk. Scented with a blend of rosemary, ginger and black pepper.

Try: Aromatherapy Associates Relax Body Oil

• Size: 100ml

Massage this relaxing camomile, vetiver and ylang-ylang body oil into limbs immediately after bathing to help nourish dry skin and calm the mind.

Restore hydration

While baths are no doubt good for body and soul, it’s worth noting that running your bath too hot can have a counter effect and can risk causing skin irritation and dryness. "To soothe skin, bathe in lukewarm water, instead of hot water, for up to 15 minutes," advises Christina. And because the relaxing benefits of a bath shouldn’t stop the minute you pull the plug, take time to apply a moisture-restoring cream once you’re out and dry. (You can do this either before or in place of oil.) "Post-bath moisturising is a must. It’s super-important that you hydrate and protect the skin post-bathing with a cream," adds Christina.

Try: Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Candle

• Size: 200g

• Burns for 40 hours

This luxury candle has the equivalent of two bottles of pure essential oils to fill your space with the scent of restful vetivert, soothing camomile and comforting sandalwood.

Time it right

The time you have your bath can make all the difference in how you feel for the rest of the day. Doing your bathing ritual just before bed can help de-stress the mind and help you drift off into a blissful slumber.

Try: Aroma Active Laboratories Muscle Recovery Soak

• Size: 250ml

• Suitable for vegans*

This milky bath soak is great if you are either super-active during the day or at a desk for eight hours in the same position, as it will help to relieve tension and stimulate your mind, too.

Try: Aroma Active Laboratories Sleep Mist

• Size: 75ml

• Suitable for vegans*

Once you’ve finished your evening bathing, mist this lavandin, valerian, ylang-ylang and buddha wood aromatherapy spray on to your pillow and bed linen just before you throw back the sheets. The blend is thought to have calming and balancing effects that can help improve the quality of your sleep.

*Vegan formulas do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.