How to Safely Take an Epsom Salt Bath with Essential Oils

Bath time is taken to a whole new level when you indulge in an Epsom salt bath with essential oils. Here’s how to make sure your essential oils stay safely diluted while you soak.

When you’re not feeling your best, have a headache, or maybe worked too hard at the gym or in your yard, there’s nothing like sinking down into a warm, soothing bath.

The water and silence seem to float your cares away.

Well, only if you lock the door first, because there’s also nothing like sinking into a bath only to be interrupted by small people (or not so small). Just me?

While a tub full of warm water is fabulous on its own, bathtime becomes even more soothing when you add Epsom salts and essential oils to the water.

But before you just drop essential oils into the bathwater, or even mix them with your Epsom salts before adding to the bath, pause. Doing that can leave you with painfully irritated skin and make your bathtime anything but soothing.

It’s important to take a few simple safety precautions if you’re going to enjoy an Epsom salt bath with essential oils. Thankfully, this is really easy and doesn’t require any special ingredients!

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What Is Epsom Salt & How Does It Help in a Bath?

Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, so it’s not a salt at all. Since this form of magnesium comes in salt-like crystals, it’s become known as salt.  The Epsom part comes from a town in England where they were discovered. 

Epsom salt dissolves easily into the bath, making mineral-rich water that’s perfect for soaking.

a small pile of Epsom salt

Many natural health experts believe magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the modern world. Magnesium deficiency is linked to headaches and migraines, muscle cramps, constipation, PMS, and many other common health conditions.

Magnesium is also an interesting mineral because you can get it through your diet (leafy greens are a great source, among other foods), but it can also be absorbed through your skin.

That means that a humble Epsom salt bath can be a great way to naturally boost your magnesium levels!

Epsom salt baths and localized soaks (like a foot soak) can be used for a variety of health benefits:

  • To help soothe sprains and injuries 
  • To ease strained or pulled muscles
  • To gently nourish the body during infection
  • To help relieve headaches
  • To help reduce stress and promote a general sense of wellness.

For such an inexpensive and easily found home remedy, Epsom salt has a lot to offer you!

How to Safely Take an Epsom Salt Bath with Essential Oils

Essential Oils in the Bath: What Doesn’t Work

Just like Epsom salt takes a bath to the next level, so do essential oils. The aromatherapy experience combined with a soak in warm water is heavenly!

Too often, though, instructions for adding essential oils to the bath miss a crucial step that protects your skin: correctly diluting them.

Contrary to what you might read online and even in some older essential oil and herbal books, many common bath ingredients won’t safely dilute essential oils through your bath. These include:

  • Epsom salts
  • Sea salt
  • Baking soda
  • Dry clays
  • Milk
  • Honey
bath with spa tray

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

What Happens If You Don’t Dilute Your Essential Oils in a Bath

If essential oils aren’t thoroughly diluted through your bathwater, you run the risk of experiencing skin irritations like redness, itching, stinging, tingling, burning, welts, or even slight swelling. Depending on the type of essential oil in your bathwater and how much you add, these reactions can be quite severe and painful.

You see, your skin is extra sensitive when you’re in the bath. The warm water makes your skin more permeable, so anything it’s in contact with will have a greater impact. This is why the best time to apply a moisturizer is after a bath or shower.

If your essential oils aren’t safely diluted, that means they’re hitting your skin at full strength. Undiluted, or neat, essential oil use is almost always something you should avoid, and this is especially true when your skin is extra sensitive.

Options for Diluting Essential Oils in the Bath

Thankfully, you don’t need any special ingredients to safely dilute essential oils in your bathwater. You have a few simple options:

  • Add them to a carrier oil at a safe dilution, then add to your bathwater. This will leave your skin extra soft, but also leaves an oily residue on your bathtub.
  • Add them to a bath or shower gel at a safe dilution, then add to your bathwater. This won’t leave a residue but it can be difficult to find a bath gel that doesn’t contain potentially harmful ingredients (this shower gel could be one option). 
  • Add them to liquid Castile soap at a safe dilution, then add to your bathwater. Castile soap is completely natural and will dilute your essential oils, but it can also dry out your skin.

If you need help knowing how to safely dilute essential oils, The Essential Oils Quick Reference Guide can help. It’s my printer-friendly downloadable guide full of helpful dilution charts, safety checklists, and more that makes safe home essential oil use easier than ever.

There are also special ingredients aromatherapists and skincare formulators may use to disperse essential oils in water, but they aren’t really necessary for most people. If you’re interested, you can read more about them here, though.

My favorite way to add essential oils to an Epsom salt bath, or any other bath for that matter, combines two of the methods above for one super simple, easy to clean, and skin-nourishing bathtime treat. More on that in a moment!

herbal extracts and essential oils

Which Essential Oils Work Best in Your Bath?

Before I tell you about my favorite way to simply and safely take an Epsom salt bath with essential oils, it’s important to talk about which essential oils work best in a bath, and which ones you might want to avoid.

Some essential oils can be really irritating to your skin, especially in full-body applications or on sensitive areas. Unless you’re doing a localized bath, like a foot or hand soak, you’ll have best results if you avoid the following essential oils and those like it:

  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Cinnamon leaf and bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Citrus oils, like sweet orange, lemon, and grapefruit

That doesn’t mean you can’t use a favorite blend in your bath if it has a tiny amount of a citrus oil in it, but adding even more than a drop of these oils can start to irritate your skin in the bath.

Instead, focus on skin-soothing oils that also have fragrances you love. Some great options to consider are

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Roman chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
  • Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
  • Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), just one drop will do with this one
  • Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carteri)

If you don’t already have a favorite essential oil brand, Florihana is the one I personally use most often. You can read more about my Recommended Brands here.

essential oil bottle with bathtub

If you need to know if an essential oil is safe to add to your bathwater, I recommend checking the book The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless. It’s an easy-to-understand reference book and will tell you if an essential oil is potentially sensitizing or irritating. I consider it a must-have!

The Easy Way to Take an Epsom Salt Bath with Essential Oils

Now that you understand why you can’t just add essential oils to your bathwater or even to your Epsom salt first, and you also know why it’s so important to safely dilute them before adding to the bath, it’s time to share my favorite (read: the easiest) way to get the job done.

You won’t have to hunt for a specialty bath or shower gel.

You won’t end up with a slick oil ring on your bathtub.

You just need two simple ingredients that most naturally-minded homes keep around: Castile soap and a liquid oil, like olive oil, avocado oil, or almond oil.

Here’s how to safely take an Espom salt bath with essential oils, the easy way:

  1. In a small dish, combine 1 teaspoon Castile soap with 1 teaspoon carrier oil, like olive oil, avocado oil, or almond oil.
  2. Add 3-5 drops of essential oil and stir to thoroughly dilute.
  3. Add the mixture to your running bathwater. You can add the Epsom salt before or after you add the diluted essential oils.
  4. Occasionally, tiny flecks of solid, white oil will separate out from the Casile soap solution in the bath. If that happens, don’t panic. Just give the bathwater a good swirl and it should dissolve back in again. I’ve only had this happen once.
  5. Enjoy your soak! If you want some extra TLC, enjoy a homemade rose face mask while you soak.

As you can see, this isn’t a complicated process and you don’t need any special herbal and aromatherapy techniques to do it.

But it’s important. Safely diluting your essential oils in the bath will give you a relaxing experience that can even boost your overall wellness. Forgetting to dilute them, or diluting them ineffectively, can leave you with a painful skin reaction you won’t soon forget.

Oh, and don’t forget to lock the bathroom door before you hop in the bath, too. That’s important, too.

Have you ever added essential oils to an Epsom salt bath?

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    1. Very helpful tips! Thanks! Came here after googling why my skin had pins and needles while and after taking a bath yesterday… Guess it cuz i didn’t dilute my oils! 😅 Thank god the sensation has passed fast and no side affects, but now I know. Man, it’s good to be able to google this stuff. 🤣

      1. I’ve been there, Tati! Sweet orange got me a couple of times before I wised up and did more research. 😉 Glad this helped you!

    2. Hi Kristen,
      Thank you for sharing. I seldom need an excuse to drop into the tub. An Epsom soak with essential oils continues to be a perfect addition to my evenings. The benefits are immediate and lasting. I was intrigued with the addition of your carrier oils. Another benefit.

      Its heartening to find all-natural products in more and more places in our lives. As we think, we grow.
      Take care and stay safe,

      Richard aka Bubbles
      Tamarack Soap Works

      1. Thanks, Richard! Wishing you the best with your soap business. Looks like you’re doing a great thing there!

    3. So I followed your recipe for an epson salt bath (1 tsp carrier oil, 1 tsp castile soap, essential oils and then the epsom salts) and got a bath with a ton of floating flakes. I looked it up and found a lot of website saying not to mix epsom salts with castile soap. Apparently one is a base and the other is acidic and it causes the soap to solidify and cancels out some of the benefits of the epsom salts. Did you not have this problem? Can you discuss this?

      1. Hi Kristy! I’m really sorry that happened to you. I’ve used this method for years and have never had that happen. From my understanding, Epsom salt is only slightly acidic, so I’m surprised it caused the castile soap fats to desaponify. I know that happens if you mix castile soap with vinegar. I wonder if your water is also slightly acidic? Or perhaps did you use any vinegar to recently wash your tub? Or maybe you used much more Epsom salt than I do? I usually use around 1/2 to 1 cup. I’d love to think through this with you because I don’t want to give faulty suggestions to anyone. 🙂

    4. Hi Kristen, Jane here again:)
      The reason I ask about the Castile soap is that one supplier said that ;
      “Some essential oils do not mix perfectly with a natural soap base. These may include lemon, lemongrass, clove, eucalyptus, and possibly others. Test carefully when using these oils. Orange oils and other essential oils may leave the mixture and float on top if too much is used. Warm and stir to get them back in. Wait 24 hours to check for separation.” (MysticMoments)

      So that has put me off a little in using it.

      Thank you again

      1. Hi again Jane! If you’re using a small amount of essential oil, suitable for adding to bathwater, you don’t need to worry it will separate out from the Castile soap. Combining Castile soap with a carrier oil will give you a really nice way to dilute the essential oils, so it’s my preferred method. But like I mentioned with your other comment, you can leave out the Castile soap if you’d like. It’ll just cause the oil to separate out from the bathwater, but that won’t be a safety issue. Hope that helps!

    5. Hi, I have just read this excellent guide, thank you for explaining it and posting!
      I have a question.
      Can I add essential oils to Fractionated coconut oil, thoroughly mix then add this to the Epsom salts, then add to the Bath? Forgoing the Castile soap?
      I wondered if I could make up a jar of the salts in this way with some added dried rose petals from my garden to give as a gift.
      Thank you for your time.

      1. Hi Jane! Yes, you can skip the Castile soap, but just know that the oil will separate out from the bath salts and float to the top of the bathwater. The Castile soap helps keep the oil evenly dispersed through the water.

    6. I just had a very painful skin reaction in the bath and now I know why! Thank you for this article it was really helpful. And if anyone reading this did the same thing, I have added some sudocrem to my skin and it has soothed the burning.

    7. Would you recommend combining the bath salts and the castille soap/carrier oil/essential oil blend into a jar for later use? Also, how do you feel about using natural solubilizers to make an essential oil bath soak? Thanks!

      1. Yes, you can definitely make up a batch ahead of time, Eric. They make nice homemade gifts, too! As far as solubilizers, I think they could be fine if that’s your preference. I would use Solubol as opposed to polysorbates. I haven’t used it in a bath myself since I find castile soap and a carrier oil more convenient. But other people use it that way and it will keep the EOs dispersed through your bathwater.

    8. I love epsom salt baths.I like to use clary sage or ylang ylang. Lemongrass is good, too, along with lavender. now I need to go and take a bath…..

      1. Oh, I bet clary sage would be an excellent choice for premenstrual symptoms! I can’t use it now since I’m pregnant, but that’s a good one to use in the future. Ylang ylang is one of my absolute favorites, too.