Essential Oils in the Bath - Everyday Essentials

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Everyday Essentials by Plant Therapy

Essential Oils in the Bath

The only thing more relaxing than a bath at the end of a hard day is perhaps adding a little of your favorite essential oil or essential oil blend and letting the aroma surround you. The busy thoughts dissipate, the sore, tired muscles relax and one can even momentarily drift off.

It can be wonderful or it can be miserable if essential oils are not added to the bath correctly. As aromatherapists, we have heard stories of major irritations,  including to children, from something seemingly benign as citrus oils or Lavender. Usually, it is the delicate area that hits the water first, but it can be anywhere on the body.

Essential oils love fat and lipids. They are lipophilic, not hydrophilic; that is they combine well with fats, but not with water.  Dry ingredients like Epsom salt are hydrophilic and dissolve well in water. Essential oils need something that will work well with both lipophilic and hydrophilic to bring them together.  Milk, Epsom salt, hydrosols, or cornstarch are not advised to use to disperse the essential oils. That is where solubilizers come in.

Two popular products, Solubol and Polysorbate are solubilizers and can be very helpful in allowing essential oils to disperse in water. It helps them to mix together and thus the essential oil is able to dilute and be much safer. We recommend using a small amount of essential oils in the bath, only 2-5 drops, first mixed with the solubilizer.  For children we recommend only Kidsafe oils be used.  Robert Tisserand recommends a 1:1 ration for the essential oils and either the Solubol or Polysorbate.

A dry product called Natrasorb could also be used. “This is modified tapioca starch. It will absorb and carry large quantities of carrier and essential oils and is particularly useful for bath products. The starch is processed to create little ‘pockets’ to hold the oils in a solid, powder form. Once the natrasorb bath comes into contact with the water, it dissolves and releases its carrier/fragrance load safely dispersing them into the water. It will not cling or leave a film on your skin or the tub. Very easy to use. Great for including in a dry shampoo. “Use from 1 to 50%.”  [1]

You may not know it, but you actually have some products at home that contain solubilizers. They can be found in body wash, shampoo, and bubble bath.  By adding 1 tbs of one of these products with your essential oils before adding to the bath water will help to emulsify. It’s best to use products without fragrance as they can throw off the PH balance and cause UTI’s. We also recommend using other bath products without fragrance or glitter.

Although carrier oils will dilute essential oils and make them safer, they will not disperse the essential oils in the water. Just as when you are making salad dressing and can see that oil and water or oil and vinegar don’t mix, essential oils or carrier oils and bath water will remain separated. It also can be a hazard as it can make the tub slippery.

Bath blend

By taking an extra minute to use one of these products containing emulsifiers mixed with your essential oils in your bath, you will be able to have an enjoyable and beneficial experience.

Reference:

[1]  Tisserand, Robert. “Bath Safety, how to use essential oils in the bath”.

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21 thoughts on “Essential Oils in the Bath”

  • Hi,

    Does anyone know if Natrasorb causes skin irritation or other health problems? I’m trying to do as much research as I can before I buy it. Also would arrowroot be something that can dissolve or disperse essential oils into water?

  • I would really like to see a blog/article post with lots of detail on what EO’s are not safe for bathing in and what oils can we use and diluation recomendations to go along with them. Often times I just want to go soak in the bath and relax and wish my aches and pains awy, but I’m not sure what oils I should’t use.
    Thank-you

    1. That’s a great idea! We’ll keep that in mind for the future. In the meantime, here are a few DIYs for bath salts and bath bombs to get you started.

  • Do I need to double-check the ingredients when I’m mixing EOs with my body wash, shampoo or bubble bath, or am I just safe to assume they’re all okay? Should I just mix enough for one bath at a time, or can I add some drops of EOs to the whole bottle?

    1. You are fine to assume they are all okay to use; commercial products will always have preservatives and emulsifiers in them. You can add some drops to the whole bottle as long as you are prepared to have that chosen aroma for the entire time the bottle lasts. I like to mix mine up before each bath in a separate bowl, just so I can customize it every time 🙂 But it’s all about your personal preference!

  • Silly question….I see here you suggest running directly under running water. I read somewhere else not to run under water but to wait until bath is full and then add. Can you clarify please. Thanks so much!

    1. Amanda, if you pour it under the running water it will help spread the blend around in the tub, however this is really a matter of personal preference 🙂

  • This is really helpful! I was wondering about safely using EO’s in the bathtub and I’m glad I looked on here before just adding some to the water.

  • Polysorbate appears to come in 20, 60 and 80… does it matter which is used? Is one better for all around DIY uses?

    1. It does matter in some cases, however, unfortunately since we are not professional formulators, we cannot comment to the safety or efficacy of emulsifiers/preservatives beyond what it is recommended. We encourage our customers to research further. 🙂

    1. It’s best to add the solubilizer when you add the essential oils. You can pre-make the bath salts with the essential oils and the solubilizers if you’d like, though. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container.

      1. I want to pre mix some Natrasorb into a jar with bath salts, then add essential oils later. How much Natrasorb do I need? Can you recommend a ratio of Natrasorb to Salt?

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