Bath Prescriptions The Science Of Bathing

Photo Courtesy of Dr Barbara Kubicka

The Healing Power of Water: An Introduction To Bath Prescriptions


Words: Abisoye Odugbesan

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them”, wrote Sylvia Plath in her novel the Bell Jar (1963).
Turns out that there was a deeper truth to this and bathing can indeed cure more than just sore muscles and aid relaxation. We in the modern western world have come to associate bathing as simply an essential practice for personal hygiene or as an indulgent session of me-time. However, the science of bathing more specifically bathing for medicinal purposes is a practice that is centuries old.

“Baths have played a significant role in many cultures with purification, healing, beautifying and spiritual cleansing all being key areas of concern’”. says Dr Barbara Kubicka, leading Aesthetic Doctor. In her debut book The Bath Project, Dr Kubicka explores the history of bathing from an anthropological perspective and the philosophical significance of the act in cultures from Mexico to Japan. The research findings for the book have helped to inspire recipes for her bathing prescriptions which she formulates for clients to help address skin needs from exfoliation and detoxification to hydration and nutrition. “I looked to many cultures, traditions and alternative medicine to find the best combination of effective medical ingredients with a holistic approach of aromatherapy and herbalism”.

So what is a bathing prescription and should we all be taking our bath time a little more seriously? Here Dr Kubicka talks through everything you need to know to make your bathing experience both more tranquil and therapeutic.

Photo Courtesy of Dr Barbara Kubicka

What was the most interesting/ surprising finding when researching for your book?

The most surprising was that bathing is very popular in many different cultures and religions. Every part of the world has its own version of the bathing ritual.


Which culture would you say has the most unique approach to bathing?

It’s very hard to say because they are so different….. I think Japanese Onsen is my personal favourite due to the beauty of the ritual and the importance of it. The confirmation of which is the fact that even nowadays houses are designed around the bathing room, which has to be in a specific part of the property with a garden view. The bath is an obligation before starting a relaxing evening with family and dinner to wash off daily stress. From other interesting facts, in the Jewish religion bathing is a part of the wedding ceremony.


What is a bathing prescription and why did you start formulating them?

Bathing prescriptions came as a result of my experiments. I always wanted to create bath products that would address all needs of a person from their skin – exfoliation, hydration and nourishment to general emotional and psychological impact on their life.


What is the science behind healing through bathing?

There are more and more studies showing bathing benefits for dealing with insomnia and anxiety, however the wide tradition of bathing all over the world has to be proof itself that bathing supports good health and wellbeing.


How long does it take for you to formulate a prescription?

Formulating prescriptions in the beginning used to take me a long time, now with a combination of practice and knowledge it’s a matter of hours, ideas comes quickly but then I like to test it first and tweak before recommending it.


What factors do you take into consideration when formulating a prescription?

First is the main concern, if it’s more for psychological reasons I concentrate on herbs, aromatherapy oils and Bach remedies. If the main concern is more physical like skin quality or general symptoms then I would start with herbal infusion and follow it with specific organic acids or oils. Obviously, I need to know a person’s preferences in terms of senses and skin type to make it holistically appropriate. I try to combine as many elements as possible.

Can clients buy ready-made mixtures of ingredients?

At the moment they can follow one of the more generic prescriptions that are in my book, covering the most popular complaints like anxiety, tension, dry or acne prone skin. I encourage my readers to experiment themselves by breaking down the possible elements like herbs, oils clays etc. Most of the information are in tables so it’s fairly easy to follow. Finally, we are working on ready-made mixtures that will be available to purchase hopefully early next year. We will start with 4 basic formulations: relaxing, detox, energising and indulgence.

Which skin issues can you treat with a bathing prescription?

We have prescriptions rich in anti-inflammatory activities which is great for acne prone skin as well as those regulating sebum production, dry skin with mixtures rich in hydrating and nutritional? substances and ageing skin with prescriptions of a high concentration of vitamins and oils.

How do bathing prescriptions help with nutritional issues?

The most important issue is intoxication from heavy metals which is a very common condition and can be difficult to treat with conventional methods. There are many ways in which we are exposed to heavy metals – cooking in aluminium pans, storing foods in aluminium containers, fish, drinking tap water, flying and air pollution being one of the main culprits. The long-term health issues that develop as a consequence of constant exposure can be fatigue, anaemia, depression and hair loss. Detoxing baths can help with removing toxins from a person’s system. Magnesium salts can be a great way of supplementing this mineral through the skin as well as vitamin c with its antioxidant properties.


How quickly can clients expect to see results after they start using their prescription?

Depends on the concern. If it’s muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety or dry skin the improvement can be noticed even after the first bath. If it’s more complex then usually after a few sessions. It is important to treat it as a regular treatment rather than therapy. Once a week is a minimum to see the benefits. Best results are achieved when used 2-3 times a week.

How long do you need to soak in the bath to reap the benefits?

The best time in the bath is anything between 15-25min, longer than that can cause opposite effects.


How often should we be taking baths and does this vary depending on the condition?

A bath can be taken every day but the minimum is once a week for a simple condition. In most cases 2-3 times a week is recommended.

Does the temperature play a part, is there an ideal temperature to bathe in?

Temperature is crucial. The best is 38-42 degrees this is optimum temperature for both skin and ingredients, any hotter than that can cause damage to the natural oil layer of the skin.


Are there any other bathing rules that one should adhere to?

The most important is choosing the time of day – an evening bath is great for relaxation and insomnia issues whilst a morning one is better if you are using an energising prescription. During bathing it’s good to use an exfoliating cloth and after the bath rinsing the body with cool water.


Are there any ingredients that should not be used whilst bathing bath?

All foaming agents and bubble baths are very bad for the skin they remove natural oil sebum and can cause recurrent urine track infections.


Are there any combinations of ingredients to avoid?

The main interaction is between clay and oils, they shouldn’t be used together because they can cause blocked pores and acne.


What are your favourite ingredients to use in a bath and why?

It’s very difficult to pick just one or two ingredients, I like mixtures as they provide a combination of natural benefits, colours and aroma but these two are my favourites recipes.


For hydration
Camomile tea infusion
Himalayan salt 200g
5 ml Oil apricot kernel
5ml Calendula oil
Aroma 3 drops of black pepper, grapefruit and yang-yang aromatherapy oils
Bach remedies 3 drops of oak, chestnut bud, rock water
Tsp of turquoise food colouring (optional)

Temp 38 degrees, time 20min


For Nutrition

Base 200ml of milk
1 tbs manuka honey
Dead sea salt 200g
5ml Vit E in oil base 14000iu
5 ml Star flower or Borage oil
Aroma 3 drops of: rose, valerian root, juniper berry
Bach remedies 3 drops of: holly, rock water, red chestnut
Tsp of pink food colouring (optional)

Temp 40 degrees, time 25min


Words: Abisoye Odugbesan

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