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The Ineffectiveness of ‘Detoxing’ from Epsom Salt Baths

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

It’s normal to raise an eyebrow at the term “detox.” Not only can the suggested effects of any supposed detox be false, but they can even be potentially risky (case in point: the generally unhealthy juice cleanse). But with the prevalence of the term — it has even extended into the beauty industry with skin and hair detoxes — it was only a matter of time before the concept of a “detox bath” gained popularity.

Search the words “detox bath” on Pinterest and you’ll probably be overwhelmed with the sheer number of suggestions for DIYs for soaks and bath bombs. You may even get drawn in and impulsively purchase a few essential oils and a bag of Epsom salts. There’s no shame in doing so — taking a bath is a relaxing form of self-care that can help you unwind and alleviate your post-run or weight room soreness. You may even get some meditation in too.

But labeling it a “detox bath” is a bit excessive, because what does detoxing really mean? The everyday kind of detoxification happens naturally when your metabolism functions as intended — for example, when your liver processes and eliminates toxins such as Tylenol or alcohol, explains Nitin Kumar, M.D., a physician based in Boston.

So how could a bath with some type of salt — specifically Epsom salts, also known as magnesium sulfate — assist with everyday detoxification? The theory is that after the Epsom salts break down into magnesium and sulfate in the water, your body absorbs the minerals through the skin, and these minerals then “extract” toxins from the body. Not only is there no proof to support this, but it’s also simply not how your body operates. There is no scientifically plausible way for any particle to penetrate the skin and remove toxins in this manner, according to Dr. Kumar.

Well, that’s settled.

Apart from “detoxing,” Epsom salt soaks have long been praised for their muscle-relaxing and sleep-inducing abilities attributable to their high magnesium content. While there are numerous scientifically backed and FDA-approved applications for Epsom salts (for instance, they can be ingested for a laxative effect), there isn’t much scientific evidence to confirm that Epsom salts — or specifically the magnesium within them — can assist with these types of home remedies.

If nothing else, studies have discovered that Epsom salt baths helped individuals simply due to the placebo effect, and there’s no potential harm.

In this instance, the calm and relaxed sensation of a pleasant hot bath might be erroneously ascribed to Epsom salts, when in reality it is simply submerging oneself in the bathtub (perhaps with a glass of wine – just mentioning) that should be acknowledged for inducing a state of tranquility.

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