Epsom salt is the common name given to the naturally occurring chemical compound magnesium sulfate. It was first discovered in Epsom, England, giving the compound its common name. Epsom became a spa town, drawing visitors from throughout England, until Epsom salt became widely available over the counter and tourism ceased.
Why has Epsom salt remained popular for centuries? It’s very versatile! People used to mix a little Epsom salt with water and drink it as a laxative. Now, it’s used more for soaking than stomach troubles, and can help refresh skin and hair. Here are a few ways to use Epsom salt in your personal care routine and around your home.
Epsom salt soak
Ask most runners and they probably swear by a good Epsom salt soak after a hard run. According to Dr. Gillian Palette, a Board Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner specializing in Cosmetic Dermatology and Esthetics, “The magnesium sulfate combo helps relieve sore muscles, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation; and if that is not enough, it can also relax the nervous system which can help us sleep better.”
You can also use essential oils to add to the benefits of an Epsom salt soak. Use it with eucalyptus to ease a stuffy head or lavender to help soothe the mind. Dr. Palette says, “Some advocate adding Epsom salt with an oil (like coconut oil) to a warm bath in the winter which will help lock moisture into the skin, but do this with caution as this may leave your bathtub slippery.”
You don’t have to get fully submerged to reap the benefits of an Epsom salt soak. Use it in a foot bath, or even a hand bath to help rejuvenate skin.
Soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salt is also said to help relieve sunburn discomfort, and itching from poison ivy and bug bites. Have a splinter? Try soaking the affected area in Epsom salt and water for several minutes, as some say it will reduce swelling around the splinter, making it easier to remove.
Dr. Pallette does not recommend using Epsom salt to exfoliate dead skin cells on the face, “as it may be too abrasive and may cause more harm than good. Exfoliating is an integral part of our skincare regimen (including the face), but sometimes physical exfoliation with coarse or irregularly shaped, sharp-edged exfoliants can be too abrasive and can cause broken capillaries and irritation.”
But Epsom salt can be used to create a gentle exfoliator for your lips. Hand-crush it, or use a grinder to get the magnesium sulfate crystals very tiny. Mix with a bit of coconut oil or a petroleum-based product and gently massage onto lips, then rinse with cool water.
You can also use Epsom salt as an exfoliator for your feet and hands. Mix Epsom salt with baby oil, coconut oil or another oil or petroleum-based product of your choice. Add a drop of your favorite essential oil. Then, simply scoop out the mixture and rub into your hands and feet. Let the mixture sit on your hands and feet for up to ten minutes, then rinse with cool water.
Mix a tablespoon of plain Epsom salt with your conditioner once a week. Use your fingers to distribute the mixture through your hair, working it into the roots. Let sit for up to three minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Epson salt helps reduce buildup from haircare products and oils naturally found on the scalp.
Around the House
Have a bathtub that just won't come clean? What about pots and pans with dried-on muck that just won’t come off? Try mixing one part Epsom salt with one part dish soap. The dish soap breaks down grease, dirt and grime even in the bathtub, and the crystal shape of the Epsom salt adds abrasive "oomph" to your cleaning efforts. Use a damp sponge to scrub, then rinse thoroughly.
From housekeeping to hair care and skin care, Epsom salt has stood the test of time because it is safe and versatile. Plain Epsom salt is also easy to find and inexpensive, so you don’t have to travel to Epsom, England to enjoy Epsom salt spa treatments. Tailor your own Epsom salt uses at home.