Are Epsom Salt Soaks Really a Good Way to Treat Sore Muscles?

Epsom Salts Can Dry Out Your Skin

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Epsom salts have long been touted as a great way to soften skin. Many users enjoy their effects on the toughest skin areas, particularly on the feet, and regularly use them in baths.

These salts should be used with caution, however. Epsom salts can dry your skin out and this can be a problem for those who deal with dry skin regularly and during the winter months.

How often can you use Epsom salt in your bath or foot wash?

There are a number of recommendations for use and alternatives that may be a better solution for some people.

What Are Epsom Salts?

Epsom salts are a naturally occurring chemical compound called magnesium sulfate. They are called "salts" because of their crystalline chemical structure. While Epsom salts look a bit like the salt used to season food, they are not edible.

Epsom salt is not a brand name and many companies produce Epsom salts. The name Epsom is capitalized because it is derived from a saline spring in Surrey, England.

When used in a bath, Epsom salts dissolve and are absorbed by the skin. This can cause the skin to soften and draws out some of the substances that the skin naturally absorbs throughout the day. According to anecdotal evidence and some research, use of Epsom salts can soothe sore muscles, reduce cold symptoms, and help eliminate itchiness caused by poison ivy or mosquito bites.

How Often Can Epsom Salts Be Used?

Occasional use of Epsom salts (especially on the feet) does not seem to be harmful. Many people swear by Epsom salts though there does not seem to be many scientific references to its use.

There are a few cautions about using Epsom salts, however, and they are mostly for people with dry skin.

Start with Occasional Use

When using Epsom salts, be very careful about drying out your skin. Start with just a little (1/4 cup) in the bath and gradually increase as needed. Monitor your skin closely for dryness.

At first, try an Epsom salt bath once a week to see how your skin reacts. It may be that you need to avoid Epsom salt baths in the wintertime when both the air and your skin tend to be drier. You may be able to take them more frequently in the summer when the humidity is higher.

The Experts Weigh in on Epsom Salts

The FDA does not seem very impressed with Epsom salts, even for foot care.

  • They claim that Epsom salt foot baths show no benefit over soaking in a regular table salt bath when it comes to softening the skin on the foot.
  • They further caution that too much soaking in Epsom salt can cause excessive drying of the feet.
  • People with diabetes and others with fragile skin are advised to soak in a foot bath with a liquid dishwashing soap that includes skin softeners instead.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (part of the NIH) does mention that an Epsom salt bath can help remove or soften any scaling that occurs with psoriasis.

Source:

Food and Drug Administration. Taking Care of Your Feet.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Psoriasis.

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