Do you remember your first bubble bath? Heck, who am I kidding… the real question is – do you remember your first novelty bubble bath bottle? How about the iconic Max matey with a sailor hat styled cap?… and let’s not forget Molly matey and her eye patch wearing friend Pegleg matey. Of course these days it’s all about Frozen Elsa and Pepper pig bubble baths.
It’s safe to say bubble bath addiction is most definitely nurtured young. It’s associated with happy feelings of relaxing baths followed by a welcomed adult (read servant) who not only dries you off but promptly carries you up to bed – you didn’t even have to turn the lights off. Those were the days.
With all these feel good associations it’s easy to see why bubble bath is the easiest go-to for an indulgent soak.
The question is – is bubble bath safe for your skin?
Is bubble bath good for your skins health? Is it moisturising? Is it cleansing? Does bubble bath give or take?
Let’s take a look dear friend…
What Does Bubble Bath Do?
On the most basic level bubble bath makes, you guessed it – bubbles. You’re always 1-step ahead of me ‘eh. Bubble bath is made up from ingredients that foam, ingredients called surfactants, foam boosters and cleansing agents.
While that sounds technical, I bet you know at least one of these ingredients. The most common and often quoted as ‘we don’t contain this ingredient’ is sodium lauryl sulphate or SLS for short.
What is sodium lauryl sulphate?
Sodium lauryl sulphate is all of the above. It’s a surfactant, it makes foam and it’s a cleansing agent. This means it loves both oil and water, read it can dissolve up impurities and even waterproof makeup. Most things can only dissolve in 1, ever tried to water wash Vaseline from your hands? Or ever tried to home mix balsamic vinegar with olive oil?
Normally the 2 just aren’t mixing, but adding in a surfactant is like waving a magic wand. Taa-daa – suddenly oil and water mix together like best friends.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 31 January 2017
That means the active ingredients in bubble bath can;
- Remove waterproof makeup i.e. makeup that’s oil based.
- Remove makeup.
- Cleanse skin from dirt, pollution and impurities.
- Wash off some of your skins naturally water resistant oils.
Take a look at a couple of bubble bath ingredients lists – the bolded bits are the ingredients that make bubble bath, bubble… oh and I’ll call out why all the other ingredients are there, after.
See sodium laureth sulphate (SLES)? That’s pretty darn similar to our buddy SLS ‘eh. They’re named very similarly because they are very similar and you guessed it SLES does that exact same thing… as well as cocamidopropyl betaine and cocamide DEA.
Big names you don’t need to remember but you’ll probably get used to seeing! Ingredients that cleanse skin of impurities that are both water and oil based – remember water usually only dissolves up watery stuff and oil only oily stuff. Surfactants change the game.
All of the other ingredients on this list are functions… there’s ingredients to make this bubble bath thicker than water (sodium chloride), to make this bubble bath smell nice (parfum, Citronellol, Geraniol), to make this bubble bath have a shelf life longer than a week (preservatives – Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone), oh and also to colour it rose and raspberry flavour (CI 17200).
See how this ones called a bath soak rather than a bubble bath? Fancy ‘eh. Notice how the ingredients between the bath foam and this bath soak are very, very similar? Oh and the extras – they’re all the similar too. Until you become an ingredients list reader, take my word on those. There’s still the fragrance, the preservatives, the thickeners and the colouring ingredients.
Is Bubble Bath Safe For Your Skin?
Fact – bubble bath contains the same active ingredients as shower gel. It’s just when you use bubble bath, it’s – you guessed it (oh boy you’re good at this!)… in the bath. Shower gel for showering, bubble bath for bathing. Sorted.
The difference between the 2 is bubble bath has a lot longer to interact with your skin. I mean it all depends on how good that book is ‘eh and if that holds out – how long does bath water take to cool?
When you’re sitting in a tub full to the brim with bubbles – it’s not just playfully pretty, it’s also interacting with your skin.
During this time it’s dissolving up impurities collected from a hard day of office work, then it’s onto your skins natural oils.
Ever gotten out of a bubble bath to feel like your skin is a tad dry?
Bubble bath isn’t great for your skin.
Bubble bath contains;
- Cleansing ingredients like SLES which can eat up your skins natural oils.
- Fragrance ingredients that are known allergens and can irritate skin.
- More dye and preservative ingredients your skin really doesn’t need to be exposed to – we’ll be chatting all about preservatives and how they affect healthy skin bacteria soon. Be sure to join the HonestyFYS #SkinTips community below to be kept in the skloop (aka, skin – loop).
These bubble bath ingredients work away faster when there’s some heat about town. That means the hotter your bath – the more quickly your skin will feel dry. Oh and the more quickly ingredients that are irritating have to cause you skin irritation. Ever gotten a little bit errr sensitive or tingly in a certain place after the bubble bath’s been out? Yup – this is why.
With all this new skin knowledge you might be asking yourself just what can I use, that loves my skin and makes me feel a little bit special? Great question my friend – skincare scientist to your rescue.
3 Homemade (or buyable) Alternatives to Bubble Bath
Wouldn’t it be great if you could lay back and relax while something else did the hard work of conditioning your skin? A little like your previously experienced adult servant ‘eh. If this is your aim or you have sensitive skin, eczema, dermatitis, or just want to be naturally kind to yourself then switching out bubble bath for 1 of these 3 alternatives is a great move.
Oh and p.s. these 1 ingredient wonders can be brought and turned into homemade alternatives. If on the other hand you want a vanity ready alternative I’ve also name dropped a few beautiful alternatives.
Let’s do this…
1. Oatmeal Soak
You know that stuff you make porridge from? Yea that stuff – well it turns out all those heart healthy bowls of goodness also have a lot to offer your skin. Oatmeal is soothing, moisturizing and protecting. It contains anti-histamine like ingredients, ingredients that act a little like hyaluronic acid and ingredients that are anti-oxidants.
Read about these in the skincare world and you’ll hear of skin boosting beta-glucan, soothing avenanthramides and antioxidant ferulic acid.
The bottom line – oatmeal contains a lot of ingredients that are really great for your skin. Before you go sprinkling the porridge oats in – there’s 1 thing you need to know. These ingredients only become skin active when the oats are ground up into really tiny flakes aka the oatmeal looks a lot like flour.
When this happens – oatmeal becomes known as colloidal oatmeal and it dissolves up to disappear into water.
The Honesty recommendation – switch out bubble bath for a scoop of colloidal oatmeal, something like;
- Aveeno, Fragrance Free Soothing Bath Treatment (£10/8 sachets)
- Mystic Moments, Oatmeal Colloidal Powder (£10/100g)
…or try something ready made with lots of other great ingredients like the;
- Shea Mooti, Baby’s Soothing Bath Soak (£10/200g) – anything for baby’s skin is also great for adult skin.
2. Almond Oil Bath Soak
Oils are great for your skin… and despite rumours, not all oils make your skin feel oily, some are even drying. Remember how we said those bubbling ingredients in bubble bath can steal away your skins natural oils? Well this is like doing the exact opposite. Adding a dash of almond oil to your bath will help moisturise and condition your skin. You might not even need moisturiser after.
The Honesty recommendation – switch out bubble bath for a splash of almond oil, something like;
- Mystic Moments, Sweet Almond Carrier Oil (£6/500ml)
…or try something ready made with other indulgent ingredients like the;
- Burt’s Bees, Lemon and Vitamin E Body and Bath Oil (£9/100ml)
3. Epsom Salts Bath Soak
After a relaxing muscle soak? A lot of bubble baths claim this because of bath salts like Epsom salts which you might also hear called magnesium salts. Magnesium is also an important ingredient in dead sea salts – it’s been linked to the abilities of these ingredients to help treat skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis.
The Honesty recommendation – switch out bubble bath for a sprinkle of Epsom salts, something like;
- Epsom Salts Co., Epsom Salts (Medical Grade) (£5/1000g)
…or try something ready made with other skin healthy ingredients like the;
- Soapsmith, Lavender Hill Bath Soak (£16/350ml) – saving the best for last as this pick contains Epsom salts as well as colloidal oatmeal, dead sea salt, coconut milk powder and… cocoa butter – that will moisturise like the almond oil we nattered about above.
Which will you choose? Tell me what bubble bath did you grow up with? Will you be switching to a skin healthy alternative? Tell me in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She is founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.