It has to be said that winter does have its advantages, in terms of men’s style at least. From the Timberland 6-Inch boot, (our preference is the Heritage from Icon range in burgundy), to the goosedown Barbour jacket, classics become practical as well as fashionable. And of course, a large Lagavulin 16 Year is simply an essential protection against the elements.
But in many other ways, the season is a Tough Mudder for the body, mind, and spirit.
Cold air dries out and stresses the skin, leading to blotchy cheeks, flaky dry patches, and the dreaded bearddruff. Lack of sunlight results in interrupted sleep patterns, and a lack of vitamin D, leading to the winter blues, which aren’t exactly a good look. Ironically, despite this and your resulting hibernation instinct, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas, and New Year present an endless whirl of social opportunities. Luckily, research shows that investing in a quality bath oil can provide a zero-maintenance defence against winter’s assaults, keeping you looking and feeling your best whatever the weather.
How Winter Dries You Out
As humidity drops with the temperature, the dry air acts as an all-encompassing wick, leaching moisture from your epidermis. Meanwhile, the cold tightens your pores, reducing blood circulation, which dampens the production of sebum, the body’s natural protective oil.
Moving indoors into central heating further dehydrates your dermis, creating grey, sunken pallor more suited to Jacob Rees-Mogg. The weather also exacerbates dry skin conditions, such as eczema, and psoriasis. Fortunately, a high-quality bath oil containing essential oils can help rejuvenate skin, and perk up your circulation, preventing you from looking like Nosferatu.
How Bath Oil Helps You Out
Eureka moments for baths began and ended with Archimedes’ discovery of displacement theory. While showers have evolved rain shower systems, side jets, variable pulses and all manner of other innovations, the most important advance in bath-time technology is the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite. But sometimes tradition is best. It’s no coincidence that bathing culture has evolved independently in so many societies through the ages. And central to all of these has been the use of essential oils. From ancient Roman thermae to the European spa renaissance, practitioners of traditional and modern medicines noticed their topical benefits, and developed ways to utilise them.
One of the most crucial advantages to using a bath oil is its ability to restore and support skin barrier function. This is the biological mechanism which prevents loss of moisture, protects against bacterial and viral infections, and helps to prevent environmental pathogens from working their way into your system. For example, rosemary oil has been used for centuries to improve circulation, while geranium’s antioxidant properties protect against damage from free radicals. A good bath oil also replenishes lost moisture, meaning you don’t need to apply extra moisturiser afterwards.
As strange as it may seem, a bath is an essential part of your fitness routine. Put simply, a warm bath is liquid physio. Although a quick shower at the gym might feel refreshing, for a truly effective post-gym recovery session, a bath is best. Eucalyptus and lavender oil have been shown to reduce inflammation, easing sore muscles and boosting recovery. Meanwhile, lemon oil has been used as a topical analgesic since the early Amazonian era.
Recent research from the University of Freiberg has proven that a 40 degree bath is much more effective at fighting symptoms of depression than the same amount of time spent exercising. Even without the added benefits of a good quality oil, a warm soak three times a week helps strengthen and maintain your circadian rhythms, which are easily thrown out of whack by the shorter days and increased exposure to artificial light. These benefits are supercharged by adding essential oils such as exotic verbena and lavender, which help with regulating the sleep cycle. This results in more reliable – and more restful – sleep.
A bath with essential oils is a mental health superfood, without the embarrassment of being spotted buying quinoa in Whole Foods. The ritual is an introduction to mindfulness through grooming, guaranteeing relaxing, contemplative and (perhaps most importantly) phone-free time to yourself. High grade essential oil-based bath oil also has soothing, invigorating aromatherapeutic properties, which have the added advantage of smelling great. You grew out of using Lynx when you were a teenager – it’s time to give your bathing products the same upgrade you gave your cologne.
A Final Word of Warning
It’s worth shopping around – lots of bath oils use chemical analogues to create faux-luxury products on the cheap. Like New World wines, these substances are big and bold, but without many of the more complex, subtle esters and terpenes which provide character – and effectiveness. Harvesting and distilling essential oils – and knowing how to blend them – is a laborious and expensive process. For our money, OLVERUM Bath Oil, a favourite of natural wellbeing cognoscenti since 1931, is by far the best option. Blending all the essential oils we’ve mentioned (and more), it has multiple therapeutic benefits in all categories and a sumptuous unisex fragrance to boot. For once this is definitely a case of you getting what you pay for.