Treating Skin Infection With a Warm Soak

Does the Popular Cure-All Really Work?

Young woman lying in a bath

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A good, warm soak is not just for relaxing or something you enjoy during a spa treatment. This tried-and-true therapy has long been used to treat muscle and joint pain, as well as a number of dermatological problems.

When used to treat a skin infection, a warm soak may not only speed up the healing process by promoting the drainage of ulcers and sores, it can provide short-term relief to those experiencing pain, itchiness, or inflammation.

Benefits of a Warm Soak

Warm soaks are one of the most underrated ways to treat problematic skin conditions. They are simple, offer immediate relief, and can be done in the privacy of your own home.

Warm soaks work by using heat to dilate blood vessels, allowing a greater flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the affected area. It also increases the very permeability of tissue itself, allowing larger immune cells (and even antibiotics) closer to the site of infection. 

Treating Skin Problem With Epsom Salts

Plain water can often irritate the skin, particularly if there is exposed tissue. As a result, people will often turn to Epsom salts baths, which are believed to be gentler in treating everything from sunburn and psoriasis to bruises and eczema.

Epsom salts are a crystallized form of magnesium sulfate found in many commercial bath crystals (minus the fragrance, dyes, and essential oils). They are thought to be effective in removing toxins from the skin and promoting the active drainage of open wounds.

While popularly embraced as a home-based cure-all, it is still unclear whether the salts or the simple act of soaking provides the actual relief. What we do know is that Epsom salts, as an agent, is not harmful to the skin and that any absorption of magnesium through skin tissue is not considered problematic.

Though there isn't conclusive evidence that they improve skin consideration, milk baths have been used as a folk remedy for things like sunburn, skin irritations, hyperpigmentationeczema, and psoriasis.

How to Make an Epsom Salts Bath

To make an Epsom salts bath, bring a large pot of water to the boil and then pour the water into a washbasin to cool. When it reaches a comfortable temperature, add 1/2 cup of the salts and stir until fully dissolved. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with finished.

While you should never soak for longer than 15 minutes (as this can strip moisture and oils from the skin), you can repeat the procedure for up to five times a day. Just allow the skin to dry off fully between soaks for a least an hour or two.

For those needing a full body soak, fill a bathtub with warm water and add two cups of Epsom salt, stirring until dissolved. Soak for no more than 10 minutes and then rinse and dry as before.

As Epsom salts tend to dehydrate the skin, apply a topical cream to the infected area, if needed, and apply lotion to the rest of your body to fully moisturize.

A Word From Verywell

Epsom salts cannot be used in isolation to treat serious or persistent skin infections. Always consult with a doctor if you have any dermatological problem that worsens or doesn't go away. It's important to always advise your health provider of any home or non-prescription treatments you may be taking, including the topical use of Epsom salts.

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