Are Your Baths Too Long?

Person holding folded white towels.

A good bath can be the ultimate relaxation tool. Hot water releases the tension you’ve been holding all day and you get time to calm your mind and enjoy the sensations. Not to mention all the add-ons that make bath-time a thing of luxury. But how long should you stay in there? What’s a good amount of time for a bath?

First of all, let’s find out what happens when we take really long baths.

What’s Wrong With A Long Bath?

According to Dermatologist Laurence Meyer on The Scientific American, a soak in the tub hydrates your skin but only if it’s a brief soak. Our skin absorbs water but only to a certain point. If you stay in hot water too long the water your skin absorbed will leave your body and you end up with dry skin. Having said this, if you get out of the bath in time and put on lotion or oil, the water your skin absorbed is locked in.

So what’s the point where the skin starts expelling water instead of holding it? Most sources agree that between 10 to 30 minutes is the right length of time for a bath. However, our research didn’t find any scientific studies based around answering this question.

After 15 minutes the skin usually starts to get wrinkled or “pruney”. Whenever this happens, it’s an indication that it’s time to get out. To understand why, we wondered why skin gets pruney in the first place.

Why Does Skin Get Pruney?

You know the feeling — your skin shrivels up and the colour changes slightly. Your sense of touch even changes; you can feel individual lines in your skin when you touch your finger pads together. It grosses a lot of people out, truthfully.

There are two explanations out there for this.

Theory #1: Skin Absorbs Water

For those of us without a background in dermatology, here’s a simple summary of the first theory.

The epidermis (outermost layers of the skin) is thicker on the hands and feet than anywhere else on the body. When we soak our hands and feet in water for long periods of time our skin drinks up that water. Since the skin is already thick on the hands and feet, we see the skin swell and bunch together.

So it appears that the point where our hands and feet begin to swell, it means our skin has been filled with water. There is no need to stay in the bath past this point as we can get all the benefits from a bath in just 10 to 20 minutes.

So to find your optimal bath length, pay attention to how long it takes for your skin to get pruney and get out. Having said this, if you have preexisting skin conditions we recommend asking a healthcare professional for their advice.

Theory #2: New Research Says It’s From Blood Vessels Contracting

Although we weren’t able to track down the actual study that made this claim, two articles (1, 2) we came across say that the medical community no longer believes the aforementioned theory.

Instead, they say the wrinkles are caused by contracting blood vessels. The nervous system tells the blood vessels to become narrower which causes loose folds in the skin which we perceive as wrinkles.

Without more information on the new theory we can’t make any recommendations from it. Having said this, the available information says nothing about when the blood vessels contract regarding how long we should stay in the bath.

So we return to age old advice. Most people recommend taking baths between 10 to 30 minutes long and we can’t see any reason to disagree with this. As always, consult a healthcare professional if you have questions regarding health or skin conditions that may be affected by your bathing routine.

Disclaimer: This article was not written by health care professionals and should not be taken as professional advice. Please speak to a health care professional if you have concerns with your health or well-being.

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