Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Natural Remedies: Epsom Salts

Epsom salts are fast becoming a beauty staple. Costing a fraction of the price of designer potions - you can pick up a tub for £1.25 at your local chemist - they’re being hailed as a miracle fix for everything from greasy hair to a bloated stomach and lacklustre skin.

The salts’ healing properties were discovered in the early 17th century when a farmer living near Epsom, Surrey, discovered a spring rich in magnesium sulphate. It wasn’t long before the great and the good were flocking to ‘take the waters’ - and now they’re back on the beauty radar. Here’s our guide to an Epsom salts makeover...


Bathing in Epsom salts helps to reduce water retention and tummy bloating, says life coach Janey Holliday. She recommends a bath three times a week in a dilution of two mugs of Epsom salts per bath.
‘When you have an Epsom salts bath, magnesium and sulphate are absorbed through the skin,’ she says.

‘Because our skin is porous, reverse osmosis takes place, which means toxins and excess fluids are drawn out of the skin as the goodness goes in.’

The end result is a flattened tummy. No wonder, then, that an Epsom salts bath is popular with models the night before a bikini or lingerie photoshoot.

Victoria Beckham reportedly takes such baths to streamline her figure. ‘I love Epsom salts baths to detox, revive muscles and de-puff my skin,’ says Gwyneth Paltrow. Celebrity trainer James Duigan, who works with Elle Macpherson, recommends using a body brush to stimulate the skin and open the pores before a 20-minute soak in an Epsom salts bath.

Epsom salts will soak up excess oil from the hair. Just add a handful when you shampoo and wash as normal.

The Epsom Salt Council recommends making a volumising mask by mixing one part hair conditioner with one part Epsom salts. Warm this mixture in a pan and work it through the hair. Leave on for 20 minutes and then rinse.

Hair will look fuller and feel softer, and the minerals will help to repair and strengthen heat-damaged ends. It’s particularly good for smoothing frizz out of curls.

For even-toned, summer-ready legs, you can lessen the appearance of bruises by applying an Epsom salts compress.

Soak a flannel in a cupful of cold water mixed with 2 tbsp Epsom salts and apply directly to the skin.

Exfoliate and deep cleanse the skin by mixing ½ tsp Epsom salts with your usual cleanser. Massage on to the skin, then rinse with cool water and dry.

‘This will boost your skin’s magnesium level,’ says therapist Philip Steward.

‘Epsom salts are a natural cleanser,’ he says. ‘They rejuvenate and rehydrate skin as well as removing toxins. Because the minerals are being absorbed through the skin, you can’t overdose on it.’

Got tired, hot feet? Not only will Epsom salts soothe aches and pains after a day in heels, they are an anti-inflammatory and will also help to reduce swelling and puffiness.

Add half a cup of Epsom salts to a large bowl of warm water and soak your feet for ten to  20 minutes.

The salt will remove odours and soften dry skin, which can then be removed easily with a pumice stone or foot file.


Soaking in an Epsom salts bath after a long-haul flight has a sedative effect on the body.

The minerals help muscles and joints to relax and this leads to a more restful sleep, giving the body a chance to re-energise.

Magnesium sulphate activates the body’s healing mechanisms and many athletes take a soak the night before a race.

A long soak will also help with aches, stiffness, tightness and soreness after exercise. Rub achy areas with a flannel before getting in the bath. Don’t rinse off afterwards.

Rubbing the skin with Epsom salts removes dead skin cells and promotes healing and rejuvenation.
Massage handfuls of Epsom salts over wet skin, starting with the feet and working upwards towards the face. Then have a bath to rinse.

The magnesium can also help reduce cellulite as it draws toxins and fluids from the skin.

Celebrity skincare guru Ole Henriksen recommends a shower smoothie: half-a-cup of Epsom salts, half-a-cup coffee grounds, 1 tsp eucalyptus oil and enough sesame oil to form a smooth paste. Mix together and work into the skin.

‘Epsom salts have amazing detoxifying properties,’ he says.

Post-scrub, your skin will look luminous, smooth and soft and will better absorb skincare products.
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Epsom salts are also hailed as a budget treatment for skin prone to spots.

Rich in minerals, they can be used as an exfoliator to remove dead skin and decrease the depth of acne scars.

Ease an overloaded or poorly functioning digestive system with Epsom salts.

Magnesium sulphate works as a laxative, drawing water into the bowel to soften stools, making them easier to pass.

Epsom salts taken internally must be food grade and it’s best to take them before breakfast in a powder form that can be mixed with water.

There are possible side-effects, including gastro-intestinal irritation, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, so the advice is to speak to your doctor before taking Epsom salts.