Are epsom salts absorbed through the skin, and if so, is a cup of salts in the bath harmful? And can they cause kidney stones?
Dear Dr. Roach: In the winter, I enjoy an occasional soak in a hot bath, especially when my muscles ache after a hard day, and I often add a cup or more of Epsom salts. These seem to make the bath even more soothing and therapeutic, and I feel especially clean afterward.
Am I crazy, or is there something to this? I’m wondering about the chemistry. Are these salts absorbed through the skin, and if so, isn’t a cup of salt rather harmful? And can they cause kidney stones? I had one of those last year and wonder if this had anything to do with it.
Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) is used by many people as a soak and for purported health benefits. Many people feel that they make the bath especially relaxing. While magnesium is a critically important salt, we get the magnesium we need through food nearly all the time, while magnesium supplementation is necessary on occasion, such as in people taking certain diuretics.
However, although there may be some small absorption, magnesium is not at all well-absorbed through the skin, so there is neither harm nor benefit to soaking in Epsom salts. A cup is a commonly recommended amount of Epsom salt to add to a bath.
Sodium chloride (table salt) definitely increases the risk of kidney stones when taken by mouth, but magnesium does not. You can enjoy your Epsom salt bath without fear.
Dear Dr. Roach: At 63, I’m familiar with age-related loss of elasticity, most noticeably with my skin. I’ve assumed that it was occurring all throughout my body. I hadn’t really worried about having to urinate three