Epsom salts, a crystallized mineral derived from magnesium sulfate, often appears in "detox" bath blends and salt scrub products. Its exfoliating, softening action also helps release impurities from the body while adding mineral content. Depending on which of Epsom salt's properties you wish to use, you may find suitable substitutes from a range of all-natural ingredients.
Like Epsom salts, sea salts draw impurities from the body while providing cleansing and exfoliating action. MayoClinic.com recommends a sea salt bath as an effective substitute for Epsom salt to remove the scaly skin and irritation associated with psoriasis. Sea salts are considered much less irritating to the skin than many commercial soaps. A 2005 study conducted by University of Kiel's Department of Dermatology in Germany concluded that the magnesium in Dead Sea salts improves skin hydration and soothes skin irritations while boosting the skin barrier's ability to repair itself. Several varieties of sea salt are available, from the traditional kind derived from the Dead Sea to colorful salts collected from Hawaii, India and France.
Simple table salt contains many of the same therapeutic values as sea salt and Epsom salt, notes author Kathi Keville in her book "Herbs for Health and Healing." Her bath salts formula combines ½ cup table salt with 1 tbsp. each borax and baking soda. Add essential oils, if desired. Use all or half of the formula at bath time.
Like Epsom salts, vinegar adds cleansing properties to a bath, while also easing the aches and pains after a workout. Add 1 to 2 cups apple cider or white vinegar to a warm bath.
Oatmeal, barley and bran are the most frequently used soaking grains for soothing irritated, dry skin, notes Natural beauty author Dina Falconi in her book "Earthly Bodies and Heavenly Hair." Add 2 cups finely ground grains to bathtub to heal conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dry skin and chapped skin.
Borax and Baking Soda
The household ingredients borax and baking soda each make bathwater silkier while adding mineral content and cleansing action. Use them alone or in mineral and herbal blends.
Clay can substitute for Epsom salts in cases where the drawing out of impurities is desired. Most often used in facial masks, clays also work effectively in "detox" bath formulas, according to Falconi. Use green clay for high mineral content and maximum drawing power, or white kaolin clay for a more neutral effect.
To mimic Epsom salts' ability to soothe aching muscles, use essential oils that contain similar therapeutic properties. Falconi recommends a bath blend of 1 drop each thuja, lavender, tangerine and white pine essential oils. Use them alone or in a sea salt blend.
For those not afraid of pungent bathing experiences, try 1 to 2 tsp. mustard powder in the bathtub, Falconi recommends. The powder opens the skin's pores and releases impurities, achieving a similar "detox" effect to an Epsom bath. To nip colds in the bud by sweating out the toxins, add 1 tbsp. mustard powder to a basin of hot water and soak your feet for 10 minutes before bedtime.