What to Know About Bath Bombs and Your Skin

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 11, 2022
5 min read

Bath bombs are a fun "party in a bath" additive that is fizzy and fragrant and leaves a swirl of beautiful colors in the water. They are easy to find and can be bought anywhere from a dollar store to a local boutique. 

Kids and their parents love to create bath bombs at home as a fun activity and exciting alternative to slime. With just a quick search on social media, "bath bomb art" can be found, shared by users across all social platforms. 

While bath bombs may be pretty to look at, not all bath bombs are made the same, and many share common characteristics that make their safety for your skin questionable. Ingredients in bath bombs can irritate the skin, and even big brands selling bath bombs aren't always totally honest about what's going into their product. 

Read on to find out whether bath bombs are good for your skin or if you should stop using them altogether.

When bath bombs hit the water, they erupt due to their combination of carbon dioxide and concentration of sodium bicarbonate. As soon as they're dropped in water, they begin to break down, fizz, create bubbles, and release an impressive array of colors, fragrances, and glitter used to make the bath bomb are released into the water until it eventually fizzles out. 

Even when bath bombs are created with natural ingredients, though, they can trigger skin sensitivity and cause itching or dryness.

Some of the most common harmful ingredients in bath bombs include: 

Fragrances: From exotic flowers to sweet, decadent vanilla scents, bath bombs seem to be available in almost every range of fragrances and are typically manufactured to appeal to young children with scents like cotton candy. Whether the bath bombs you're using contains synthetic fragrance or essential oils, though, both risk irritating sensitive skin. Companies who make bath bombs are not required to list all chemicals they add, meaning you may be unaware of other harmful chemicals you're soaking in. 

Dyes: Whether natural or artificially made in a lab, dyes in bath bombs add color to the water once they're released. While some may not have issues with the dye, the sensitive skin around a person's genital is typically more prone to irritation. 

Talc: Preservatives used to keep bath bombs shelf-stable for longer can harm the skin. Talc is associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Avoiding bath bombs with talc is an excellent way to safeguard your health. 

Other additives: The glitter that makes your bath bomb sparkle may be pretty to look at but can also be abrasive to your skin, causing irritation, redness, or increased sensitivity. Bath bombs of all sizes are typically not safe to use. The smaller a bath bomb is, the more highly concentrated it will be, meaning the number of potential allergens is often more significant.

Bath bombs are enticing, their colors and scents intoxicating, but even the ones infused with natural oils or ingredients that can provide hydration to the skin should be avoided as much as possible. The aggressive and often abrasive chemicals used in bath bombs can do more harm than good, dry-out, or irritate your skin. Furthermore, additives like dye and glitter can be difficult to remove, causing skin irritation to worsen. When using bath bombs, be sure to proceed with caution, even if your skin doesn't always negatively react to bath bombs.

Here are the most common issues caused by bath bombs:

 Skin irritation: caused by synthetic fragrances and artificial dye can aggravate the skin, lead to redness, itching, hives, and rashes or trigger an allergic reaction called dermatitis. Those with underlying skin conditions like eczema are at an increased risk of the dyes, fragrances, and cool colors in bath bombs wreaking havoc on their skin.

Vaginal irritation: The vagina has a delicate ph balance, and common ingredients used in bath bombs can shift the vagina's ph, leading to an infection. Additionally, the sensitive skin on your vulva can become irritated or itchy due to sitting in the bath with a bath bomb for too long. 

Hormone Disruption: The body has a delicate hormonal balance that may become disrupted by some questionable ingredients often included in bath bombs. If you enjoy using bath bombs, limit your use and try to avoid bath bombs with excess additives like glitter or overwhelming fragrances. 

Before using a bath bomb, consider performing a patch test by rubbing the bath bomb on your arm to see if your skin turns red or is irritated by the exposure. If you experience irritation or develop a rash after using a bath bomb, discontinue use immediately. Skin irritation that persists for more than a few days should be evaluated by a medical professional. The safest way to enjoy any bath is to simply relax in a comfortable tub filled with nothing but warm water. 

Natural alternatives to bath bombs can make bathtime just as enjoyable while keeping your skin and health safe. Epson salt baths are a great way to relax and remedy sore or tight muscles. Some Epsom salts can even help with any skin irritation you may be experiencing. You can also try an oatmeal bath to calm flare-ups or irritation, redness, and rashes that occur due to an allergic reaction. 

Oatmeal baths can be a spa-like experience at home and soothe intense pain and itching from skin conditions like eczema. Alternatively, adding handfuls of goat milk soap to your bath will achieve the same results as an oatmeal bath and create a similar bathtime experience, but cleaning up afterward will certainly be less of a hassle. If your skin isn't extremely sensitive, you may not need to give up bath bombs entirely. 

Follow these tips for safer use with bath bombs:

  • Review the ingredient list and avoid anything that can irritate your skin 
  • Do a patch test and rub the bath bomb against your elbow. If redness or irritation has not developed within 48 hours, the bath bomb may be safe to use. 
  • Limit your exposure to the potential allergens in bath bombs by limiting your time in the tub. 
  • Hop in the shower afterward and remove any residue from the bath bombs with lukewarm water. 
  • Limit using bath bombs to just a few times a week  

If skin irritation or redness develops after using a bath bomb, stop using the product immediately. Seek the advice of a medical professional if symptoms like redness or irritation persist for more than a few days. Alternatives to bath bombs like fragrant candles or relaxing music can create a soothing environment you can look forward to after a long day at work. You may also consider looking up one of the many recipes for bath bombs available online and creating your own with ingredients that you trust and won't cause irritation to your skin.