DIY Bath Bombs: How To Make Your Own At Home + 5 Spa-Quality Recipes
Sometimes, a nice, steamy bath can melt away stress as soon you sink into the tub. A bath bomb can especially elevate the experience, providing gorgeous colors and scents that can make your bath pretty ahhh-inducing. But you might not have a collection of bath bombs at the ready—especially now, when you can't exactly stop by the store to grab a few on your way home. Plus, many traditional bath bombs can contain synthetic fragrance, plastic-laden glitter, and irritating dyes, all of which you don't want to be soaking with in the tub. The good news is, it's incredibly easy to make spa-quality DIY bath bombs at home. Let's dive into it.
What you'll need.
In all bath bombs, there's a secret key ingredient that gives them their quintessential fizz: citric acid. When it's mixed with baking soda, it creates that fizzing reaction when dropped in water—"similarly to how Alka-Seltzer works," says cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat Ron Robinson. Citric acid is naturally found in—you guessed it—citrus fruits, giving lemons and limes their sour taste. However, you can buy it in its manufactured form (perfect for adding to bath bomb mixtures); just be sure to purchase a USP-grade, non-GMO kind. "I prefer versions derived from sugar cane," says product formulator and founder of LOLI Beauty Tina Hedges.
In addition to the magic fizzy ingredient, here's what you'll need for the perfect soak:
- Large mixing bowl
- Whisk or wooden spoon
- Bath balm molds (if you don't have those on hand, you can also use candy or soap molds, ice cube molds, even mini-muffin tins)
- Spray bottle (you'll need this for witch hazel—more on that later)
- 1 cup baking soda
- ½ cup citric acid
- ½ cup magnesium flakes, Himalayan pink salts, or Epsom salts (choose your own adventure here)
- ½ cup arrowroot or cornstarch powder. This helps bind the baking soda and citric acid and slow down the bath bomb reaction. "Without it, that satisfying feeling of watching a bath bomb slowly dissolve and fizz would be practically nonexistent!" says Marisa Plescia, research scientist at clean beauty e-tailer NakedPoppy.
- ¼ cup flower petals or dried herbs like sage, rosemary, or lemon balm (optional but recommended for the aesthetic)
- 1 tsp. carrier oil (almond or coconut oil work great)
- 1 to 2 tsp. water
- 1 tsp. witch hazel (if you don't have on hand, use more water!)
- 20 drops essential oil(s) of your choice. "You can use several essential oils to make your blend, but use no more than 20 drops," says Hedges. Remember: Essential oils can be very strong, with a potential for irritation at high levels.
How to make bath bombs: 6 easy steps.
This DIY bath bomb recipe yields four pieces, assuming you use a 6-ounce mold (it may be more or less depending on how deep your molds are!). With that, here's the at-home-friendly recipe:
- Combine all the dry ingredients together in your large mixing bowl. Don't forget to sift the baking soda to break up any large chunks, says Hedges.
- In a separate bowl, combine your essential oils with the carrier oil (again, that's almond, coconut, or another vegetable or herbal oil) and stir with your 1 tsp. of water. "The oil and water will not mix well, and that's OK!" Plescia reassures. "You just want to have some uniformity in the liquid part."
- Slowly (we repeat: slowly) drizzle the oil blend into the dry mixture, stirring constantly. Precision is key here: "Don't rush this," says Hedges. “The oil will create lumps at first, but keep blending until they're gone and it's a smoother consistency." Don't be alarmed if the mixture starts to fizz a bit—that's the citric acid just doing its job. If you pour slowly enough, it should still be firm enough to mold.
- Spritz the mixture with witch hazel (that's where a handy spray bottle comes in) to add more moisture if needed. The reason you should spray rather than simply pouring in the witch hazel is because it allows the witch hazel to slowly incorporate into the surface of the mixture. That way, it will be moist enough to hold shape when you mold it with your hands but still dry enough that it doesn't fizz out.
- At this point, add in the optional ingredients (i.e., dried flowers or herbs).
- Pack the mixture firmly into the molds and keep at room temperature. Try to wait at least 24 hours before trying to remove them from the molds, recommends product formulator and founder of the natural beauty brand Captain Blankenship, Jana Blankenship. After removing, store the bath bombs in an airtight container.
And voilá! Your very own bath bombs with minimal ingredients and no harsh chemicals or fragrance. Just be sure to wait five to seven days before plopping them into the tub. "This time allows the bath bombs to cure," Hedges notes.
Fun DIY recipes to mix it up.
Once you've got the basics down, feel free to experiment with recipes and play with different ingredients. Perhaps you switch up the essential oil blend for a new scent. You can also add different carrier oils (think coconut or olive oil) to the mix for a moisturizing twist, Robinson adds. Here are five ideas to spark some creativity:
- For a woodsy scent, use 2 drops of organic Palo Santo essential oil, 7 drops of organic sandalwood essential oil, and 11 drops of clary sage essential oil, per Hedges.
- For a spicy, cozy vibe, try 15 drops of sweet orange essential oil, 1 drop of organic clove essential oil, and 4 drops of frankincense essential oil. Your bath will smell like a holiday kitchen.
- If you're partial to floral scents, try adding 1 drop of ylang ylang essential oil, 4 drops of atlas cedar wood or geranium rose essential oil, and 15 drops of organic lavender essential oil. This bomb is also a great one to add dried petals to the mix; plus, the lavender can help with stress relief and better sleep, making your bath a pretty Zen experience. Only have lavender oil on hand? Simply add 1 tbsp. of matcha powder to this mix, says Blankenship. Matcha pairs great with lavender (plus, the caffeine may give your skin a brightening boost).
- For a clarifying soak, try adding a little charcoal powder to the mix. Plescia's favorite go-to ingredient, the charcoal adds a bit of artistry to the tub; it turns your bathwater quite dark, making it more of a moody experience.
- Another way to change the color of your bath is to add natural dyes, such as annatto (this yields a sunset orange) or chlorophyll (a bright green). Just make sure to only add a few drops into the mixture to avoid accidentally dyeing your bathtub and your skin. "Trust me, it's happened to me, and I had pink nail cuticles for a few days!" Plescia advises.
Tips and warnings.
Something to stress here: You want to be careful not to add your oil, essential oils, or witch hazel too quickly. Stirring slowly is key, as too much liquid can cause the bath bomb to start fizzing in the bowl. It might fizz a little bit when you start adding some moisture (that citric acid is pretty hydro-sensitive), but it should still be manageable enough to form into a clump. When it's all mixed and ready to go, Blankenship recommends greasing your molds lightly with oil before packing in the mixture, as this allows the bath bombs to slip out more easily once they've hardened.
In terms of how long they last, Plescia recommends a shelf life of around six months. "Citric acid can lose a bit of its strength over time, especially if exposed to air," she says. Since the mixture also includes water, it can lead to some microbial growth if left for a long time (as we know, water is a breeding ground for bacteria).
Finally, if you want to have fun with your bath bombs, feel free to place a few flower petals or herbs at the bottom of the mold before packing in your mixture (this allows you to decorate the surface of the bath bomb rather than having the petals release when it fizzes in the tub).
The bottom line.
Much like other at-home beauty projects, the DIY bath bomb isn't so difficult; in fact, Plescia says the hardest part may be finding a proper mold. Other than that, it's an incredibly easy activity to master. And it's rather fun, to boot: The citric acid and baking soda reaction will make you feel like a chemist, while chucking in different ingredients (like flower petals and oils) will help you create an elevated bath experience that's uniquely yours. Consider it self-care's most creative science project.
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