Can you get vitamins from a bath?


Today’s problem comes from everyone’s favourite British beauty blogger, BritishBeautyBlogger, from whom I have learned a great deal so it is nice to pay a little back.

Hi Colin.. okay.. I have been using a liquid magnesium complex in my bath which says that you can absorb it through the skin. Can all vitamins be taken in this way or is it specific to magnesium? I just keep thinking it is the easiest way in the world to take vitamins so in theory could you have like a multi-vitamin bath every night that does the same as a tablet?

Can I answer the second question first – I think there are some problems with using a bath to get your vitamins. There are two main reasons why soaking in a bath is not going to be a very good way of obtaining vitamins. The first is that to have any chance of getting into your body the concentration in the bath would have to be greater than the concentration in your body. So to have any chance you would have to really load your bath so full of vitamins that it would be very expensive to do so.

For example a leading UK health supplement company recommends daily intake of 2 vitamin C tablets containing 500 mg per day. (This is incidentally, a very very generous dose). You have about 6 litres of blood, and a bath might have 240 litres of water in it. So you would need to add 40 times the number of tablets to the bath water that you would have to take.

Even though vitamin C tablets are relatively cheap, this doesn’t seem like a cost effective way of avoiding a bit of mouth activity. But I don’t think it would work even if you can afford to get enough vitamins into the bath. The skin is a really effective barrier to most things it comes into contact with. I doubt if very much in your bath water would be able to get through even if it were at the correct concentration. Very few drugs can be administered via patches for exactly this reason.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some benefits from bath additives. Bath emollients are a great way of calming down dry and irritated skin, particularly for children. There are also bath salts which might well be beneficial to the top layer of the skin. If your liquid magnesium complex is claiming to do anything for your general health I would be very skeptical. But I can easily believe it might do your skin some good. Metals like magnesium seem to have some role in the skin that hasn’t yet been worked out, but lots of people find that Epsom salts and Dead Sea salts, both of which are magnesium rich help make their skin less itchy and can reduce its redness.

The scientific evidence to back this up isn’t very thick on the ground, bit there is some – see my post on Dead Sea Salts for some background. There is also some evidence that metals like magnesium and zinc do have an effect on the skin.

So my conclusion is that a bath might be a good way to improve your skin but won’t help with nutrition.


10 thoughts on “Can you get vitamins from a bath?

  1. Brooke

    Hi there — I wanted to comment on the magnesium part. It’s my understanding that the mineral magnesium sulfate IS absorbed through the skin, which is why an Epsom salt bath is often recommended for muscle aches. (Magnesium depletion — eg due to diarrhea, or sweating from exercise — can lead to muscle cramping.) However, I don’t know if this affects blood levels of magnesium, or whether it’s enough to be considered “magnesium supplementation” from a nutritive standpoint… BUT it may help your bodily aches from too much spinning class!

  2. Colin Post author

    Yes Brooke, you are right about the magnesium getting absorbed, but do remember that a proper epsom bath uses several hundred grams. You have to use that much to get the concentration high enough in the water to have any effect. I don’t believe anybody knows for sure how they work. My theory is that it softens the skin so that there is less stress further down.

  3. Florina


    i have a friend who has been putting vitamin A, C , E, collagen powder in her bath, along with lavender and fractionated coconut oil and she has been noticing good results for her skin.
    I was thinking because all those things get diluted in the water they wouldn’t have any effect, except for the oils. Do you think something like that would have any effect on skin while bathing?

  4. Colin Post author

    Thanks for sharing that Florina. I agree with you. I think she’d have to put a lot in to have any effect. The oil might be helping with moisturisation. But if she is happy with the results I suppose the best thing is to let her enjoy it.

  5. Florina

    I was trying to find info on vitamins being absorbed through the skin yesterday but i couldn’t find a lot of info on the subjects. Would the hot water help to absorb vitamins through skin better? Do vitamins get absorbed faster and more effective through skin rather then ingesting and having them being processed through the liver…i am asking this just from the skin care point of view.


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  7. JTE

    I realize this is a rather old thread, so my comment may not be seen. I have difficulties with ingested vitamins. A long life of being very sensitive to many foods and chemicals, and not realizing it until just recently, has caused me to react badly to most of the benign inert ingredients found in most meds. Therefore, I occasionally make small foot-baths with dissolved vitamins, but those need to be water-soluble. For Vitamin D (which I had zero of a few years ago!) I have come up with a unique “solution”. I purchased a reptile light, which has UV frequencies designed to create Vitamin D on the skin of reptiles. I place a small cake pan with olive oil under this light bulb, and irradiate the olive oil to create Vitamin D. This method was actually used about a hundred years ago, when Vitamin D was first discovered, as a way of creating Vitamin D in milk by shining UV light on it. After nuking the olive oil for about a day, stirring occasionally, I then have a Vitamin D supplement that I can use on my skin. I usually put it on my feet, often before going to bed, though sometimes before going to work, and just slipping my socks over my oily feet. My Vitamin D levels have been going up slowly, so I know that this is working.

  8. C T

    Vitamin D through your feet sounds like a brilliant solution. Our body isn’t made to take in large amounts of Vitamin D through our gut anyway; it’s supposed to mainly come from our skin. I’d buy a bath bomb with Vitamin D in it. 🙂

  9. Colin Post author

    It’s a nice idea but unfortunately vitamin D doesn’t penetrate the skin very well.

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