I guess I’ll just start this article by saying that if you want to luxuriate in a homemade milk bath, using half and half is a bit much. I rarely have half and half in the house because of a debilitating dairy allergy that I’m pretty sure I made up, but I found a carton spoiling in my fridge next to some riced cauliflower (literally so dumb, but we’ll talk about that another time) and a quarter of a lemon from June, so I went for it. I was attempting a soothing milk bath because I read once on the internet that the mild lactic acid in milk helps with itchy skin. You see, I had been reading the new Patty Hearst biography in the park at dusk, and time simply got away from me as the mosquitos coyly started kissing my feet and ankles.
I’m constantly bathing in gross things like milk, and I do it so you don’t have to. Read on.
Another note: adding almond milk to a half-and-half bath is not going to correct the experience, even if it’s the Barista Blend kind.
By the time I extricated myself from my thickened dairy and carrageenan-free (that’s how most people attempt to pronounce my last name) nut milk bath, I wasn’t any better. In fact, my resolve had curdled and soured, like so many gallons of skim milk down the kitchen drain after you’ve been away for a long weekend. I wasn’t in the right headspace to try again for a soothing milk bath that night.
Around 9 a.m. the next morning, though, I headed to the grocery store by my apartment and bought a thing of 2%, an onion (for later, grosser bathing — stay deeply tuned), and duct tape to remedy a TV stand-breaking incident that occurred while trying to install shelves with a comedone extractor instead of a screw driver. I made that very funny joke that people do when they’re buying three seemingly unrelated objects: I was all, “Big party later!” The cashier didn’t laugh, but then, I suppose my heart wasn’t really in it.
I was already behind on my deadline for this story due to a debilitating bout of food poisoning on a family vacation a few days earlier (I blame either the ahi tuna I consumed on a 95 degree day, or a cosmic reckoning), so I got to work. I worried that my bathtub smelled sour from the night before’s dairy experiment, and then once I was conscious of it, it was all I could think about. My legs still itched from the bites, so I carried on. I built a makeshift bathtub-desk out of a serving platter and some books (I don’t even need to say this, but, like, don’t bring your computer into the bathtub; I am a professional. I have a diploma in this. It’s hung above my toilet), and then I got to soaking and typing.
Literally the longest story I’ve ever told, about bathing, short: this works for irritated skin. The lactic acid is a mild enough alpha hydroxy acid that one’s skin is left supple and moisturized. But is it worth it? Well, I was being paid to do it, so yes, I guess, but not even, really.
Sands through the hour glass, onion skins through the tub drain. Here I was, mere hours after my milk bath, making myself into Girl Soup! That is, I steeped my own little carcass with an onion to make myself into a living, breathing, whining bouillon. I read about this trick on a scabies forum. (They get huge traffic — edging into Man Repeller territory). I’m fortunate enough to not have scabies, but I do get frequent ingrown hairs, and I thought I’d adapt the recipe to my needs. Cooking should be fun!
When cut, onions release a sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid can kill bacteria. It’s why many acne-fighting products are comprised of a low-percent sulphur, like this Mario Badescu one I’ve been using ever since The OC’s Samaire Armstrong, at the height (?) of her fame, told a magazine she used it. So I sliced the onions using the precise knife skills I teach myself while on writing breaks throughout the day. (Perhaps you’ve gleaned this much from me in our short time together: I watch a lot of tutorials.)
Anyway, this was pointless. Also horrible to clean up. In less than 12 hours, I had anointed my bath with half and half, almond milk, 2% milk, and onions. I also threw a clove of garlic in the onion bath because it made me laugh, and it has antibacterial properties (sometimes I stick one in my ear when I have an infection!). Alas, my phone was in the other room, soaking in a bag of rice after I dropped it in the first bath, and I couldn’t snap a photo.
Bentonite Clay Bath
By the time I got to the bentonite clay bath, concocted using my old friend Aztec Secret Health Indian Healing Clay. (Remember when we discussed how it pulsated like magic/like a gimmick a few weeks back?) After bathing in old milk and onion, this felt like bathing in champagne. It was luxurious.
Look, the health claims of bentonite clay are dubious, at best. Bentonite clay supposedly absorbs body toxins through the skin. I don’t know how that would work, really, as toxins can’t cross the skin barrier. Pulling trapped dirt and oil from the surface level of your skin, sure. This product does that in a major way. But those aren’t really toxins, now are they? In any case, I’ve fallen for everything ever written on a cosmetic label, including the deeply baffling Dr. Bronner’s All One! Rhetoric — for two minutes or so in the shower everyday, I’m a believer. So anyway, I took a “detox” bath.
All of my best friends on the internet (commenters on a Wellness Mama post) warned against soaking in a bentonite detox bath for too long, lest you lose too many toxins! When it comes to skincare indulgences, I’ve always been wary of moderation. Like, more wary than I am of the possible presence of heavy metals in my skin. But I also love to relax, and I didn’t want to deal with any more allium-based vegetables floating around near my private parts. So into a clumped-up clay bath I went, praying for dry land soon.
The clay bath produced the same kind of earthy, dopey sensation in me that similarly magnesium-rich epsom salt baths do. I read the same sentence over and over again in my book (this one!), unable to comprehend it, but felt as if I was on the brink of an intellectual breakthrough. Then I fell asleep. It probably wasn’t the proposed “magnetic” force of the clay detox bath that soothed me, but rather that I was in my third hot bath of the day, but this one was the only marginal winner in the gross bathing game where everyone loses.
Vodka Foot Bath
Since I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve technically lived in four different apartments. Somehow, a bottle of Absolut Mango has made it with me to each place, even as I’ve lost necklaces and important tax-deductible paperwork along the way. Apparently, sticking my feet in Vodka (or mouth wash!) helps rid feet of fungal odor. I have a lot of that lately! Do I have to apologize to you for enjoying the Nike Flyknits Without Socks aesthetic?
Anyway, I had better access to vodka than I did to mouthwash. This ended up being a lesson in not cutting corners. Never should anyone ever again soak their feet in mango vodka, not even for a minute, not even as a prank. My feet smell like the rotting waste at the bottom of a fruit-bearing tree, and I know that sounds kind of like an interesting scent profile, but trust me: it isn’t. Worst of all, it was a waste of the symbolic vodka that I carried from apartment to apartment in the blinding light of New York City, just as my travel-weary great-grandmother probably did when her ship docked at Ellis Island in 1913. If only she could see me now and the honor I’ve brought to our family name, bathing in rotting foodstuffs for clicks, then desperately trying to unclog the shower drain with my toe, naked and thirsty in a rapidly cooling bath.
Oh yeah, this one totally, totally works! Sorry about that last paragraph.
Claire Carusillo is a freelance and fiction writer in New York. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice. Special thanks to LUSH for their bomb bath bombs. Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; creative direction by Emily Zirimis.