Bubble Baths Are Boring. Have You Tried Using an Onion Instead?

Try bragging about that on Instagram!


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.

Milk Bath

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.

Onion Bath

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.

Oatmeal 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.


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  • Amelia Diamond

    This is my favorite thing I have ever read in the whole wide world



  • qui_c

    just came down to say YES so so happy that claire is on MR. her newsletter brings me the greatest joy

    • Amelia Diamond

      I am a new convert and so happy



  • Ashley

    I guarantee the clerk has seen a much weirder assortment of items bundled for purchase….

    Important questions:
    1. What do you clean your bathtub with?
    2. What kind of trust exercises does someone need to do to soak in their NYC bathtub?
    3. Did I miss the timeline? I chuckled thinking these were back to back.


      1) i tried mrs. meyers concentrated cleanser but like…it’s going to require a full bleaching
      2) i’m trying to let go of the things i can’t control
      3) p much back to back, as i was behind on deadline


    • True about the clerk but when I cashiered at Walmart, we did kind of keep an eye on what people put on the belt. I don’t remember if it was part of our formal training or if we were all just weird. I can see it going either way and maybe management said “If you see someone buying duct tape, a hacksaw, and a whole bunch of bleach, remember what they look like and alert someone.” It seems like people would buy a bunch of things that made sense and then one oddball item. Like six Hershey bars, a pint of Rum Raisin, a box of tampons, an Us, a People, and a Closer, some Advil, and a lawn chair. WTF? Or a custom decorated birthday cake, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, a package of X-Men paper plates and the matching napkins, candles, and a bottle of Fireball. Oh, wait. I guess that does make sense.

  • Christel Michelle

    Cannot stop laughing.

  • Rosie

    Omg, lol’ing at the mango vodka experience. Sounds *so* gross and so hilarious. Thank you for trying all of these so we don’t have to!! #moderndayhero

  • Let me know should you need … tea leaves, tomato chunks or … cake leftovers 🙂 I’ll gladly send them your way and breathlessly wait for your report …


      send ’em over. i love garbage!

  • EmilyWilson

    I didn’t think a sentence could get any better than “My feet smell like the rotting waste at the bottom of a fruit-bearing tree,” but then you went and added “and I know that sounds kind of like an interesting scent profile.” Amazing.

  • Bathing in an onion sounds so disgusting, so kudos for trying Claire! I can’t imagine what your bathtub smelled like after all of those baths…

  • Harling Ross

    “Girl Soup” is the name of my future… band? Brand? Everything?


      Girl Soup is for dinner!

  • Cami

    This is if Eloise (the children’s book character who lived in the Plaza) grew up to be a writer ??

  • Rayna Tobin

    Obsessed with these new installments of beauty advice/hilarious misadventures of a beauty junkie. Can’t wait to read more.

  • maiadeccan

    too real, i genuinely milk-bathed my hands last night. it’s the absolute best thing for your hands post chopping chillies

  • Sophie

    This story was a great way to start my day! The next time you have itching mosquito bites, I apply some hand disinfectant on them (the gel type). It takes away the itch. No weird and smelly baths! You just smell like you had some vodka in the bathroom!

  • CLAIRE. i love you. you are the only beauty writer i care about. thank you for blessing us with this.

  • Allison

    Need deets on the oatmeal bath! Just regular oats? Oat to bath water ratio?
    Also, is it weird this made me want an Absolut mango and tonic?

    • Amelia Davies

      They do work! It was the only thing that stopped an awful rash I had itching. Put the oats in an old stocking, tie it up and use it like a sponge in the water.

  • Kirsty

    I would like to take a long bath in Claire Carusillo’s prose.

  • nowyat silentdust

    That was most interesting.