foot sticking out of water in bath tub while epsom salts are being poured in

Epsom Salts: Friend or Foe?

As I sit in my third hot Epsom salt bath of the day, I realized I have no idea how or why Epsom salts make a difference for HS. Is it a placebo effect, or is there science behind it? I’ve decided to find out and take you lovely folks along for the ride.

Firstly, what ARE Epsom salts?

If you are a part of any HS support groups online, you’ve probably heard of people using Epsom salt soaks or compresses. Epsom salts are actually flakes of magnesium sulfate.  Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral that is important for many systems in the body such as muscles and intestinal function. Epsom salt soaks are often prescribed or recommended for tending to sore muscles and are used to help prevent aching or spasms, particularly after sport and/or exercise.

As per the Mayo Clinic, it is believed that dissolving the magnesium sulfate in the water allows it to be absorbed easily through the skin, calming the fascia and muscle tissue. The HS community and many of its medical professionals have adapted Epsom salt soaks and compresses as a way to calm angry lesions and even help bring them to a head, but does it actually help, and can it cause any harm?

Let’s start with the cons

The first thing to remember is that it is vitally important not to overuse Epsom salts, as it can cause dehydration and have a laxative effect if you absorb too much or consume it orally. NEVER use Epsom salts internally without a direct order from a medical professional, and always make sure that you’ve checked with a doctor before using it topically to make sure it is right for you. Taking Epsom salts internally has not been studied as an effective way to manage HS, and I would not recommend it AT ALL as it can cause significant damage to your GI tract. The dosing of this medicine will be different for different people. Some safety tips to remember:

  1. Always drink plenty of water when taking an Epsom salt bath. The combination of hot water and salt can and will dehydrate you!
  2. Never use boiling water or water that can burn you! The best place to test water temperature is on the inside of your wrist or the bottoms of your feet. This skin is some of the most sensitive to temperature, so if it causes you any discomfort in these areas cool the water down before you use it.
  3. Always make sure to follow the directions on the specific label of the product you are using, as the strength of the Epsom salts can vary greatly between packages.
  4. Make sure the product has not passed its expiration date, as this can affect the strength of the product you’re using.
  5. If you are pregnant or have diabetes, soaking in Epsom salts could cause adverse side effects.

Now, can it help?

In my experience, ABSOLUTELY. It can work as a rescue tactic when I’m having a particularly bad flare, and I also use it as a preventative measure. As recommended by my dermatologist, I take a minimum of 3 hot Epsom salt soaks per week to clean out my stage 3 tunneling and flares that constantly weep. The minute I start to feel a new flare coming, I immediately hop in the bath. I find it eases the pain as well as brings the bumps down in size. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, taking a hot Epsom salt bath or using a hot Epsom salt compress for around 10 minutes can make a world of difference for your abscesses. It is commonly prescribed by dermatologists for all stages of HS and is a more natural way to help ease the discomfort caused by a flare.

Have you ever used Epsom salts, and do you find them helpful? How do you use them? Let me know in the comments, and let’s get a discussion going!

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