For the average home dweller, taking a bath used to be a private endeavor: fill a giant porcelain bowl with warm water, strip naked, submerge your corporeal form, rinse, repeat. The only people whose bath times were made public were babies, Liberace, and Hollywood starlets. (A favorite: Jayne Mansfield gabbing on her vintage telephone in her heart-shaped tub in her furry pink bathroom, in a 1960 issue of Life.) But, oh, how bath times have changed. In an era of wellness trends fuelled by social media, when everyone is practicing competitive self-care, the bathtub has become another theatre set, an opportunity to perform one’s life style for all to see. Thanks to Instagram, and also to sites such as Into the Gloss and The Cut, which obsessively detail individual beauty regimens, I now know more than I ever thought possible about the bath-time habits of strangers.
For instance: Mariah Carey bathes in cold milk. Gwenyth Paltrow likes to wind down every evening in a bath of magnesium salts. Lin-Manuel Miranda bathes for exactly fifteen minutes, with a timer set to alert him when to get out. Eva Chen, the head of fashion partnerships for Instagram, renovated her bathroom so that her tub would be nearly a part of her bedroom. (Goodbye, open kitchen. Hello, open bathroom.) Emily Weiss, the C.E.O. of the makeup brand Glossier, takes a forty-five-minute bath almost every night, with scalding water and two full pounds of Epsom salts, the better to sweat—it’s “a workout without moving.” The model and influencer Summer Dawn Miller bathes in a crumbling old tub in her East Village apartment—and douses herself with a full bottle of hydrogen peroxide as she soaks. She shared this regimen as part of a recent “bath content” campaign with the pricey personal-care brand Necessaire. After people on Twitter began to question the health benefits of marinating in a disinfectant soup, the tip promptly disappeared from the beauty Web site that published it. (A representative from the site, Violet Grey, told me that it “takes a voyeuristic view of a subject’s beauty routine” but does “not endorse or guarantee” it.)