Originally published in The Globe and Mail
A good soak: Why luxurious baths tap into our collective need for indulgence

Back in 2012, I read an interview with Oprah Winfrey in which she enthused about her love of baths. “Bath gels, bubbles, crystals, salts, lavender milks,” she said, “I love creating bathing experiences.” At the time I was a university student with a not so sybaritic walk-in shower and I remember thinking, “My next apartment, more than anything, needs to have a tub.”

Delightfully, it did, and in the intervening years it seems I’m not the only one who has embraced the habit of soaking regularly. Baths have become a trend more glamorous than the sum of their parts and account for a considerable slice of the $5.6-trillion global wellness industry.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, bathtub sales are rising, growing to a projected $14.2-billion by the end of this year from $12.6-billion in 2017. The association reports renovators have been cooling off on once-popular spacious showers in favour of freestanding tubs, a development Frankie Castro, creative director of Toronto design firm Square Footage, has noticed as well.

Over the past few years, Castro says clients are increasingly showing her pictures from social media to illustrate the kinds of baths they wish they were having. “People will describe the experience they want to have in the tub. They tell me they’ll read in the tub, they’ll want to have a glass of wine, a place to put candles or Epsom salts,” she said.

And Castro’s clients have plenty of inspiration to draw from: Social-media platforms are overflowing with pictures of gorgeous tubs. Pinterest Canada has seen a 58-per-cent increase in searches for “luxury baths” within the last year and, on Instagram, images of appealing baths have come to represent the essence of self care.

Baths fit naturally at the intersection of two widely recognized truths about the contemporary moment: that it’s plagued by widespread burnout and anxiety, and that we must show ourselves routine tenderness to survive. Add the impulse to share everything good about life with an audience via social media and you have the modern aspirational bath, the archetypical way to indulge in self-care, both an experience and a symbol of rejuvenation.

To read the full story, click here.

© Adrienne Matei 2017