Battling the Winter Blahs with Bath Powder
By Lynda Deaver
Nyūyokuzai, according to the Japanese post office, is officially translated as “bath powder.” I found this out when I tried writing “tub dust” on the declarations form for a package of nyūyokuzai (入浴剤) being sent to America.
Despite its uninspired name, did you know that nyūyokuzai can do a number of magical things, including getting you through the winter? Anyone who has lived through a winter in Japan knows that it isn’t the most comfortable season. Dryness, stiffness and, of course, the cold are all familiar visitors. What if a 100 yen packet of bath powder could make your bath more enjoyable and help you battle winter at the same time?
There are many options: Major nyūyokuzai brands include バスクリン (Bathclin), KNEIPP, きき湯 (Kikiyu), and バブ (Babu), but also consider taking a look at your local drug store, cosmetics store, or even supermarket for other options.
As with any similar item, if you experience a negative reaction to nyūyokuzai (besides disgust at the weird color your bathwater turned), then stop use immediately and see a doctor. In addition, this article is not meant as medical advice and none of the nyūyokuzai mentioned (unless indicated on the package) is meant to treat an illness.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at three types of bath powders that will become your best friend this winter.
1. Skin Moisturizing Nyuyokuzai
Japanese summers may be humid, but winter brings with it skin-cracking dryness. Luckily, plenty of bath powders have moisturizing ingredients, even including skim milk! These nyūyokuzai tend to be white in color and are often milk- or honey-scented.
Tip: These types of nyūyokuzai may make your skin feel nice and smooth, but they will also make the floor of your bathtub and bottoms of your feet equally smooth. Be extra careful when standing up.
Words to look for: うるおい (uruoi, moisture), しっとり (shittori, dewy), 美肌 (bihada, “beautiful skin”)
2. Stiffness-Relieving Nyuyokuzai
When the weather gets cold, my muscles tend to get stiff. This is exacerbated by hours in front of the computer, which lead to the infamous 肩こり (katakori, “stiff shoulders/neck”). This means that I’m a big fan of nyūyokuzai formulated to help alleviate this pain and relax the body. Look for packages with “pinpoints” on the part of the body you’re interested in loosening.
Tip: Many nyūyokuzai are labeled 浴用化粧料 (yokuyō-keshōryō, “bath cosmetic”), which indicates that they are for non-medical use. Bath powders that claim to have health benefits, such as relieving 腰痛 (yōtsū, “lower back pain”), and that have been approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as having a “mild medicinal effect” are allowed to bear the label 薬用入浴剤 (yakuyō-yūyokuzai, “medicinal bath powder”).
Words to look for: 肩のこり (katakori, “stiff shoulders/neck”), 疲労回復 (hirō kaifuku, “relief from fatigue”), 薬用入浴剤、(yakuyō-yūyokuzai, “medicinal bath powder”)
3. Hot, Hot, Hot Nyuyokuzai
The most obvious bringer of misery in the winter is the cold. Thankfully, nyūyokuzai can help. Heat-keeping nyūyokuzai use warmth-retaining ingredients such as sodium carbonate and calcium carbonate. A good indicator heating nyūyokuzai is if the package is reddish or has flames on it.
Tip: This type of nyūyokuzai is excellent for feeling extra warm. However, some cause excessive sweating, so read the instructions on the package, limit time in the bath and drink lots of water.
Words to look for: 冷え性 (hieshō, “coldness in extremities”), しもやけ (shimoyake, “chilblains”), 温浴効果 (onyoku kōka, “bath-warming effect), 保温成分 (hoon seibun, “warmth-retaining ingredients”)
Have you tried any of these nyūyokuzai? What’s your favorite?