Who doesn’t love going for a spa day? Enjoying a deep-cleansing facial or a sumptuous body wrap is the very definition of being pampered.
Alas, all that indulgence comes at a price. For example, a basic European facial can cost as much as $130 before you add a tip, depending on how prices generally run in your area, and extra goodies such as special masks, serums or eye treatments can drive the bill up even more. Similar prices apply to other standard spa services such as basic Swedish massage, body wraps and salt scrubs.
Obviously, you can’t enjoy at home every service a day spa provides. But you can recreate enough of that luxurious feeling (while saving your hard-earned money) to make setting up a home spa worth the effort.
Setting the Mood
Part of a spa’s attraction is the tranquil atmosphere. Professional designers put a lot of thought into their lighting, sound and decor choices in an effort to help clients relax even before their sessions begin.
Permanently reconfiguring your bathroom to capture that spa ambience might be a bit unrealistic. However, it is possible to replicate many of the essential elements by creating a feast for all of your senses.
Candlelight is a relatively inexpensive but highly effective relaxation aid. Paraffin candles are the cheapest but burn quickly, and some scented types give off fumes that can be unpleasant for people who have allergies. Candles made with beeswax burn very slowly and cleanly, with a honey-like smell; just be aware that this aroma tends to clash with other scents. Soy-based wax is even-burning and carries scent well, but its softness means that it is usually available in jars instead of free-standing pillars or tapers.
Audio options such as iPods make it easier for you to incorporate sound into your home spa, which can set a mellow mood while blocking outside distractions. A wide variety of meditative music is available, as are recordings of such nature sounds as running streams or waves on a beach.
Don’t forget to include little luxury flourishes, such as a hotel-style robe and thick towel, that you reserve just for spa sessions. The most important element of all: Carving out enough “me” time to make time spent in your spa memorable.
Remember that self-care isn’t selfish—it’s essential.
Enhancing the Experience
Using high-quality skincare products helps you come away from a home spa session feeling revitalized and transformed. Your first step should be consulting with a professional to determine what kind of skin you have: Is it dry and tight? Prone to oiliness?
Once you know your skin type, find products that use plant extracts grown and harvested without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Don’t forget to tailor your regimen to the climate in your area.
If your skin is oily and given to breakouts, try tea tree. According to the beauty website stylecraze.com, Australia’s best-known botanical “is an excellent skin treatment, especially for oily and acne-prone skin.” It works well with aloe vera, chamomile and willow bark extract in facial cleansers and hydrators, and with kaolin clay and lychee shell in scrubbing masks.
If dryness is your problem, another Australian import, kakadu plum, may help. Vitamin C is known for helping to rejuvenate aged and sun-damaged skin, and “it’s estimated that a single kakadu plum contains more vitamin C than an orange—55 times more, to be exact,” says Alle Connell of the beauty site StyleCaster. Kakadu plum works well with aloe, bearberry, desert lime, macadamia and yucca, along with an Australian native known as the quandong.
Aromatherapy with high-grade essential oils offers another spa enhancement that goes far beyond simply scenting a room.
“There’s nothing lightweight about essential oils,” says Valerie Ann Worwood, author of The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (New World Library). Popular options include lavender, which Worwood cites for its calming, antidepressant effects; lemon, which has detoxifying properties; and peppermint, a tonic pick-me-up.
Soaking Your Cares Away
One of the best ways to enjoy aromatherapy’s advantages is by using it in a warm bath, which often serves as the centerpiece of a home spa session.
Which oil you pick depends on what effect you’re looking for.
For stress relief, go with patchouli. This sweet-smelling tropical herb is not only calming but, Worwood says, it’s also helpful for all sorts of “problematic skin conditions.” If you’re trying to refocus a foggy brain, peppermint is known as a stimulant and fighter of fatigue, especially the mental variety, while eucalyptus helps counteract mental sluggishness. If you’re a workout warrior, cedar leaf stimulates the flow of blood and lymph, helping to clear toxins from hard-working muscles; Siberian fir soothes the skin after strenuous activity.
Essential oils work especially well when used with Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), an old-time remedy that has enjoyed a revival of late. Named for the place in England where it was first discovered, Epsom salt provides the essential mineral magnesium, which helps unknot tense muscles and calm the mind while flushing toxins and softening skin. In addition, an Epsom salt bath can help ease tension headaches and regulate what are known as electrolytes, minerals responsible for controlling everything from heartbeat to water flow within the body.
An easy way to get the benefits of essential oils and Epsom salt is to use formulations that include both (along with baking soda, another detoxifying agent). The best ones don’t contain artificial coloring, dyes or preservatives, are responsibly sourced and made in small batches for optimal quality control.
To control skin dryness, Worwood suggests using a pre-bath oil blend that combines two teaspoons each of avocado and apricot kernel oil with two tablespoons of sweet almond oil. When you get out, pat dry instead of rubbing.
Save day spa trips for special occasions. A home spa lets you save money while providing a needed respite.