Spas are luxurious, but if you can’t afford the money or the time, here are simple tips to create one in the privacy of your own home.
Fondly, I remember a time in my mid-20s when I chose to spend many a Saturday night alone. The best part was that this time alone was my choice; the second best part was that I learned to give myself a treat instead of waiting for someone else to do it. On these Saturdays I created a self-care sanctuary in my little urban apartment, where I pampered myself completely. You can do the same and design your own inexpensive, luxurious dream date with you.
Imagine a healthy spa dinner with relaxing music playing in the background. Imagine giving yourself a loofah massage by candlelight, followed by the self-indulgence of a full herbal facial and deep-conditioning hair treatment, then a soak in an aromatherapy bath. Read through the step-by-step instructions here and plan your evening in paradise.
4:30 to 6 p.m. Set a relaxing mood.
Unplug the phone, turn off the TV and get rid of any outside distractions. Prepare a light, nutritious dinner filled with seasonal vegetables, grains, a small amount of protein and fruit for dessert. With your meal, drink purified or mineral water or herbal tea to get the body hydrated and ready to dispose of toxins that will be drawn out of the body. Warm water with lemon will trigger the liver and lymph glands to start cleansing.
Are the areas where your home spa is to take place neat and clean? Tidy your bathroom, living room, bedroom — any place you’ll be tonight. Change your sheets and make your bed welcoming. You deserve beautiful surroundings.
While dinner is cooking, light your favorite scented candle and dedicate the evening to yourself. Recite a special prayer, mantra or affirmation such as “Tonight I’m going to treat myself to a relaxing evening and take care of my body and soul.” Many natural products stores sell beeswax candles, which radiate a warm glow and smell like honey. Aromatherapy candles are filled with essential oils that release scents for your desired mood state such as relaxation, clarity or serenity. Other aromatherapy diffusers include electric heating elements, simple potpourri holders that warm over a small candle, and brass or fiber lamp rings that heat up from a light bulb. Another way to satisfy your sense of smell is with pure flower incense. For instance, lavender is ideal for stress relief.
Throughout your spa night, play soothing music. Look for CDs and cassettes with nature sounds, acoustic instruments, quiet jazz or music with subliminal relaxation messages.
Before eating dinner, you might want to throw your softest towels and bathrobe in the dryer to warm them for your evening. You’ll need several towels for your at-home spa.
When you sit down for dinner, say a prayer or blessing of thanks over your food. In May All Be Fed, Diet for a New World (Avon Books), author John Robbins offers many suggestions for blessings. Chew your food slowly and enjoy every bite. When you’re finished, take a few deep breaths before leaving the table.
6 to 6:15 p.m. Start with a shower and shampoo.
Disrobe in your bathroom. To stimulate and prepare the skin for the nurturing treatment you’re about to give it, take a dry brush or dry loofah made of natural plant fibers and go over your whole body, using lighter strokes on sensitive areas such as the breasts. Stroke toward the stomach, where the lymph drains. Also, stimulate the scalp with a hairbrush to ready it for the deep-conditioning treatment.
Take a warm shower to rinse off the dead skin from your brush massage. Soap isn’t necessary except in places where there’s body hair to remove dirt and odor. While in the shower, shampoo your scalp for several minutes with circular massaging strokes from your fingertips. Jojoba shampoo will dissolve the sebum from the pores and get them ready for the deep-conditioning treatment. Peppermint or rosemary in shampoos work as scalp stimulators.
If your hair is matted and difficult to comb, you might want to use a detangler before applying the deep conditioner.
6:15 to 6:45 p.m. Deep condition your hair.
Get out of the shower, dry off and put on a robe and slippers to stay warm. Start heating a large pot of water to prepare for your facial. Start the hair conditioning process by applying a deep conditioner made from natural jojoba or almond oils. Or, for ultra-healthy hair, use a hair pack made with avocado, a wonderful conditioning agent. Comb the conditioner through your hair, starting at the ends. Use a headband or tie to hold back your hair for the upcoming facial. Then wrap your hair in a warm towel turban or place plastic wrap or a plastic bag over your head enough to cover your hairline and heat it with a blow dryer. Be careful not to get the plastic too hot or it will melt. For extra protection, you can also wrap a hot towel on top of the plastic after you’ve heated it.
6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Give your face a lift.
Now it’s time for your facial, which you can do while your hair is soaking in nutrients. Start the facial with an herbal steam. After the water you started heating earlier has boiled, pour it in a ceramic or glass bowl. Add tea bags or infusions of herbs for skin such as juniper berry, strawberry leaf, burdock root, chamomile, rosemary or sage. Natural foods stores also carry herbal teas specifically for the skin, which you can steep in your hot water. For the best effect, bend your head over the steaming bowl about a foot above with another large towel draped over your head and the bowl to create a tent. If you feel it burning you’re too close. Steam your face for 10 minutes.
The next step is exfoliation to slough off dead skin cells and encourage new growth, which is different for dry, oily or sensitive skin types. For thick, dry, scaly skin, use products with loofah beads, apricot kernel particles or finely ground almond shells and massage gently in circular motions for about a minute. Apply no pressure and just allow the exfoliants to do the work for you. For more sensitive, oily or acne-prone skin, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) will also remove dead skin cells, leaving the live ones unirritated. Natural products stores carry excellent lines of AHAs, which are made of acids from fruit, milk or red wine that ferment on the skin. Leave them on for approximately 5 to 20 minutes depending on the product instructions. (If you want to rinse out your hair conditioner now, do so before applying the AHAs.) After exfoliating, rinse your face thoroughly, splashing warm, not hot, water on repeatedly.
The last step of the facial is a mask. You can buy a mud mask premixed at a natural foods store. Ingredients to look for: avocado and honey for moisturizing; oatmeal and calendula for soothing; vitamins C and E for healing; and strawberry for an astringent effect and toning. After applying the mask you may be tempted to soak in the tub, but the steam will cause a clay mask to draw impurities from the air into the mask, rather than the mask drawing impurities from the skin. While waiting for the mask to dry, place cucumber slices on closed eyes to soothe and cool puffy or weary skin. Or, apply a deep-moisturizing eye cream with a warm towel on top.
You could also use this time to give yourself a mini-manicure and pedicure, scrubbing the hands and feet with a brush, warm water and scented soap. Apply herbal cuticle creams, then push the cuticles back, cleaning under the nails gently. Rub out calluses with a pumice stone and give yourself a reflexology massage with your favorite aromatherapy oil. Several books are available to teach you how to do this, and don’t forget to work out muscle tension with handy wooden and rolling self-massage tools.
7:45 to 8:30 p.m. Soak away stress.
After the mask is dry, about 15 to 20 minutes (deep-moisturizing masks may take up to a half hour), hop in the shower and rinse off the mask, and if you haven’t already, rinse out the deep conditioner. Pat the skin dry and follow with a botanical toner and moisturizer for the face.
Next is exfoliating the whole body. You can apply a body mask, similar to the facial, either premixed or make your own by mixing clay with seaweed extract products such as bladderwrack. Apply the mask generously to the whole body, then wrap yourself in a sheet of plastic (use a plastic drop cloth from a hardware store) and lie down for 15 to 30 minutes. You’ll probably want to cover up with a blanket, too, to stay warm. Or, instead of a body mask, you can use a fruit-based body scrub that works with AHAs.
Shower off the body mask or body scrub, rinse out the tub and start filling it with comfortable warm to hot water for the event you’ve been waiting for: the bath. For a soak that will detoxify cells, add mineral salts or purified mud with seaweed. For a deeply moisturizing bath, drop in aromatherapy and moisturizing bath oils after you get in. After the bath, while the skin is still wet, apply an all-over moisturizer or oil to lock in the water.
8:30 to 10 p.m. Go to bed renewed
Take this time to meditate, do yoga stretches, listen to a relaxation tape, write in your journal or just listen to heart-warming music before going to bed. Before drifting off into a restful sleep, say a word of thanks for sharing the evening with such a wonderful person.