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Do-it-Yourself Spa Day

  • Prep Your Space

    Those lucky enough to have a sublime en-suite with slipper tub and separate multi-nozzle shower are all set. But when your bathroom, like mine, is cramped and communal, prep work is required before you take the plunge. Start with the basics. If a dripping faucet turns bathing into Chinese water torture, fix it. Then remove reminders of “real life.” Dump the rubber duckies and hide the laundry hamper. When all else fails, wear an eye mask to block out the clutter.

  • Gather Your Supplies

    Next, stock up on sensuous supplies. Drugstores offer potions galore, plus gizmos ranging from hand-held massagers to machines that simulate Jacuzzi action. Grocery stores, too, boast an array of beauty products—and some of them are in the food aisles. (Anyone for an avocado mask?) Exclusive spas often prepare treatments in-house using nutrient-rich edible ingredients. “Recipe” collections, widely available online or at bookshops, will help you do the same.

  • Dress the Part

    To recreate the spa experience, adopt the proper dress code. You can pick up a thick terry or waffle-weave robe at mall standbys like Linens-n-Things or Bed Bath & Beyond without having to break the piggy bank. Specialty shops carry a larger selection (with bigger price tags). So if you feel the urge to splurge, why not go glam by outfitting yourself in a luxurious CozyChic robe. Add a towel-turban and you’re dressed for success.

  • Light a Few Candles

    Suffusing your bathroom with candlelight is a surefire way to increase ambience. It transforms the space and flatters the face. If you opt for high-end aromatherapy candles, there’s another advantage: studies prove that the essential plant oils that give them their pleasing scent also act as mood-enhancers. Just remember, good sense matters too. In tight spaces, install a dimmer switch instead of using candles: setting the shower curtain alight will not reduce stress!

  • Turn on the Tunes

    “Music soothes the savage beast”—and it works pretty well for harried humans, too. So turn off the phone and turn on calming tunes. My top pick, appropriately enough, is Handel’s Water Music. But there are loads of other themed options. (FYI, the Little Mermaid soundtrack doesn’t count). Nature-lovers may prefer to invest in something like HoMedics’ Sound Spa machine: Its restful environmental sounds bring the outdoors in.

  • Prep Your Skin

    Water is essential to the spa experience. In fact, ancient Romans coined the word as an acronym for “solus per aqua” (or “health by water”). But before settling in to soak, take five minutes to dry brush your body with a natural-bristle brush or loofah. This mellow massage relaxes muscles, stimulates circulation, and revitalizes skin by exfoliating surface cells. For best results, start with your feet and work up.

  • Time to Soak

    Okay, it’s tub time. So lay back, breath deeply, and let yourself unwind. Warm water can wash cares away in about twenty-five minutes. But the foams, infusions, bombs, and beads you add to the water heighten the hydrotherapeutic effects—provided they’re made with real botanicals, not artificial colors and fragrances. Products containing lavender and rose, for instance, alleviate tension: while those with peppermint and patchouli invigorate.

  • Enhance Your Bathwater

    Customize your bathwater by mixing essential oils distilled from different plants or get a luxe ready-made blend straight from the source. For example, concoctions from Bliss, a hotspot for spa-aficionados in NYC, can be purchased online; as can Prada Beauty products, now the line of choice at Ritz-Carleton Spas. Whatever you choose, try tossing in flower petals, citrus slices, or a sprinkling of herbs for extra drama.

  • Try a Salt Scrub

    Many famed European spas sprung up around salt springs—and for good reason. Saline promotes well-being by drawing toxins from the body. So after bathing, treat yourself to a gentle salt scrub. Commercial formulas are available. But large-grained sea salts or over-the-counter Epsom salts will do the trick. Rinse thoroughly using a luxurious rainforest showerhead like Waterpik’s Cascadia.

  • End on a High Note

    Since water and salt both dry your skin, be sure to slather on a rich, replenishing moisturizer. Then envelope yourself in a plush bath sheet and indulge in at least one more treatment. Conair, for starters, sells a range of inexpensive spa-inspired appliances. Now all that remains is for you to schedule your next at-home spa session. Let someone else clean the tub and remember, treating yourself to a few uninterrupted hours shouldn’t be a one-time extravagance … it should be part of your monthly routine.

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