When you can’t afford the time or money it takes to visit a spa, treat yourself to a spa day at home. It’ll relax you like nothing else.

You’re in the lap of luxury: hands massaging your scalp; hot baths relaxing your tense muscles; scented towels wrapping your warm body. At the end of a rejuvenating day at a spa, your skin glows, your hair shines, your mind’s at peace. You’re ready for anything – except, perhaps, the bill. It’s $300. So much for peace of mind.

But taking time to pamper yourself is a necessity – not a luxury – if you want to look and feel your best. A spa treatment leaves you not only more beautiful, but also more relaxed and better able to deal with the stresses of daily life.

With the high-quality natural bath and beauty products available today, the hot mineral springs baths, aromatherapy treatments, and herbal facials offered by the finest health spas can be easily – and affordably – re-created at home. For example, in less than three minutes (and for less than $5), you can give yourself a refreshing aromatherapy facial and feel calmer all over. Imagine inhaling lavender or geranium and exhaling the day’s worries.

Creating a spa at home also allows you to customize treatments so you can tailor them to your schedule. Once a week or once a month, set aside some time to indulge yourself with a full body treatment, such as a deep-conditioning hair treatment, followed by a facial sauna, a mask, and a soak in your favorite aromatherapy bath. When time is tight between at-home spa sessions, use the quick treatments every day to boost your mood and revitalize your body.

The first step is to claim your sacred space. Turn off the phone, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door; do whatever it takes to block off an hour or two of uninterrupted time for yourself. You might consider getting together with your partner or a friend to share this nurturing experience. Whatever you decide, prepare for your spa treatment by making sure you have all of the necessary ingredients. Then, just relax and enjoy.

Your Head-to-Toe Spa Guide

HAIR AND SCALP TREATMENTS

Because hair is porous, it can be easily damaged – or greatly improved – by the way you treat it. Heat styling, chemical agents such as perms and tints, harsh synthetic shampoos, and environmental stresses such as chlorine, pollution, and too much sun can cause your hair to become dry, dull, and prone to breaking. Switching to gentle, natural products and treating your hair with special conditioners will restore pliability, strength, and shine.

Shampooing and Conditioning (May be done daily)

Time Required: Five to seven minutes

What You’ll Need: Shampoo and conditioner

Natural shampoos combine gentle cleansing agents from vegetable sources with herbal extracts and essential oils. The finest conditioners are formulated from vegetable oils, herbal extracts, and essential oils. Use the following guidelines to choose hair products specifically designed for the type and texture of your hair:

Oily Hair: Look for drying and cleansing ingredients such as henna, quillaya bark, peppermint, rosemary, sage, yarrow, hops, and tea tree and citrus essential oils.

Dry Hair: Look for moisturizing ingredients such as jojoba oil, shea butter, evening primrose off, chamomile, avocado oil, honey, and aloe vera.

To cleanse the hair and scalp, first rinse it with warm water, then apply a small amount of shampoo and massage this well into the scalp with your fingertips. Most shampoos can be diluted with an equal amount of water, which makes them easier to rinse out and less likely to cause dryness. Rinse out the shampoo well with warm water. To avoid stripping the hair of the oils it needs to stay healthy, avoid lathering a second time. After rinsing, apply a conditioner and massage it into the hair and scalp. If your scalp tends to be oily, apply conditioner only to the ends of your hair. Allow the conditioner to remain in for one to two minutes for oily hair, or up to five minutes for dry hair. Rinse it out thoroughly with warm water.

Herbal Finishing Rinse (May be done daily)

Time Required: Two minutes

What You’ll Need: Herbal hair rinse

(Use herbs and distilled water if you’re making your own.)

Follow shampoo and conditioner with an herbal rinse to remove any shampoo residue and bring out the natural highlights in your hair. Look for rinses containing herbs such as rosemary, horsetail, sage, lavender, nettles, and chamomile. Mars recommends a combination of equal parts of rosemary and nettles for dark hair or chamomile and lemongrass for light hair. To make your own, bring one quart of water and four tablespoons of dried herbs to a boil in a covered pot. Turn off the heat and allow the herbs to steep until cool. Strain out the herbs, and use one-half cup of the infused water as a final rinse. This mixture will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Stimulating Scalp Massage (May be done daily)

Time Required: Three minutes

What You’ll Need: Essential oils (rosemary and sage), witch hazel

This easy scalp massage feels great and provides a dose of quick energy. According to aromatherapist Ann Berwick, author of Holistic Aromatherapy, stimulating oils such as rosemary and sage may even promote hair growth. Berwick recommends using a solution of four drops of rosemary and four drops of sage essential oils with one teaspoon of witch hazel. This invigorating blend can be massaged into the scalp daily, either in the morning or before going to bed. A few drops can also be sprinkled onto your hairbrush immediately prior to brushing to condition your hair and make it shine.

Deep-conditioning Hair Treatment

Time Required: Thirty minutes

What You’ll Need: Jojoba oil, rosemary and sage essential oils, a shower cap

Once a week, treat your hair and scalp to a deep-conditioning treatment to combat the damage caused by overcleansing, heat, and chemical treatments. In a small container, combine one teaspoon of jojoba oil with four drops of rosemary and four drops of sage essential oils. Massage this mixture into your scalp with your fingertips. If your scalp tends to be oily, apply this only to the ends of your hair When applied, put on the shower cap and let the oils remain in your hair for thirty minutes. This is an ideal time to indulge in a spa bath treatment.) Follow this treatment with a shampoo – lather twice to remove the oil – and conditioner if needed.

FACIAL SKIN-CARE TREATMENTS

Avoid becoming locked into a skin-care routine. Why? Because your skin is always changing. The outer layer, or epidermis, is replaced approximately every twenty-eight days. As a result, minor variations in the way that you care for your skin can produce dramatically different results. For example, exfoliating your skin regularly eliminates dead skin cells and gives your complexion a fresher, smoother appearance. In addition, your skin is constantly changing as your body changes with your diet, exercise, age, and even the seasons. Watch for these changes in your skin, and choose products and treatments accordingly.

Cleansing (May be done daily)

Time Required: Two minutes

What You’d Need: Cleanser suited to your skin type, washcloth

Cleansing removes the day’s accumulation of dirt and makeup, plus the waste products excreted by the skin. It’s important to choose a cleanser formulated for your particular skin type. Cleansing creams and milks are suitable for dry to normal and sensitive skin. Oil-free gels and foaming cleansers are more appropriate for oily to normal or blemished skin. Soap has a tendency to cause dryness, but if you feel you must use it on your face, look for one that contains soothing ingredients such as honey, chamomile, oatmeal, calendula, or goat’s milk.

To cleanse your skin, moisten your face with warm water. Spread a small amount of cleanser over your entire face, making little circular motions with the pads of your fingers. Gently remove the cleanser with a warm washcloth, and rinse thoroughly with warm water. Finish with a splash of cool water.

Toning (May be done daily)

Time Required: One minute

What You’ll Need: Astringent or toner (essential oils, witch hazel, and distilled water if you’re making your own), cotton balls

Both astringents and toners are used after cleansing to help restore a healthy pH balance to the skin and to remove any residue of cleanser. Astringents are meant for oily skin and are formulated to remove excess oil and temporarily shrink the pores. Natural astringents contain drying ingredients such as witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, camphor, and goldenseal. Toners are gender than astringents and are suitable for all skin types. Soothing ingredients such as rose water, aloe, kelp, chamomile, lavender, calendula, cucumber, and comfrey are combined to make natural toners.

To make your own simple toner, Berwick suggests mixing one-half teaspoon of witch hazel with the essential oils appropriate for your skin type in a four-ounce bottle. Shake vigorously to dissolve the essential oils in the witch hazel, and fill the bottle with distilled water. This toner will need to be shaken before each use. Apply one-half teaspoon onto a cotton ball, and gently wipe it over your skin. Toners can also be placed into a spray bottle and spritzed onto your skin several times during the day as a quick refresher and to keep the skin hydrated.

Moisturizing (May be done daily)

Tune Required: Thirty seconds

What You’ll Need: Moisturizer of your choice, or jojoba and other essential oils if you’re making your own

Moisturizing your skin immediately after applying toner, while the skin is still damp, will help hold water in the skin. Water, not oil, is what keeps the skin plump and moist. Choose a moisturizer appropriate for your skin type. Dry skin responds well to moisturizers containing heavy plant oils such as cocoa and karite butters, while oily skin benefits more from lighter moisturizers such as aloe vera.

To make a simple facial moisturizer, Berwick suggests adding the essential oils appropriate for your skin type to jojoba oil. Add ten drops of essential oil to one ounce of jojoba oil. Mist your face first with toner, and then massage three or four drops of the oil onto damp skin.

Skin-Refining Exfoliation

Time Required: Three minutes for scrub, or fifteen minutes for enzyme exfoliant

What You’ll Need: Facial scrub (oats, almonds, cornmeal, and honey if you’re making your own) or enzyme exfoliant, wash cloth

Facial exfoliants remove the accumulation of dead cells that cause skin to look flaky or dull; they are one of the quickest treatments for improving the appearance of your skin. The simplest exfoliants are made from finely ground grains and nuts such as oatmeal, cornmeal, almonds, apricot kernels, and walnuts.

To make your own facial scrub, Mars suggests combining two parts of finely ground rolled oats with one part of finely ground cornmeal. People with dry or sensitive skin should replace the cornmeal with finely ground almond meal. Mix two teaspoons of the scrub with one teaspoon of honey, and gently massage it onto damp skin. When finished, rinse your face with warm water. A gentle facial scrub can be used daily for oily or normal skin, and two or three times a week for dry skin.

Enzyme exfoliants rely on papain, a protein-dissolving enzyme that comes from green papayas, to dissolve dead skin cells. These gentle but effective exfoliants are left on the skin for five to fifteen minutes and then rinsed off with warm water. Enzyme exfoliants are generally used once or twice a week and are appropriate for all skin types.

Deep-Cleansing Facial Sauna

Time Required: Twenty-five minutes

What You’ll Need: Large pot with lid, distilled or spring water, herbs, towel

Spa facials invariably include a facial sauna to open the pores, deep-cleanse the skin, and bring a healthy glow to the complexion. This treatment can easil be rephcated at home with a steaming pot of fragrant herbs. Herbal blends made especially for facial steams are available at natural foods stores, or you can create your own. Mars suggests using equal parts of comfrey, calendula, and rose for dry skin; lemongrass, orange peel, and rosemary for oily skin; and calendula, peppermint, and chamomile for normal skin.

To prepare a facial sauna, bring two quarts of water and four to six tablespoons of herbs to a boil in a large, covered pot. Turn off the heat and allow the herbs to steep for ten minutes. Place the pot on a table, remove the lid, and make a towel tent over both your head and the steaming pot. Stay under the tent for ten minutes to allow your pores to open and perspiration to deep-cleanse your skin. Follow this by splashing your face with warm, and then cool water.

Aromatherapy Facial Steam

Time Required: Fifteen minutes

What You’ll Need: Essential oils, distilled or spring water, heat-proof bowl, towel

Essential oils can be used to create a simple and fragrant aromatherapy facial steam. Pour one and one-half quarts of boiling water into a large, heat-proof bowl. Add the essential oils according to your skin type, and make a tent over your head and the bowl with a large towel. Breathe deeply, and remain under the towel for ten minutes. Berwick suggests the following combinations of essential oils for facial steams:

Normal skin: two drops lavender or geranium

Sensitive skin: two drops chamomile or lavender

Oily skin: two drops juniper or tea tree (especially helpful for blemishes)

Dry skin: two drops sandalwood or patchouli

Mature skin: two drops lavender or frankincense

Aromatherapy Hot Towel Facial (May be done daily)

Time Required: Three minutes

What You’ll Need: Essential oils, washcloth

For a quick cleansing treatment when you don’t have time for a full-fledged facial steam, Howland suggests an aromatherapy hot towel treatment. Begin by washing your skin as usual. Add two drops of lavender or geranium essential oil to a basin of hot water. Soak a small hand towel or washcloth in the scented hot water, wring out the cloth, and apply it to your face for a minute or two.

Aromatherapy Facial Mask

Time Required: Fifteen minutes

What You’ll Need: Cosmetic clay, essential oils, yogurt, boney or jojoba oil, washcloth

In as little as ten minutes, a facial mask can tighten your pores, stimulate your circulation, deep-moisturize your skin. Choose clay-based masks for cleansing and tightening; use masks rich in natural plant oils for moisturizing.

To make a simple clay mask using essential oils, Berwick suggests combining one-half teaspoon of cosmetic clay with two teaspoons of yogurt and one to two drops of the essential oils appropriate for your skin type (see Aromatherapy Facial Steam instructions at left). Add one-half teaspoon of honey or jojoba oil to make a moisturizing mask. Put it on your skin and leave it for ten minutes; then remove it gently with a warm, wet washcloth.

Moisturizing Mask

Time Required: Twenty-five minutes

What You’ll Need: Moisturizing mask treatment (or avocado and yogurt if you’re making your own), washcloth

Dry, normal, and mature skin types benefit from weekly moisturizing mask treatments. For a rich mask that will leave your skin soft and dewy, combine one-quarter of a very ripe avocado and one teaspoon of yogurt. Mix them well, and apply the mixture to clean skin. Remove it after twenty minutes with a warm, wet washcloth.

BATH TREATMENTS

Soaking in a special bath is the ultimate at-home spa experience. Wonderfully versatile, baths can soothe, detoxify, or energize, depending on the ingredients and water temperature you select. Begin by creating a special atmosphere: a thick, soft towel and cozy robe are essentials. Soothing music and fragrant candles add to the ambiance; a cup of herbal tea can enhance the desired effects of the bath. Note: Use caution when using oils in the bath because they make the rub slippery. Use a rubber tub mat for safety.

Prebath Circulation-stimulating Body Brushing

Time Required: Five minutes

What You’ll Need: A natural bristle body brush or a loofah

While running the water for your bath, take a few minutes to brush your skin with a dry loofah or natural bristle body brush. This gentle massage stimulates circulation and removes dead cells from the surface of your skin. Brush with gentle strokes, beginning with the bottoms of your feet, moving up your legs, hips, and abdomen, then up your arms from fingertips shoulders, across your torso and back, and finishing with your neck. Follow this by sinking into the luxurious bath of your choice.

Relaxing Bath

Time Required: Twenty to forty-five minutes

What You’ll Need: Your choice of relaxing bath herbs, washcloth, bath or Epsom salts, essential oils, herbal tea

For a simple herbal bath, tie a handful of herbs into a washcloth and secure them with a piece of string. Place this ball of herbs into the tub while the hot water is running. Basically, you’re making herbal tea in the tub. To make your own calming bath blend, combine equal parts of chamomile, lavender, and linden flowers. Sipping a cup of fragrant chamomile or linden flower tea while soaking will enhance the relaxing effect of the bath.

Aromatherapy essential oils can also be used to promote deep relaxation. An aromatherapy bath is one of the best ways to “de-stress”. The benefits of essential oils go far beyond their pleasing aromas. Essential oils retain the healing properties of the herbs and flowers from which they are distilled. In a warm bath, the vapors are inhaled; the oils are absorbed through the skin and are circulated throughout the body by the bloodstream. Relief from anxiety and stress, headaches, muscle tension, and PMS are a few of the benefits attributed to aromatherapy.

For calming and relaxation, look for bath products containing essential oils such as lavender, rose, clary sage, ylang ylang, and patchouh. Perhaps most important is to choose a scent that appeals to you. Smells evoke a memory response, and what makes one person feel good may make another feel bad

Berwick suggests the following simple aromatherapy bath for relaxation: Dilute four drops of lavender, two drops of clary sage, and two drops of marjoram in one teaspoon of vegetable oil such as almond oil or one teaspoon of whole milk. (Most essential oils must be diluted in another oil to prevent possible skin irritation.) Fill the tub with hot water (use warm water if you have circulatory problems), and add the diluted essential oils just before getting in.

To increase the relaxing effect, add mineral bath salts (available at natural foods stores) or one cup of Epsom salts to the tub. Most mineral bath treatments include Epsom salts, which contains magnesium sulfate. Magnesium promotes deep relaxation of the muscles and nervous system. To complete your calming bath experience, “let the water run out of the tub when you’re finished soaking, and visualize your stress vanishing down the drain as well,” suggests Mars.

Detoxifying Bath

Time Required: Thirty to forty-five minutes

What You’ll Need: Your choice of essential oils, bath salts or Epsom salts, bath herbs, washcloth, herbal tea

Many spa treatments are designed to help eliminate toxins from the body. Baths, in particular, aid in detoxification by promoting sweating, and various herbs and essential oils increase circulation and stimulate the functions of the eliminative organs. Look for detoxifying bath products containing herbs and essential oils such as juniper, grapefruit, fennel, dandelion, and burdock.

To create your own aromatherapy detoxifying bath, we suggests adding four drops of juniper, two drops of grapefruit, and two drops of rosemary to one teaspoon of vegetable oil or whole milk; add this mixture to a tub of hot water. A hot bath is most effective for promoting sweating, but avoid very hot water if you have circulatory problems. Soak in the bath for twenty to thirty minutes.

For more powerful detoxifying baths, use one-half cup of Epsom salts, one-half cup of sea salt, and one-third cup of kelp or dulse. Seaweed has been used for centuries to help to detoxify the body. Grind the seaweed, sea salt, and Epsom salts to a fine powder in a blender, and add them to the rub. For a special exfoliating body treatment like the ones used in the finest spas, use the salt mixture as a body scrub. To do this, place a few tablespoons of it onto a washcloth or loofah and gently massage your body. Avoid this scrub if you have broken skin because the salt will sting.

Sipping a cup of cleansing herbal tea while soaking in the tub will increase the detoxifying effects of the bath. Look for teas containing herbs such as burdock, dandelion, red clover, Oregon grape root, nettles, sarsaparilla, yarrow, and yellow dock. These herbs gently detoxify the body by stimulating the eliminative functions of the skin, liver, kidneys, and intestines. To make your own simple cleansing tea, Mars suggests combining one teaspoon each of burdock root, Oregon grape root, and licorice root with three cups of water in a covered pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer gently for fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat; add one teaspoon each of nettles, peppermint, and red clover; cover; and let steep for ten minutes. Strain, and drink up to three cups a day.

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