Visiting a spa provides an unmistakably luxurious and rejuvenating experience. But at $300 or more for a day of pampering, spas just aren’t in the budget for most of us. This doesn’t mean the masses have to suffer the deprivation of spa-lessness. I’ve learned to create my own spa treatments for a fraction of the cost, and you easily can do the same.
Creating a spa at home allows you to customize treatments to your schedule, needs and preferences. For a complete spa experience, set aside time for a full-body treatment, including a deep-conditioning pack for your hair, facial sauna and mask, an aromatherapy bath and special treatments for your feet and hands. You might consider getting together with your partner or a friend to share this nurturing experience. If you don’t have the time for a full spa day, choose the treatments that are most appealing to you, and indulge yourself as often as you wish.
Prepare for Your Spa Experience
To make your at-home spa day a reality, plan ahead and write your spa date on your calendar, as you would any other appointment. Schedule a couple of hours when you won’t be distracted by phone calls, family members or work-related activities. If possible, plan an entire day or a weekend for the ultimate regenerative experience. Pamper yourself from head to toe and schedule time for simple pleasures such as reading, writing or other creative projects. If you have an entire day or weekend, you also can plan long walks, a yoga class and a massage.
Gather all the ingredients for your spa experience ahead of time. Most of the recipes below call for ingredients you might already have on hand; others are readily available in natural food stores. When shopping for your spa day ingredients, include treats such as fresh flowers, candles, your favorite herbal teas and fresh seasonal fruits to make your experience special.
During your spa day, eat fresh, light and healthful foods to help you feel and look your best. Drink plenty of fluids, including pure water with slices of fresh lemons, limes or oranges and sprigs of mint or lemon balm. Make a pot of delicious herbal tea, such as peppermint, lemongrass or chamomile, to sip throughout the day.
Enjoy Shiny, Healthy Hair
A simple scalp massage with essential oils increases circulation and helps keep the scalp and hair follicles healthy. Deep-conditioning treatments restore moisture to hair and provide shine and softness.
Rosemary Scalp Massage
What you’ll need: Distilled witch hazel, rosemary essential oil and lavender essential oil.
Mix 1 tablespoon witch hazel with 3 drops rosemary essential oil and 5 drops lavender essential oil. Apply to your scalp, using the pads of your fingers to vigorously massage your scalp for a minute or two. Do not rinse your hair afterward.
Honey Hair Mask
What you’ll need: Honey, almond oil, rosemary essential oil and lavender essential oil.
Mix 3 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon almond oil, 3 drops rosemary essential oil and 3 drops lavender essential oil. Dampen your hair with warm water and massage the conditioning treatment onto your hair and scalp. Cover your hair with a plastic shower cap and leave the conditioning mask on your hair for 30 minutes or longer. Rinse with warm water, then shampoo and condition as usual.
Get Glowing: Facial Skin-Care
The purpose of a facial is to improve circulation, deep-cleanse, and smooth and moisturize the skin. A complete facial includes a cleansing steam, exfoliation, mask, toner and moisturizer.
Deep-Cleansing Herbal Facial Steam
What you’ll need: Large pot with lid, purified or spring water, herbs and a towel.
An herbal facial steam deep-cleanses pores, brings a healthy glow to your complexion and helps replenish moisture in the skin. Choose herbs that are beneficial for your skin type: Normal to dry skin benefits from a combination of equal parts of comfrey, chamomile and rose petals; oily or blemished skin is helped by equal parts of lavender, orange peel and rosemary.
To prepare the facial steam, place 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of dried herbs into a large, covered pot. Bring the water and herbs just barely to a boil, remove from heat, and steep for 10 minutes. Place the pot on a table, remove the lid and make a towel tent over both your head and the steaming pot, taking care not to burn yourself. Stay under the tent for 10 minutes to allow perspiration to deep-cleanse your skin. Follow with the Skin-Refining Exfoliation.
What you’ll need: Cleansing grains facial scrub (made from rolled oats, almonds and rose water).
Cleansing grains gently exfoliate the top layer of dead skin cells and leave your skin silky smooth. To make the cleansing grains, combine 1 tablespoon finely ground rolled oats with 1 teaspoon finely ground almonds (grind oats and almonds separately in a clean coffee grinder).
To use, mix the cleansing grains with enough rose water to make a creamy paste. Gently massage the mixture onto damp skin and rinse well with warm water. Follow with the Strawberry-Rosemary Rejuvenating Facial Mask, the Honey-Lavender Moisturizing Mask, or both.
Strawberry-Rosemary Rejuvenating Facial Mask
What you’ll need: Fresh strawberries, plain yogurt, rosemary essential oil, lavender essential oil and cosmetic clay.
Strawberries and yogurt contain natural alpha- hydroxy acids that help soften and refine skin texture. Rosemary and lavender essential oils rejuvenate skin by stimulating cellular renewal.
Mash 1 large ripe strawberry with 1 tablespoon yogurt. Mix in one drop rosemary essential oil, 2 drops of lavender essential oil and 1 teaspoon of cosmetic clay. If you have dry skin, add 1/2 teaspoon almond or jojoba oil to the mixture.
Apply the mask to freshly cleansed skin. Leave in place for 20 minutes or more, and then remove with a warm, wet washcloth. Follow with the Honey-Lavender Moisturizing Mask or a moisturizer.
Honey-Lavender Moisturizing Mask
What you’ll need: Honey and lavender essential oil.
Honey purifies, heals and moisturizes skin. Lavender essential oil is soothing and balancing for all skin types.
Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 3 drops of lavender essential oil. Smooth onto damp skin. Leave on for 15 minutes or longer, and then remove with a warm, wet washcloth. Follow with Aromatherapy Skin Toner.
Aromatherapy Skin Toner
What you’ll need: Essential oil for your skin type, witch hazel extract, purified or spring water and a small (4-ounce) spray bottle.
An aromatherapy skin toner soothes and refreshes skin and temporarily tightens pores. Mix 1 teaspoon of witch hazel extract and 10 drops of an essential oil (or combination of oils) beneficial for your skin type in a small spray bottle. Fill the bottle with purified or spring water. Shake well, and spray skin lightly after cleansing and before moisturizing.
Nourishing Facial Oil
What you’ll need: Jojoba oil, essential oil for your skin type and a small glass dropper bottle.
Jojoba oil is similar to sebum, the skin’s natural moisturizing oil. Mix 1 ounce of jojoba oil with 10 drops of an essential oil (or combination of oils) beneficial for your skin type in a small glass dropper bottle. After cleansing and toning your skin, gently massage a few drops of the facial oil onto your damp skin.
Luxuriate in an Herbal Bath
Baths are an essential part of the spa experience and are easy to duplicate at home. While running the water for your bath, take a few minutes to brush your skin with a natural bristle body brush. This gentle massage stimulates circulation and smoothes your skin. Follow by sinking into the luxurious bath of your choice.
What you’ll need: Epsom salts, baking soda and lavender essential oil (along with clary sage and sandalwood essential oils, if desired).
Epsom salts stimulate gentle detoxification and relax muscles, while baking soda soothes and softens skin. Lavender, clary sage and sandalwood essential oils create a deeply relaxing and sensual bath experience.
Mix together 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, 7 drops sandalwood essential oil, 5 drops lavender essential oil and 2 drops clary sage essential oil. (Or simply use 10 drops lavender essential oil.) Fill the tub with comfortably warm water and add the bath salts, stirring with your hand to dissolve the salts. Soak for 20 minutes or as long as desired. Follow with a cool-water rinse.
Soothing Oat Bath
What you’ll need: Rolled oats, baking soda and lavender essential oil.
Oats, baking soda and lavender essential oil help to soften and sooth dry, itchy skin. Grind 2 cups of rolled oats into a fine powder in a blender. Add the finely ground oats, 1 cup baking soda and 10 drops lavender essential oil to a bathtub of warm water. Soak for 20 minutes and follow with a cool-water rinse.
Sugar Body Polish
What you’ll need: Sugar, almond oil, lavender and grapefruit essential oils or ylang ylang and orange essential oils.
A sugar scrub exfoliates and smoothes skin without the irritation that salt scrubs can cause. Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond oil, and 5 drops each lavender and grapefruit essential oils or 2 drops ylang ylang and 3 drops orange essential oil.
To use the body polish, take a quick warm shower to dampen your skin. While standing in the shower, gently massage the sugar mixture onto your skin. Rinse well with warm water. Use a no-slip mat when using this scrub to prevent falls.
Treat Your Hands and Feet
Hands and feet deserve special treatments to soften, smooth and repair damage from daily living. Treat your hands to a rejuvenating hand mask and a nourishing, warm oil cuticle treatment; indulge your feet with a foot soak and massage followed by an invigorating foot scrub.
Rejuvenating Lemon Hand Mask
What you’ll need: Almonds, plain yogurt, lemon and frankincense essential oil.
Almonds provide gentle exfoliation. Yogurt and lemon soften and smooth hands, and frankincense essential oil has skin-rejuvenating properties.
Grind several almonds in a coffee grinder into a coarse powder. Combine 1 tablespoon ground almonds, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 2 drops frankincense essential oil. Spread the mask onto the back of freshly washed hands and massage the mixture into your skin. Relax for 15 minutes or more, and then rinse well. Follow with the Warm Almond Oil Cuticle Treatment.
Warm Almond Oil Cuticle Treatment
What you’ll need: Almond oil and lemon and lavender essential oils.
Warm 1/4 cup almond oil to a comfortable temperature and stir in 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops lemon essential oil. Soak your fingertips in the warm oil for 10 minutes. Follow by washing your hands, massaging your nails and gently pushing back cuticles with your fingertips.
Mineral Salts Foot Bath
What you’ll need: Large plastic basin for your feet, marbles to cover the basin, Epsom salts, baking soda, and lavender and patchouli or cypress essential oils.
In a plastic basin large enough to hold both of your feet, place a layer of marbles. Fill the basin with hot water, and add 1/2 cup Epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda, 5 drops lavender essential oil and 2 drops patchouli or cypress essential oil. Patchouli and cypress both help to deodorize feet. Soak your feet for 15 minutes, rolling your feet over the marbles for a gentle massage. Follow with Peppermint Foot Scrub.
Peppermint Foot Scrub
What you’ll need: Cornmeal, sea salt, almond oil, and peppermint and rosemary essential oils.
Mix together 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon almond oil, 5 drops peppermint essential oil and 3 drops rosemary essential oil. Add a small amount of warm water to make a thick paste, and massage your feet with the mixture. Rinse well.
Laurel Vukovic writes and teaches about herbs and natural healing from her home in southern Oregon. She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000).