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At Home, How to Run a Bath That Feels Like a Spa Treatment

By Kari Molvar

A bathroom in a Sussex, England, cottage designed by Beata Heuman.
 
Simon Brown
A bathroom in a Sussex, England, cottage designed by Beata Heuman.

Bathing is among our oldest self-care rituals: The ancient Greeks regularly soaked their aching muscles after workouts at the gymnasium, and the Romans constructed elaborate thermae — multiroom public bathhouses — throughout their empire from 27 B.C. Today, the tubs might be more technologically advanced but the practice remains deeply soothing. “Sitting in water is the ideal environment for calming the mind and body,” says the New York-based facialist Nachi Kanemaru Glick, who grew up taking a nightly bath at her childhood home in Miyazaki, Japan. “The water helps ingredients penetrate the skin, the heat releases tension and it’s a quiet time for meditation and self-reflection.” Or as Deborah Hanekamp, a New York-based wellness expert and author of the book “Ritual Baths” (out March 24) puts it, “We all feel one way before we get in the bath, and then a bit better when we get out.” The right mix of products and atmosphere can easily elevate the average soak, says the British facialist Alexandra Soveral, who has a background in chemistry. Here, five restorative bath recipes to try at home — whether you want to refresh your skin, relax your muscles or simply unplug from the world outside right now.

Left: Vertly’s Botanical Bathing Salts. Right: Bathing Culture’s Big Dipper Mineral Bath.
Left: Vertly’s Botanical Bathing Salts. Right: Bathing Culture’s Big Dipper Mineral Bath.

Ingredients:

Run the water and add your preferred salts: The blends by Vertly and Bathing Culture both pair a variety of magnesium-rich crystals (including Epsom and pink Himalayan salt) with antibacterial botanicals (clary sage, lemon) to soothe tender skin, boost circulation and speed healing. While the tub is filling and the air is steamy, do some gentle stretches to loosen up tight muscles or try the Lanshin massager for targeted kneading on your legs, back and shoulders. Post-bath, spread a few drops of the GingerChi oil — infused with warming ginger — between your palms and massage any achy spots to bring heat to the area and break up any remaining stiffness.

Left: Baudelaire’s Dry Brush. Right: Aromatherapy Associates Forest Therapy Bath & Shower Oil.
Left: Baudelaire’s Dry Brush. Right: Aromatherapy Associates Forest Therapy Bath & Shower Oil.

Ingredients:

  • Hanekamp’s revitalising mixture (1 cup red alaea salt; 3 cinnamon sticks; ½ cup fresh rosemary sprigs), optional

Before the bath, use a dry brush, working inward from your ankles and wrists with long sweeping strokes toward your heart to exfoliate and stimulate circulation. Then, rub the Aromatherapy Associates oil, which contains uplifting pink pepper and juniper berry, on your skin, starting with your torso and spreading it over the rest of your body (inhaling the scent as you go). You can simply let the residual oil on your limbs infuse your bathwater, or for a more potent soak, add in the ingredients from Hanekamp’s mixture: Red alaea salt contains iron-oxide-rich volcanic clay, which she considers energising, and woody cinnamon and green rosemary have a clean, lively aroma that’s invigorating to the senses, she says.

Left: L’Objet’s Rose Noire Bath Salt. Right: Indie Lee’s Sleep Soak.
Left: L’Objet’s Rose Noire Bath Salt. Right: Indie Lee’s Sleep Soak.

Ingredients:

Create a meditative atmosphere by dimming the lights and putting your phone in another room; then try Hanekamp’s relaxing, pre-bath ritual of burning a cedar smudge stick. Run the bath and add the L’Objet or Indie Lee salts, which contain comforting extracts of lavender, chamomile and rose. During your soak, take deep, rhythmic breaths to quiet a racing mind or simply dunk your head underwater, says Hanekamp. “We hold so much tension in our heads — this will have an immense calming effect.” You can also gently massage around your eyes and temples with the Skin Gym quartz knobs to relieve pressure and muscle strain. Although it’s tempting, don’t go straight to bed right after the bath: Glick prefers to let her body return to its resting temperature first, which ensures a deeper sleep.

Left: Binu Binu’s Seshin Korean Scrub Mitt and Charcoal Soap. Right: Vessel’s Bath Soak Detox.
Left: Binu Binu’s Seshin Korean Scrub Mitt and Charcoal Soap. Right: Vessel’s Bath Soak Detox.

Ingredients:

Draw the bath and add the Vessel salts, which are mixed with ginger and cypress oils to promote circulation, or the ingredients from Hanekamp’s blend, which contains a variety of salts (including black lava with activated charcoal to clear up congested skin) and cleansing bentonite clay to absorb excess oils and debris from pores. Let the running water mix all the ingredients together. Once in the tub, exfoliate your limbs with the Binu Binu mitt, which sloughs off dead cells and also aids circulation.

Left: Kate McLeod’s Atelier Stones. Right: Fur’s Bath Drops.
Left: Kate McLeod’s Atelier Stones. Right: Fur’s Bath Drops.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 of Fur’s Bath Drops or Soveral’s homemade poultice (1 cup rolled oats, uncooked; 8 drops palmarosa essential oil; a large muslin cloth)

Rub the Kate McLeod body stone on bare, dry skin — it contains cocoa butter and coconut oil, which will emulsify into a light cream to coat your body for the bath. Next, draw the water and add the Fur drops, which are enriched with softening jojoba and grapeseed oils, or create Soveral’s poultice: Combine the rolled oats with the hydrating palmarosa oil, transfer the mixture to a muslin cloth and tie up in a knotted ball. “Let this hang under the running tap,” says Soveral, adding that the moisturising milk from the oats and oil will diffuse into the water. You can also glide the poultice over skin for a smoothing effect, she says. Post-bath, apply an extra layer of body cream for a silky finish.