Aching for a spa experience but can’t quite fit it into your schedule or budget? Laura Hittleman, director of Beauty Services for Canyon Ranch in Tucson, has good news. The escape and indulgence you crave may be just down the hall, under your very roof. Clear out the tub toys, turn off the phone, lock the door and revel in a blissful bath.
A bath is a bath is a bath, right? Wrong, says Laura.
According to Laura, you must begin by understanding the distinction between taking a bath and drawing a bath. Someone might take a bath just to get clean, but drawing a bath is a different endeavor. “Drawing a bath is a luxury, a ritual. You are setting up that tub for yourself,” says Laura.
Make it special
For the kind of bath Laura recommends, you must first create the scene. Slow down and enjoy the ritual as you insulate yourself from the outside world. Get out your fluffiest towels. Turn down the lights. Arrange and light your favorite candles. Bring in some soothing music. Make sure the room and the water are not too hot nor or too cold. “Anything above 98.6 degrees will feel good, but don’t go over 103. Water that is about 99 to 101 degrees is best.”
Consider the water itself, choosing from among the many ingredients you can use for the experience you desire. You might want to savor a seaweed soak, for example. Or, you might add a favorite scent to the water, maybe something you find invigorating if you’re bathing at the start of a busy day. To relax, you could sprinkle some lavender in the water or substitute lavender oil.
And don’t forget your pantry, says Laura. What about a chamomile or peach tea bath right before bed? Toss a few tea bags in the water as you draw your bath.
Make the time
Laura recommends thinking head to toe when you plan your bath time. Consider your hair, face, hands, cuticles, skin, and feet. Pick one or two areas of concentration and treat them with extra special care.
“You might comb conditioner through your hair before you step in the bath, or put on a face mask,” suggests Laura. Or, apply a cuticle cream beforehand and use the wash cloth to gently push soft cuticles back. You can also apply a grainy exfoliating scrub to dry skin before a bath, then let it soak and melt off.
How long should you linger in the tub? “Eighteen minutes maximum,” says Laura. You don’t want to sacrifice your skin or the proper water temperature. “Remember, relaxation also comes with the preparation,” she adds. You don’t need hours of free time to make bathing an important part of your day or week.
The after-bath and beyond
Following your bath and a rubdown with a thick towel, Laura suggests you moisturize immediately, using favorite, rich products that feed and condition the skin. Bathing need not be any more drying to the skin and hair than showering.
And is soaking in a warm, indulgent bath only for women? “Absolutely not,” says Laura. Men need regular getaways just as much as women. In addition, men often enjoy and benefit from special scalp treatments as they soak.
As with any activity, safety is a factor to consider as well. Bathing during pregnancy must be considered with care, making sure that you don’t soak for too long in water that is too hot. People with diabetes should also take extra care and perhaps discuss with their doctor whether bathing is advised. Oils and scrubs may increase the risk of slipping, but a grab bar on the wall and a towel on the tub bottom can add extra insurance.
You don’t need to go to a spa to feel like you’ve been to one. Build a bathing ritual into your life. Mark your calendar and make an appointment to slide into a relaxing sea of bubbles. “Do this for yourself once a week or a couple of times a month,” suggests Laura.
Draw the curtains, draw a deep breath, and draw a bath.