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Who would say no to a luxurious spa day? Your bank account probably. No matter how much you may want to follow the example of “Parks and Recreation’s” Donna and Tom and “treat yo’ self,” the potential price tag that comes with such an outing poses a pesky problem.
The great news is enjoying pampering doesn’t have to mean blowing your monthly grocery budget for a few hours at a fancy spa. You can DIY your own cozy oasis at home, easily, for some solo self-care or a cost-friendly night in with friends.
Just follow these steps, and you’ll be on the way to Zen in no time.
Whatever kind of dwelling you’re hiding away in, you’d be amazed at how transformative warm lighting and relaxing music can be. The key is to stay away from white office lighting and switch to warm, sunset glows.
Turn off all your bright overhead lights and go for some cozy candlelight instead. Even turning on a couple of small lamps rather than using the harsh main light in the room can change the mood significantly.
Color me cozy:
- Smart Light Bulb: Don’t have enough plugs? Replace your lamp bulb with a bluetooth controlled bulb (rated 4.5 stars out of 425+ reviews) so you can set the mood without moving your tush.
- Golden Hour by PF Candle Co.: The candle brand that spawned a million copy cats, PF Candle Co.’s Sunset series sets the mood with aesthetics and scent.
- Flameless candles: Rated 4.5 stars out of 45+ reviews, these flickering digital flames come with a remote and timer so that you can have them turn off after you’ve fallen asleep.
We want to cover all the basic senses for total relaxation, so up next is scent. You don’t want to be smelling what you cooked last night for dinner!
Use an essential oil diffuser to get some pleasant scents wafting through the air. Other options would be a reed diffuser or incense. If you don’t have any of those (or aren’t into any of that), some simple, nice-smelling room spray can also do the trick.
Always use in a well-ventilated area and make sure to keep essential oils away from pets.
1. Boil hot water and, after it cools, add a few drops of essential oil. If you have multiple thermoses, use them like candles around your house.
2. Make your own room spray by combining the following into a 4-ounce spray bottle:
- 1 ounce of vodka, rubbing alcohol, or witch hazel
- 30–40 drops of essential oil (mix and match, if you’d like, to create a synergy!)
- 1.5 ounces of distilled water
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
It’s nice to feel extra lavish with an assortment of refreshments on hand. Take your water up a notch by adding some slices of fruit and cucumber to it.
Alternatively, you could prepare a pot of herbal tea (like peppermint or chamomile) so you have a warm cup to snuggle up with.
If you want to be real extravagant, you could also have a bottle of champagne on hand. It’s your spa day after all!
Bonus tip: Get decadent for your friends and pick up some chocolate-covered strawberries.
You’ll be settling in for a few hours of relaxation so comfy attire is a must.
This is the perfect time to break out your snuggliest bathrobe — or the perfect excuse to finally get one. If you’re expecting friends to join you for your at-home spa day, tell them it’s BYOB (bring your own bathrobe).
You should also have some of your softest towels at the ready for drying off after some of your spa treatments.
You may not have access to a spa pool but you can at least fill a tub or washbasin with warm water to have a rejuvenating foot soak. Adding Epsom salt is a classic move, but double dip from tip #2 and mix in some essential oils as well.
If you’re enjoying your spa day alone and happen to have a bathtub in your place, you could also opt for a long bubble bath with a colorful bath bomb for good measure. Let those colors froth forth!
Extra tip: Make your own hot towel by running a towel under hot water and wringing it out. Make sure it’s not scalding hot, gently apply it to your face, and you’ll be feeling like you’re flying in first class.
It’s time to say goodbye to those dead skin cells and hello to softer, brighter skin.
As is the norm with beauty products, you have your pick of what kind of scrub you want to use, but sugar and salt body scrubs are quite popular — and they’re a cinch to make at home if you don’t feel like buying pre-made ones.
To really be thorough with your exfoliation, consider doing face and lip scrubs as well (sugar works best for those).
Necessaire The Body Exfloliator: Eczema and keratosis pilaris friendly and also offers gentle to no-fragrance options, Necessaire is slowly making waves as the darling of body care. Nayamka Roberts-Smith of the #60SecondRule fame approves this brand.
Herbivore Coco Rose Body Polish: Vegan, natural, and cruelty-free, Herbivore’s body polish contains oils so you can skip the moisturizing step later. With 4 stars out of 50+ reviews, the main complaint for this product is price.
After all the soaking and exfoliating, your skin may be feeling a little thirsty. Make sure your skin stays hydrated by putting on some moisturizer.
There’s body lotion, body cream, body butter, body oil… take your pick! Whichever one you choose, the important thing is to applying moisturizer immediately after your foot soak or shower.
Body this vs. body that!
Lotion: Typically thinner (more liquidy) in consistency, lotions are less greasy and dry fast. Ideal for hot summers and people with oily skin types.
Cream: Thicker in consistency, creams have more oils than lotion, which make it great for people with dry skin or in cold weather. If you’re with friends, use a spatula to minimize bacteria spreading.
Butter: Thicker than cream, butters have a high oil content and take much longer to dry. Butters can feel greasy but they also keep the skin sealed and moisturized for longer. Best for dry areas like the feet, elbows, and knees.
Oil: These will feel lightweight or heavy, depending on the type of oil. Since oils leave the highest chance of stains and residue on clothing or furniture, it’s best to keep this option to yourself to minimize mess!
One of the highlights of a spa day at home is putting on a mask. From sheet masks to mud masks to peel-off masks, there’s something for whatever your personal skin needs may be.
If you’re into DIY beauty care, you can even look up how to make your own (one way is to freeze a cucumber and grate it to create a refreshing mask).
You don’t have to limit yourself to just face masks either! You may want to try a cooling eye pad mask or an under-eye mask. You could also dabble with some conditioning hair masks to keep your locks looking luscious.
Rules of mask magic
Tip: If it comes in a tub, use a spatula!
Clay: Reduce shine or tackle acne with a clay mask. From bentonite to kaolin, clay masks are great for decreasing oils in the skin. If you have dry skin, skip this ingredient or definitely use a face cream after.
Sheet: Satisfy and moisturize your skin for an extra glow with a sheet mask. For one-off uses, the best benefit will be hydration.
Peel-off: Stay away from the ones that claim to pull out your blackheads, the best peel-off masks shouldn’t tug at the skin when you remove them.
Exfoliating: Typically packed with acids or small beads, exfoliating masks are a once-a-week luxury for clearing pores and purging dead skin cells. Doing this too often may sensitize and irritate your skin.
Moisturizing: Often cream or gel based, moisturizing masks seal in hydration to keep your skin plump and glowing.
Freshen up your nails by removing any old nail polish you might have on your fingers or toes and applying a fresh coat. To make things feel a little closer to the experience of a nail salon, you can dab on some cuticle oil as well to moisturize your nails and keep them healthy.
Keep around some clear, nail-strengthening polish to share with your friends. This way you don’t have to worry about color matching and you’ll be looking after their nail health!
Ella+mila: This vegan and cruelty-free product is rated 4 stars out of 360+ reviews. It’s also free of the common ingredients clean beauty buyers are worried about (formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate).
Quimica Alemana: The OG of nail hardeners with superstar reviews (4.5 stars out of 2,700+ reviews), this does contain all the ingredient no-nos, but if you’re worried about brittle tips, this will probably save you.
Nailtiques Nail Protein: It’s not clean-beauty-friendly, but if recovery is your only goal, this is what folks recovering from acrylic nails swear by (4 stars out of 490+ reviews).
Keep it light but stimulating (you don’t want to be crying or laughing into your clay mask).
If you have Netflix, you can put on an episode of something light and soothing to fit the mood like “The Great British Bake Off,” “Terrace House,” or “Moving Art.”
If you’re making it an offline day, stick to reading material that doesn’t make you feel out of the loop. Subscription-based magazines, such as Bitch Magazine, n+1, or Delayed Gratification(yay to supporting independent media!), often feature timeless stories that give the brain a nice massage.
But hey, if you’re feeling like diving into that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for ages, go right ahead.
For audiophiles, put on a playlist of whatever soothes you, like classical music, ambient nature sounds, or Tibetan singing bowls. Spotify has a number of meditation playlists, but try and make sure no loud ads are going to kill the vibe.
Let’s be honest — it’s hard to top a professional masseuse, but if you don’t happen to be rooming with one, there are a couple of handheld tools you can pick up to create your own mini massages at home.
Massage canes may look a little “out there,” but they’re great for kneading those hard-to-reach spots on your back.
There are also jade massage rollers for your face, foot massage rollers, and scalp massager tools — all of which are quite affordable and make for easy relaxation.
Thera Cane massager: Find your deepest kinks and work them out with this tool. Rated 5 stars out of 2,470+ reviews, it’s basically self-care in a stick.
Scalp massager:Create a scalp massager chain by buying two packs of two! Rated 4.5 stars out of 1,090+ reviews, this head scratcher will make you believe you’re the world’s most spoiled pet.
Zyllion Shiatsu back and neck massager: Wrap this around a chair, turn it on, and never leave. With 4.5 stars out of 11,725+ whopping reviews, this heated back and neck massager will work out the knots for you.
Cindy Brzostowski is a freelance writer and editor based in Berlin. Her work has been featured in Thrillist, Time Out, Livability, and more. See more of her work at www.cindybrz.com.