Creating Spa Sensations

With a few easy indulgences, an ordinary bath can become a wonderful retreat.
Nashville Hotels: Hermitage Hotel
The only AAA five-diamond hotel in Tennessee (and several contiguous states), the Hermitage is Nashville's first-class historic hotel, located downtown. From the bathroom concierge’s spa treatment to the gilded, vaulted lobby to the 1,000-thread-cou

After a long day, tuck the kids in bed, take the phone off the hook, and--without leaving your home--escape to the spa.

With the addition of a few little luxuries, your bath can become an oasis for rejuvenation. Towels with extra fluff, soaps that smell fabulous, and candles for ambience easily transform mundane rituals into a pampered way to end your day.

Put on some favorite music. Mix a refreshing citrus cooler or a cup of warm tea. Light aromatic candles, and dim the overhead light, if possible. Step into a warm tub, sip your drink, and relax. The real secret to creating the ultimate spa experience is simply taking your time.

Candles bring instant atmosphere to a room. Their warm glow and sumptuous aroma have a calming effect that begins the therapy of relieving everyday stresses. Keep several kinds on hand for different aromatic effects. Find fragrant candles compatible with the oils and herbs you use in your bath.

Herbs, flowers, oils, and bath salts can do wonderful things for your skin. Tie mint leaves in cheesecloth sachets to invigorate your bath, or use stimulating rosemary. Eucalyptus reacts with warm water to open sinuses and clear chest congestion. Oats calm irritated skin, but don't forget the sachet--loose oats will clog your drain. Minerals in bath salts soothe the skin and relieve achy muscles. Consider Epsom salts as an alternative to pricey bath salts.

Oils act as a sealer, holding moisture in while conditioning the skin. It's best to soak for several minutes before you add the oil so your pores open to accept the moisture. A few teaspoons of lavender or chamomile oil will help you relax.

After a leisurely soak in the tub with your chosen oils, herbs, or salts, begin the cleansing process by gently exfoliating your body, feet, and hands; be sure to use a light touch on your face. Try a clay or peel-off mask on your face and hands.

Sponges and loofahs are natural materials that smooth the skin. Nylon gloves (found in bath specialty shops) also gently exfoliate. Massage the skin in a circular motion for best results. A washcloth or nylon mesh puff works on sensitive skin and, when combined with a moisturizing soap, can comfort with lots of lather.

Soaps come in many varieties, from a basic bar to gels containing natural herbs. The better bar soaps are made with very little air. Some French soaps are extremely dense and long lasting. Vegetable glycerin soaps--popular for their moisturizing properties--are often fragrant and colorful. Cleansing gels are easy to use and sometimes contain moisturizers such as vitamins A and E as well as alpha hydroxy acids for further exfoliation.

After your luxurious soak, rinse off in a warm shower; then wrap up in a plush towel. As a treat, dry off with a toasty towel--warm from the dryer or microwave (about 30 seconds).

From basic terry cloth to patterned velour, towels come in a wide variety of styles and prices. Shop for those that suit you and that are made with solid construction--a strong selvage (the woven edge) and a tight, thick weave. In professional spas, 100% cotton towels with many loops (for thickness) are preferred. When choosing colors, be careful about bright hues--remember the bath is a room for relaxing. You can't go wrong with white, but soothing shades of cream and green are also desirable and calming.

Finally, to keep your skin soft and supple, enjoy the luxury of lavishing it with moisturizing lotion. Take your time applying the lotion and gently massaging your temples, hands, and feet as you sit on a soft, comfortable seat. Use lotions with scents that complement the oils for the tub. To achieve maximum benefits, moisturize while skin is damp.