Self-care can look like internal exploration, meditation, and other more emotional journeys, but sometimes it helps to have a little help from external forces. In fact, one of my favorite things to do for a pick-me-up that does not even involve leaving the house is to have my own at-home spa day.
No, there won’t be a stranger giving me a much-needed rubdown, but there also will not be anyone to tempt me with a $50 upsell midway through an already expensive facial. While you do trade the expertise — it truly is a position of knowledge and skill that I respect — you trade it for a financial break and solitude.
It’s easy to forget that skincare isn’t just self-care — it’s healthcare.
Experts say that folks over 30 should optimally aim for a monthly facial, but who has the money to spend on luxury skin care that frequently? If you’ve got the dough, treat yourself to a professional facial when you can to get your skin to a great healthy point where you can build from. “We need a hands-on cleaning to remove buildup of makeup, dead skin, and impurities from the environment,” says Vanda Serrador, a body care expert from The Body Shop. Think of it as “Spring Cleaning,” and with March around the corner, the purge is near!
It’s easy to forget that skincare isn’t just self-care — it’s healthcare. It often feels like a vain pursuit of beauty, but it’s not just that! Your skin is one big organ that is part of the integumentary system which is comprised of skin, hair, nails, and exocrine glands. In fact, it is the biggest organ your body has with an average of about 20 square feet. That organ is constantly protecting us from nasty microbes and bacteria getting into our other organs, is our first line of defense against the elements (taking a beating from UV rays in the process), regulates our body temperature, and allows us to feel sensations like heat, cold, and touch.
Think of all of the juice cleanses, special diets, and vitamins that people take to boost their internal organ function. Naturally, you want to take care of all of your organs… skin shouldn’t be overlooked or just treated as a vanity project.
Regardless of finances, you can still #TreatYourself by designating a spa day at home once a month, or more frequently if you wish. In fact, some of the most useful skincare masks don’t even come from a bottle - they can come from your kitchen instead!
When doing a spa day, don’t forget about other parts of your body that need loving, too. Slough away the dead skin and improve circulation with foot and leg scrubs and do a deep-conditioning treatment for your hair in order to really multi-task.
Here are some of our suggestions for your next at-home spa day:
1. Take A Bath
Sound familiar? It’s because I will always advocate for taking a relaxing bath, especially if you cannot afford to get a massage. Aside from the water and electricity that it takes to heat the bath, it is one of the most inexpensive ways to instantly feel as though you are pampering yourself.
One way to make it especially relaxing is to do it in the dark. Turn out the lights, set out a few candles for ambiance and aromatherapy, and climb into a hot tub full of bubbles, flower petals, or essential oils. Low-light is also lovely for a relaxing shower at the end of a hard day and can be used in the future to set the mood with a partner. There’s a bevy of bath and shower bombs out there to treat a host of problems or desires with aromatherapy. Whatever your mood, it’s there.
2. Sheet Masks
Sheet masks are all the rage these days and they are great. They’re super popular in part because they are almost totally mess-free and self-contained. On an ideal week, I remember to exfoliate and use a sheet mask three times a week, but realistically I’m lucky if I remember once weekly. These super fun masks make it a lot easier to remember and it’s as simple as putting one on and tossing on an episode of The Mindy Project.
If you have a Daiso near you, you’re incredibly lucky. I pick up tons of masks there for $1.50 each! If you do not have access to the discount store, fear not as similar deals are just a click away. These Tony Moly sheet masks come 11 to a pack and are currently $11.30 on Amazon. If you want to amp up the fun, get one of the many adorable animal face masks from Memebox or elsewhere. If you don’t have a Daiso near you and don’t mind buying in bulk, you can get a whopping 30 masks for just under $21 — great for spa days with friends or roommates and for those of you who actually do remember to use the masks multiple times weekly.
3. Foot and Ankle Scrubs
Skincare isn’t just for your face and hands, but your feet deserve it, too. Even if you’re not into pedicures where you paint your nails, don’t forget to give your feet a bit of love. Your feet are incredibly intricate networks of bones and nerves - approximately 35 joints and 28 bones, held together by 120 ligaments and activated by at least 20 muscles. With approximately 200,000 nerve endings in each sole, they are as sensitive as they are tough. Soak your feet first with this recipe and then give these scrubs a try.
Peppermint foot scrubs are great because the peppermint can actually help increase circulation, as well as the act of rubbing/scrubbing the feet. Lavender’s aromatherapy benefit will help relax you as you slough away dead skin. Citrus can also help invigorate tired tootsies. Just remember when you are scrubbing your ankles and upward, be much more gentle with these salt scrubs than you were on the bottoms of your feet. The exfoliants can be a bit rough and leave scratches if you go too hard.
4. Hand and Foot Masks
Much like your feet, your hands take a beating day in and day out. Give them a break by helping quench their thirsty skin and improve circulation with a hand mask! Much like a sheet face mask, you can purchase presoaked disposable “gloves” or “socks” that just slip over your hands and feet. Pro-tip: don’t do your hands and feet at once unless you are taking a nap. It makes things… tricky.
Like the sheet masks, Daiso has a wealth of budget hand and feet masks available in bulk online or in packs of 3 for $1.50 in stores. This “mask” by Kocostar slips on each finger to protect nails. Sally’s Box, a South Korean beauty brand, has these adorable hand and feet masks available as a bundle. If you want to just try a foot mask on its own, the Sephora brand has reasonably priced options, too.
If you want an inexpensive solution, coat your hands with vaseline or coconut oil and put rubber kitchen gloves on before you take a nap. You can do the same with your feet and a pair of socks. It feels strange, but the results are stunning.
5. Face Steaming
Love the sauna experience? Well, you may not get the full-body sweat but you can treat your face to lovely cleansing steam and help clear out your pores with the help of a bit of moisture and humidity. Steaming has also been linked to helping control acne, as well, used with the help of a good exfoliant and cleanser.
They’re also great for when you are sick and need relief from sinus pressure. You can mix a bit of menthol or peppermint into the water when you are ill and breath in the vapors to help relieve pressure and aid in breathing. There are tons of steamers out there if you care to pick one up to integrate it into your routine or you can simply try the age old trick of leaning over a large bowl of boiling water with a towel over your head to prevent the steam from going elsewhere. Try this method first to see if you like the effects before you sink money into something that may not be right for you.
6. Face Peels
You have to be careful with face peels. We thoroughly recommend that you consult a skincare expert before you make any purchases for at-home treatment or concoct anything on your own. Find out what your skin needs and the best way to get it there from someone who has the training and experience that you do not. Be smart and ask a professional first!
That being said, there are lots of options out there. For the price of almost one facial, you can purchase a bottle of Kiehl’s Overnight Biological Peel and have several treatments. Want something around the $20 mark? Mario Badescu makes a really easy-to-use cream that will help take the dull first layer that may be clogging your pores off to reveal smooth, radiant skin. For a super budget option, you can grab a peel by Alba for under $6.
7. Deep Conditioners
It’s easy to forget the damage that our hair endures from our daily grind. Heat, humidity, changing temperatures, pollution, product, and breakage from hurried brushing are just a few things that come to mind. Winter weather can be just as much of a beast as the direct summer sunlight and heat. While you’ve got products on your face and other parts of your body, why not toss a deep conditioner on your head?
Different hair types call for different products. While I do not claim to be an expert on Type 3 and 4 hair, a friend of mine swears by Jakeala products which are a Black-owned, woman-owned, organic and mostly vegan hair and skincare business.
For those with straight, chemically-processed hair, Olaplex is a godsend and just about the only thing that saves my hair after bleaching and it has seriously upped my hair color game because I can go hard on the bleach but still protect the hair as much as possible. Buy it from a salon or the official website to guarantee that you are getting the real thing.
For those of us on a budget, the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask is a great alternative to more expensive choices, or you can create a hair mask from your kitchen.
8. Yummy Stuff!
Don’t forget the wonderful yummy things that spas also offer as they pamper your body from inside and out. From infused waters to lovely herbal teas, your body will thank you for keeping it hydrated with lovely special touches that you might not normally indulge in.
Treat yourself to a vitamin-rich smoothie to continue the positive effects and consider adding collagen powder, which is a great protein that is not only a way to make smoothies a bit more filling, but also good for your hair, skin, and nails.