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Water A La Mode

by Nikki Moustaki May 13, 2010
Water A La Mode

The door is closed and locked. It’s just you, a yellow rubber ducky, and a bathtub filled with your personal lagoon of steaming loveliness otherwise known as “me time.” A hot bath stimulates the immune system and calms the nerves. Sure, it’s said that a cold bath can motivate the metabolism too, but no one wants to waste perfectly good milk on that, right? No, we’ll stick with H2O that’s reminiscent of balmy days, watching the palms sway over the crystalline ocean as a tanned and toned cabana boy or girl delivers your third umbrella drink. Makes you want to crank the faucet right now, doesn’t it?...

Makes A Splash of Bathing History Bathing for cleanliness is obviously a necessity (especially if you want to keep your friends), but bathing as a luxurious indulgence started as far back as Roman times. The Romans, around 500 BC, built the first “spas,” complete with hot and cold rooms, massage areas, and places to eat. The ancient Greeks also had a taste for bathing, especially in natural hot springs, and believed that bathing helped to cure ailments.

The bathing tide shifted after the fall of Rome. Medieval culture didn’t champion bathing in the same way, and most peasants didn’t ever completely submerge their bodies in water. The wealthy may have bathed a couple times a year, with the entire family sharing the water before it was tossed. Most Europeans at the time believed that bathing was the cause of disease, rather than the cure of it. This idea may have had something to do with the spread of syphilis due to the “extracurricular” activities that occurred in most Roman bathhouses at the time. Sure, blame the water.

Bathing is all about loving and caring for your body. In the movies the heroine always bathes surrounded by dozens of lit candles.

Bathing became popular again after the Renaissance when the wealthy discovered that natural hot springs and mineral-rich water sources might contain healing properties. Doctors regularly prescribed weeks at the spa to their patients and brought mineral water in barrels to ill patients who couldn’t travel. If today’s health insurance covered spa days we’d all call in sick! As research into the cause of disease became more sophisticated, so did bathing. By the late 19th Century, indoor plumbing was more prevalent and social aspersions toward bathing were gone. Spa resorts became increasingly popular after the American Revolution. Think of all of the towns across America with the word “spring” in the name – Hot Springs, Cold Springs, Warm Springs, Sulphur Springs – no doubt that most of them sprung up (pardon the pun) around a natural water source that drew bathers seeking healing or relaxation, and still do. Today, in Western culture, bathing – that is, cleaning oneself – is the social norm. Sitting in the bathtub usually gets replaced with showering when a kid turns seven and realizes that it’s more “grown up” to stand while washing with a Sponge Bob soapfilled bath sponge. When you become an adult, sitting down and relaxing in a hot tub regains its certain charms. No one is telling you to do it – or to wash behind your ears either. Soaking in a bathtub has a definite nostalgia, and at the same time an undeniable sexiness too, especially if you’re not the only one rub-a-dub-dubbing. It helps to have a bathing partner to wash your back. The Romans would be proud.

Hydrotherapy Sure, you can just fill up the tub and plop yourself in there, but what’s the fun in that? If your daily (or weekly) “stay-cation” is a bath, then make it special. Bathing is all about loving and caring for your body. In the movies the heroine always bathes surrounded by dozens of lit candles. You don’t have to go to that extreme, but two or three scented candles will create an inviting atmosphere, and give you the often-overlooked opportunity to make shadow puppets on the wall.

How about some bubbly? Please, grown ups, don’t get your bubbles from a bottle with a head on top of it (moms, you know the one). Instead, opt for Mr. Bubble’s grown up cousins – try Elemis’ Pure Retreat Bath Soak or Exotic Frangipani Monoi Bath and Shower Cream. Don’t overdo on the bubbles or you’ll get out of the bath still soapy. For a really luxurious feel, add two cups (or more, if you’d like) of milk, buttermilk, or even powdered milk, which actually does work to smooth the skin, especially if you exfoliate gently with a loofa or similar scrubber. Or, skip the fridge and go straight to Elemis’ Skin Nourishing Milk Bath, which you can use in the bath or directly on sensitive skin. Make a large “tea bag” of oatmeal inside cheesecloth to sooth irritated skin – toss in a cup of honey, a cup of milk, and a few drops of vanilla extract and you’ll get out of the bath refreshed and smelling like a cake. Salts are purported to ease tired muscles and achy joints (just ask any grandmother about Epson salts and she’ll tell you all about it). Musclease Herbal Bath Synergy Sachets from Elemis is an updated version of the healthy salt bath, with the addition of essential oils and minerals. You can stay in the bath as long as you’re comfortable, or until you get pruney. When you get out of the bathtub, pat yourself dry rather than rub. Patting will allow some of the moisture and your natural oils to remain on your skin, giving you a healthy glow and a silky sheen. Remember, bathing too often or in colder weather can dry out the skin, so be sure to apply a good moisturizer within three minutes of stepping out of the tub, such as Exotic Lime and Ginger Hand and Body Lotion, or a body oil, like the Exotic Frangipani Monoi Moisture Melt. Finally, be careful getting in and out of the tub. Move slowly and honor the experience. Once the bathroom door is unlocked the whole world comes flooding back and your personal spa is just a tub again – until tomorrow.

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