According to a recent survey, as a nation we are taking less baths – as few as four a year! – and lots more showers (227 over 12 months). Whether this is due to money or environmental concerns, or simple lack of time, it's all the more reason to make your quarterly immersions really count! And what better time than winter to soak yourself in a cosy hot tub infused with delicious spa products.
Recent research shows that baths can boost your immune system and help alleviate skin conditions such as eczema – so they’re ideal for winter maladies such as colds and dry skin too. Baths can be sensual and relaxing, perfect for a good night’s sleep, or to ease stress and aching muscles. Throw in a few scented candles and aromatherapy oils, and a bath can become the ultimate home spa.
With this in mind, we’ve scoured the spa product world to create six sumptuous bath experiences to indulge your senses and cure your ills - then sent the Spa Spies off to try them out.
NB: Huge thanks to Maison Talbooth Hotel & Spa for letting us use your luxurious bathroom suites for the photos. You can see the behind-the-scenes of our photoshoot here.
A Bath for Sleepyheads
Soapy suds, a classic novel (Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald), quality hot chocolate in a hand thrown mug from Creatively Occupied and lots of scented candles - what's not to love?
Neom spent two years coming up with the perfect blend of 19 essential oils that would send you to sleep. Lavender, known for its somnambulist effects, is not too overwhelming, but rather envelopes the sweet basil and musky jasmine in a really fresh and warming bouquet of loveliness. It’s not too feminine, so men will enjoy this too (the bottle itself is attractively unisex, even if the box is pretty). Unlike many bath foams, the essential oils and SLS-free foam leave the skin soft.
After stepping out of your bath, massage this lovely oil onto your dried skin – our lyrical Spa Spy tester described this as “wrapping yourself in a warm blanket after a walk in the rain”. Amaranth oil (from the Greek ‘amarantos’, meaning immortal) is great for dehydrated skin, as is the grape oil and vitamin e.
Neom Tranquility Candle (420g 3 Wicks £45) see above
This is a Spa Spy favourite (see pic below). The blurb says “deeply sedative” and we agree. One Spa Spy who has insomniac tendencies lights this religiously for half an hour while in bed reading (it lasts 50 hrs, so 100 deep sleeps). The Spa Spy who reviewed our Sleepyheads bath products nearly slid off in the bath and dropped her copy of Tender is the Night in the Tranquillity suds.
It’s a drizzly day and you’re feeling either a bit low or in the depths of a black hole of misery. We searched for bath products that make you feel hugged and soothed, with uplifting and enlivening notes. Coupled with French 16th Century philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s words of wisdom and a glass of pink fizz, we hope you find true happiness in this tub.
There’s an inspiring story behind this oil. AA co-founder Geraldine Howard developed the Inner Strength blend while undergoing cancer treatment – “Clary sage and frankincense to lift my spirits, rosemary and cardamom to give physical strength, geranium to balance, vetivert and camomile to calm and finally rose, which to me is like a hug in a bottle,” she says. If you rub this onto your body and step into a steamy shower or bath, it produces a powerhouse of spicy, warming aromas. I found it strange at first, then increasingly addictive, rather like a fortifying Cognac. After, my skin felt like satin.
Enhance this with the Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength Candle (40 hrs £36) hand poured with high quality soy wax. Despite the plush packaging, the candle its self is elegantly understated, while the scent is rich with head-clearing, warming notes of frankincense and cardamon.
The rosy-sweet scent emanating from this jar of Himalayan mineral crystals, Dead Sea salts and rose essential oils will lift your spirts as soon as you lift the lid. As with all Pinks Boutique products, it’s 100 percent natural and nasty-free. Our Spa Spy reviewer recommends rubbing a handful into your oiled skin to boost circulation and get your juices flowing. In the words of Montaigne: “Rejoice in the things that are present: all else is beyond thee.”
Obviously if you are sharing this bath with a partner, you won’t be reading (unless you are the types to read saucy DH Lawrence passages to one another). However, you can simply be of a romantic disposition in order to enjoy this bath, alone or with a companion.
Romantics will love the heady scent of these Himalayan salts – one of our more level headed Spies found it overwhelming. A little wooden scoop is provided: two in your bath and your whole house will smell like a moonlit forest glade with full-bodied notes of sandalwood and jasmine wafting about. It’s also really good for softening your skin. Put a small amount in the palm of your hand with a drop of water and scrub it on your partner (or self) to get the juices flowing. Our Spa Spy tester loved this, and reported that her skin felt super soft and smelled divine for a long while after.
Bamford’s Jasmine Pebble Soap (£10) was moulded from a heart shaped pebble found on a beach. Milled with natural and organic ingredients, it is fragranced with jasmine, orange blossom, sandalwood and cedar. How can a small piece of soap be so charming?
This body oil is also a particularly fab massage oil. It smooths on beautifully and goes a long way. It’s hard to untangle the smell, as there’s a perfect balance between earthy herbs and lavender and the muskily floral geranium: overall it smells like a posh, organic spa (ie Bamford Haybarn).
To help the mood, light lots of candles (although it will take quite a lot of scent to outdo those baths salts). We loved the Bamford candle, but it was swamped by ila’s Fragrance Candle for an Essence of joy (4 wicks 50 hrs £75) see above. This redolently floral candle is 100 percent natural with no chemicals or synthetic fragrances and made with essential oils, including jasmine, tuberose and vetivert. It’s like rolling about on a bed of roses.
A bath is not just for switching off, it can be mentally stimulating. Didn’t Archimedes have his Eureka moment in a bath? Slip away with a pen and paper, take inspiration from Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird (she who wrote “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor”) – and float a few ideas around the tub.
This gift set of 100 per cent natural oils are each based on the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, water. The idea is that you create your own aromatherapeutic infusion for a totally individual bathing experience. They say use three caps, which just about uses up an entire bottle, so it’s wise to mix and match and make the set last. I mixed a cap of Earth (musky and citrusy mix of frankincense, cedarwood and lime to restore my equilibrium) with Water (rose and chamomile for stress) and played around with the amount. I also rubbed ‘Earth’ on my body before a shower, which sounds wrong, but smelt smoky and comforting. It’s a lovely, thoughtfully worked out gift set with charming, good quality packaging. Yes please Santa…
You can also get creative with your candles too – we used Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength (see above) with Bamford’s Jasmine Candle (single wick £38), which smells like a recently mown meadow. Like all Bamford products, it’s impossibly fresh smelling and solidly well made.
Wish you could be whisked to a blue lagoon on an exotic island far away? Sorted. This bath is basically a huge season-denier, a revitalising shot of sunshine in your home. Winter is so not coming.
Thalgo Lagoon Water Bath Pebbles (6x33g £22)
This will turn your water blue, but not your bath, giving you a bit of colour therapy (blue is soothing and dreamy) and whisking you off to some exotic atoll. It’s easy to see how it’s inspired by the oceans in Polynesia. Active ingredients include micro-algae from the Pacific, and white water lily, both great for moisturising winter skin. The pebble fizzes like a bath bomb releasing hundreds of active micro-bubbles before spreading its blue-ness. With the warmth of the water, it gives a healing and happy experience according to our Spa Spy tester.
The colour is perfect for this candle: it smells of spices and warmth. Frankincense will get you into the Christmassy spirit, while the underlying patchouli invokes spice markets and Ayurvedic treatments.
Inspired by the fresh flowers, leaves and herbs of Thailand, this is a perfect way to end your revitalising exotic bath. It dries quickly on the skin and leaves an almost edible citrusy scent that will help maintain the summery illusion.
My colleague took one look at this bath and said: “There’s no way you’re getting me in that!” Seaweed clearly isn’t for everyone. I love it because it transports me to the stunning Irish coast, it’s wholesomely natural and organic, and it makes my skin feel extremely soft. Plus it’s kind of bonkers. This bath is perfect if you have a dose of the flu: the seaweed naturally healing your aches and pains with the bath oil clearing your sinuses.
Voya was founded due to its owner’s miraculous recovery through seaweed baths – you can read about it in our latest copy of Wellness magazine. It is an utterly unique bathing experience. You undo your net of organic dried seaweed (hand-harvested in Ireland btw) and add the sachets of Dead Sea salt. The seaweed rehydrates, literally springing to life, as does my skin. If you believe, as many do, that seaweed is miraculous for cellulite you’ll have no problems with lowering yourself into the lustrous tangle. A word to the wise, it smells powerfully of the seaside (in a very real and non-romantic sense) so add strong aroma-oils. It’s also really slippery, so take care.
The eucalyptus and pine scent is powerful enough to cut through that seaweed-y odour. It also clears your head if you have a cold, as one of our poor, ailing Spa Spies attested, and warms aching muscles. You can also use as a foot bath.
As an extra, I would sip Thalgo’s Les Infus Océans tea, a refreshing blackcurrent-y liquorish flavour that Thalgo say is good for flushing out the system of excess fluid and toxins.