Help a girl on a budget have a spa day in the privacy of her own home
April 12, 2015 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I can't afford to go to a spa but I've always been enticed by the idea of a mud bath, getting a massage, etc etc. Sometimes I take some time to do a clay face mask and polish my nails which make me feel pretty good about myself not to mention relaxed. I'd like to create some sort of budget-spa/pampering experience in my own home.

Truth be told the face mask and nail polish is about the extent of my knowledge in all things feminine. I used to have one of those foot-loofah things too which I really liked and have been thinking about buying a new/better one anyhow. What are some thing I can do to give myself a block of "pampering time" once in a while?
posted by atinna to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 117 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not too in the know either, but I really like making a sugar scrub and using it as part of a nice bath. It's pretty much ultimate budget-spa. It's basically just a cup of sugar mixed with 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil. Feel free to play with ratios, types of sugar, types of oil... throw in a little essential oil (rose water works too). My skin feels so good afterwards.
posted by Caravantea at 5:11 PM on April 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I like to go out and find candles that smell nice and light them. The smell helps me relax and chill out, and the visual of a lit candle feels warm and homey. I'm picky about smells; turns out I like nutty, herbal, and sweet smells and absolutely hate florals and fruits. You might want to wander around a candle aisle finding things you think smell genuinely nice.

Massages, by the way, are amazing. You might be able to book one for yourself as a very special treat--sometimes they aren't that expensive on their own. There are also chairs and foot massage things which, while not as good as the real thing, might be a nice sensation to sit and focus on. Massage chairs are pretty spendy though. There is also the option of really hot baths to sit in and soak for a while, possibly again with something nice dropped in to make it smell good.

I also suck at feminine girly stuff, but those are two things I find really nice. You can also find these microwaveable neck things filled with rice and scented with lavender (or sometimes unscented) which can be heated and placed around your neck or on another sore bit. That always makes me feel more relaxed and happy.
posted by sciatrix at 5:15 PM on April 12, 2015

Gel eye masks! Face sheet masks! Fun to use while lounging and watching TV.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:17 PM on April 12, 2015

If you have a tub, bath bombs can be amazing. The ones at Lush are not cheap but are definitely "budget" compared to an actual spa.
posted by Sequence at 5:27 PM on April 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Massages, by the way, are amazing. You might be able to book one for yourself as a very special treat--sometimes they aren't that expensive on their own.

There's an app for that: Groupon. Suddenly a $60- or $100/hr massage is a totally affordable $20-$30 (plus tip).

I also splurged on a shiatsu massage pillow. (Actually, it's on sale now for less than an hour long massage.) It takes some configuring and getting used-to, but once I got it dialed in it's soo good!
posted by carsonb at 5:30 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

My self-spa ritual:

Bath soak - depends on the season but I like milk baths or colloidal oatmeal baths - you can get colloidal (super-fine grind) oatmeal in packets by the bubble bath section. Or go to Lush and get a bubble bar or bath melt. $6 or less.

Coconut oil as a deep conditioning treatment for your hair - massage it into your hair from ends to halfway up, put your hair up in a bun, and leave it in until you're ready to shampoo it out, even overnight if you want to shower in the morning. If you already have a jar, free. Otherwise $10 but it lasts for ages.

A selection of face masks - the drugstore has a variety of them in individual packets. What to get depends on your skin type. I would go with an exfoliating treatment, a clay mask, and a nourishing cloth mask of some kind. Wash your face and apply them in that order (exfoliation - clay - nourishing cloth mask). Rub in the remainder of the nourishing mask and then apply skin moisturizer. 3 for $5.

Loofah-type cloth from the Asian dollar store for exfoliating my body skin, while I let the masks work - $1
Foot file - for the end of the bath when my feet have soaked long enough- $1

I highly recommend scavenging some freebies from the drugstore or Sephora. At the drugstore when you're paying, mentioning you're looking for some new skincare but are concerned about how your skin will react. Free samples. Sephora - if they have an open container, ask for a sample to try out at home, they will spoon some into the container for you. I have gotten small samples of expensive face masks, skin creams and perfumes this way.
posted by lizbunny at 5:35 PM on April 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

Hot oatmeal olive oil bath.
posted by vrakatar at 5:45 PM on April 12, 2015

Seconding Groupon for massages. I am not on a budget but I just can't justify spending $100 on an experience that is so short. But if you're trying to keep it even cheaper, then I find some gently stretchy yoga and then a nice long shavasana pose afterwards makes me feel almost as relaxed as a massage does. Dim the lights, light some candles, put on some relaxing music, and do the stretches from yoga that involve you laying on your back and stretching your sides, your legs up in the air, etc. Nothing hard, just something relaxing.

And don't forget a nice bathrobe for when you are sitting around with your face mask or painting your toenails. And by "nice" I don't mean expensive, I mean something from Marshall's that is new to you and feels nice on your skin. The good thing is that this robe would make you feel good for years to come.

Rub some coconut oil on you when you are done with everything - it feels nice and not greasy and makes me feel more luxurious than regular lotion.
posted by at 6:01 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

More ideas:
- turn your oil hair treatment into a hot oil treatment. Warm the oil (I like jojoba instead of coconut, but it's a bit extra), put it in your hair, wrap head in saran wrap, then cover with a warm towel just removed from the dryer
- buy lavender essential oil, use to make scrubs/facials/hair treatment/bath seem more spa-like. A little goes a long way
- give yourself a face massage, there are good videos on YouTube
- for body massage, buy a foam roller, tennis ball, and/or lacrosse ball
- buy a bath brush, exfoliate! Cheap, reusable, elevates regular showering
- buy an eye pillow, eye mask, or other similar thing to calm and relax the eyes

Heat pack is a great idea, I have one called a magic bag and it is awesome.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:25 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you have a Sally Beauty nearby, they have lots of affordable products that you might not find at your everyday drugstore. They sell a lot of single-use treatments as well-- face masks, hair oil, hair protein treatments. They also carry the Mr. Pumice, which has been such a lifesaver for my winter feet and elbows.

Have you ever used a natural-bristle brush to dry brush your body skin before bathing? It's incredibly invigorating as well as exfoliating. Definitely not an everyday indulgence but I always feel awesome when I do it.

Don't underestimate the value of candles, tea, lemon/cuke water, and real paper magazines for that spa feel.
posted by kapers at 7:14 PM on April 12, 2015

Realized I should add: I've started making my own and have had great results, but because the stuff's generally available only in bulk, basically, it's only more economical once you have an idea what it is you want, so buying from Lush or anybody else for awhile to build up an idea of what you're looking for is helpful. I still haven't yet found colors as good as Lush--the ones I'm currently using are non-staining, so great for that, but don't color the bathwater much, and I still pick up a few from Lush now and then so that I can get the amazing color changes that I don't really have a way to recreate at home. So, it's worth paying a little more to try them up front, if you discover you love them you *can* get a similar experience more cheaply.
posted by Sequence at 7:14 PM on April 12, 2015

Oh, and plain old epsom salts with the essential oil of your choice are wonderful in bathwater.

If you want to use what you may already have, look up home treatments like turmeric or aspirin/honey masks (I can vouch for both.)
posted by kapers at 7:16 PM on April 12, 2015

Fyi, the bath bombs and fresh face masks at Lush are about $6 each. The masks are awesome and come in a little pot that hold enough for about 6+ treatments imo. Highly recommended.
posted by Flamingo at 7:17 PM on April 12, 2015

Get one of those head massager things like this . Those things are frickin' AMAZING! With almost no effort at all you can give yourself the most wonderful relaxing massage. Also seconding the homemade sugar or salt scrub. I have to use sugar cause I'm allergic to Salt and that's a little more pricey. I like to use lavender essential oil and orange blossom essential oils in mine.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:28 PM on April 12, 2015

I work a very stressful job with a lot of travel and physical work, so while I don't do things like paint my nails I take my "spa time" very seriously. One thing I've learned is that part of the the pampering/relaxation is the "uniqueness" of the event, so I've created a little box with the following items that are used just for spa time: a BIG fluffy white towel; one of those terrycloth hairbands; body scrubs, oils, and lotions; a pair of wonderfully indulgent, kind of expensive underwear in my favorite color used just for afterwards; a special loofah; an eye mask; a little plank for setting across the tub; a beautiful champagne class (from a thrift store); scented candles; and a CD of soothing music.

I divide my spa into two categories: pampering and relaxation. Sometimes I do a little bit of both, sometimes just one. For me pampering is more body focused - I might spend an hour just focusing on my feet with a foot soak, a scrub, nail care, and a pumice stone treatment kind of thing. Or I might decide to soak in the tub with an oatmeal bath and then spend some time carefully exfoliating and then rubbing baby oil all over my legs. Once in awhile I might take care of my hair the way you're supposed to by focusing on how I wash it, a hot oil treatment, brushing it, etc. Relaxation is more about spending some time in the tub with a nice glass of wine, a book, some candles/music, etc.

For serious spa time I plan it out in advance. I'll clean the bathroom and bedroom the day before. I'm a little hedonist so all the senses get indulged. I'll buy a 7 dollar bouquet at the grocery store, one with lots of greenery. The morning of I'll place some vases with the ferns & other greenery around the bathroom with the scented candles, and put the flowers in the bedroom. (I also like to set my pot of rosemary by the tub.) In the winter I like a glass of wine; in the summer I might make a mini-pitcher of a Pimms Cup or a summery cocktail that can be made a little bit in advance. Or a summer shandy (beer and lemonade). In the winter I might have a glass of wine, hot cocoa, or a really nice Scotch. In all seasons I'll also make a big pitcher of some water infused with cucumbers and lemon which I'll set next to the tub or soaking tub or whatever. And I'll indulge myself with a little treat like truffles.

After I get everything ready for whatever I'm doing, I light up a scented candle, close the drapes, start the music, and pour myself a glass of champagne in my special champagne glass. I lay out a robe in my bedroom with some slippers, set my champagne next to it, turn off all electronic devices, put out the candle, and leave. Seriously. I take a walk around the block, and then come in. By that time the candle has infused the house and I feel like I'm coming in for my spa day! I take my time getting ready for my treatment - I sip my champagne and I dawdle. I might even sprawl on the bed in my robe or naked sneaking a few pages of the book I'm going to read in the tub. Then I start in on my treatment, whatever it is I need. Seconding the yoga above as well to finish things out. I also have a special lotion that I love and use only for after spa time. If I take a bath I might finish with a cool shower, and since I have one of those multi-setting showerheads there's a setting I reserve just for after a spa-bath, which makes it special.

Occasionally I might even start my spa day by going to the nearest haircut place and just get my hair washed. It's a little cheap treat and comes with a mini scalp massage. Or if I have an "evening" planned I will even have it blown dry.

I'm big on tub teas and oatmeal milk baths. I also like body scrubs and hair treatments. I like to DIY my spa treatments because of the associations and giving myself something to look forward to, but that's because I like working with my hands. Almost all of the homemade recipes are from Martha Stewart and Design Sponge because I'm a little lazy. One thing I've learned is that, if I can, to make things as far in advance as possible. I'm not above buying an occasional fancy shampoo or conditioner, either, though. Also I save hotel shampoos and stuff because I've learned that sometimes it's the variety that makes it feel special, not necessarily the "expense."

Here's some DIY:
Design Sponge Honey-Lemon Foot Soak & Honey-Sugar Foot Scrub
Martha Stewart DIY Body Scrubs
Lavander & Oatmeal Milk Bath Salts
Another DIY Lavender & Oatmeal Bath Soak
Martha Stewart Tub Tea
Not Martha's Bath Bombs
Design Sponge's Avocado Scalp Mask
Design Sponge's Bath Salts 3 Ways (Citrus is great in the summer)
I also indulge myself in some of Design Sponge's Small Stress Relieving Techniques - I'm fond of the honey-avocado face mask.

Sometimes. . . um, I even print up a little card with the "routine" with fun names on it (i.e. 15 minute Bees & Citrus foot soak with a Summer Shandy & Cucumber Eye Treatment on the Back Patio; 5 minute Mountain Meadow Foot Scrub, etc.) It makes me feel like I'm somewhere else and makes me feel like I've temporarily taken all the "decision making" out of the block of time.
posted by barchan at 7:50 PM on April 12, 2015 [150 favorites]

A couple of tips -

* This is a recipe for an exotic thing I once got at a spa myself.

* this book is full of a lot of "foofy spa stuff" things you can make out of groceries, basically ( a hair treatment for a mashed banana and honey, etc.).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're prone to blisters (especially when changing socks and shoes into sandally things for the season) soak your feet in some very very strongly brewed black tea. (Obviously you should just use cheap pleb tea for this.) The tannins really do help.

I blister like a mofo and it's so much more soothing than a regular foot soak.
posted by phunniemee at 9:03 PM on April 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

A big towel. Heat it in the dryer. Have someone bring it to you when you're ready, or wrap it in another towel before you get in to keep it warm while you soak.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:13 AM on April 13, 2015

I like the home spa even more after a vigorous workout! And then I do a hot soak followed by a cold shower with a skin scrub, then lotion, the bathrobe and bed with relaxing mood music or a good film.
posted by waving at 5:17 AM on April 13, 2015

Oh, and some more tips from a "DIY spa" buff -

This is gonna be boring and icky, but if you really want to feel luxuriant about this, take a half hour or so at some separate time before you get into it and clean the bathroom really well first. Not just the basics - really deep-clean it: scrub away every stain you can, wash all the mirrors, wash the shower curtain, wipe down the sinks and countertops, scrub the toilet, scrub behind the toilet, and de-clutter everywhere.

This is one of those things that's easy to overlook until you are in the midst of getting into your lovely and pampering hot soak and you look up with a happy sigh - and then see mildew growing on the shower door.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on April 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'm a guy, but I, too, indulge in affordable self-spa days.

Oatmeal baths have already been mentioned, but my frugal tip: don't buy powdered oatmeal baths, just grind up about 1/4 cup instant oats in a coffee grinder or food processor. It's about the least expensive way to go and oatmeal baths are seriously lovely.

I also grow mint and lemon balm, so tearing off just a few leaves of each and tossing them in the bath while the water's running is all it takes to get a nice fragrance going (and they mix well with the sweet oaty tones of the bath). They're both very easy to grow in a container, but they're also inexpensive to buy fresh at most grocery stores. Ditto on citrus peel--next time you eat an orange or grapefruit, or cook with lemons or limes, put the peels in a resealable container and toss them in the freezer. Next time you're taking a bath, grab a few frozen peels and toss 'em in the bath. Give them a squeeze now and then while you're in the tub to release a pungent burst of soothing citrus oil.

When I take a bath, I try to follow it up by smoothing some Aquaphor over my feet and hands and lying still in my dark bedroom. Just some candles and music, fluffy bath robe, and maybe a face mask (a spoonful of avocado whipped together with a tiny bit of cider vinegar and a splash of water). Twenty or so minutes later, I'm fresh as a daisy.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:33 AM on April 13, 2015 [16 favorites]

I got a waterproof one-size-fits-all case for my (super old) iPad on ebay - $3 with shipping - (or look for "waterproof sleeve tablet") - shipping takes around a month BUT - netflix in the bath. it's amazing. stressfree and definitely on a budget.
posted by olya at 6:44 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

close the thread, barchan has this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe a day or so beforehand, clean your bedroom and bathroom slightly beyond your normal standard for cleanliness.
posted by aniola at 8:37 AM on April 15, 2015

Hiya! I own a bespoke spa products company, and I teach classes on how to make product.

The bathbomb recipe listed above is gone, here's mine. Soapy Hollow Bath Bombs (The recipe has been seen and downloaded on Instructables over a million times, it's pretty well field tested.)

Here's a gentle body scrub that doesn't use sugar or salt as the exfoliate. (Sugars and salts are crystalline, and can scratch delicate skin. As always, don't use these kinds of scrubs on your face.)

I, personally, prefer bath melts to bombs. Here's how to make bath melts.

Last, but not least, here's a hair treatment I use a lot because I have pyramid shaped hair otherwise. Note that this recipe makes more than you'll use in one sitting, unless you are Crystal Gail.

Have fun at your home spa day!

Oh...instead of doing mud baths, (which are really, really bad for your plumbing), rather than doing an whole tub of mud, buy some bentonite or other clay, and make a paste with some water and your fave essential oil, and paint it on with a sable brush. Dry and shower. :)

Resources: It can be difficult to figure out where to buy ingredients in amounts smaller than full production palettes of things. These vendors sell in small amounts: *

Camden Grey

For food grade essential oils, or large quantities of base oils, there are other vendors, but you start getting into needing to buy hundreds of pounds of product to be able to open accounts. That said, I know other specialized vendors, if you need them.

*I have purchased product from these companies, in some cases I know the owners of the company professionally, in no cases am I affiliated with, or paid to endorse these products.

Hope this helps!
posted by dejah420 at 12:51 PM on April 15, 2015 [19 favorites]

I'm frugal and I actually dislike the hushed, twee spa vibe. But I just spa'd my feet, because I went hiking in sandals and it was muddy, so, yuck. I used a storage tote as a foot basin, lots of hot water, liquid soap, foot scrubber, nail brush, nail clippers, then towel and lots of lotion. I filled a travel mug with boiling water to keep the water in the basin warm; should've filled a big thermos. Soaking my feet in warm, soapy, water felt so good. While I was at it, I scrubbed and lotioned my fingernails, too.

Things I'll add to barchan's excellent answer - If I'm going to have a soaking bath, I turn up the hot water, and turn on a small heater in the bathroom. I keep the hot water running just a bit; it keeps the water from going cold. When the tub was installed, I added a bunch of extra insulation too. But a big porcelain tub soaks up a lot of heat, and a hot bath should be hot. It helps to have a small table next to the tub, as well as a towel that can be used to dry hands for holding a book. Gonna try Netflix next time, the laptop could safely be set on the counter.

Those square, foil-wrapped bath salts that seems so old-lady-ish are actually great. Add your own favorite essential oil to their bland florals.
posted by theora55 at 9:53 AM on April 17, 2015

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