The Best Spa Baths for Your Body
Soothe your muscles, detoxify your skin, and quiet your mind with a trip to the tub
Bubble baths are the epitome of ultimate relaxation, but what's often thought of as an indulgent and time-consuming part of a beauty routine can also give you serious health benefits. Spas offer a variety of baths that promise to do everything from reduce cellulite to detox your skin, all while boosting your immunity and easing achy muscles. Best of all, you can recreate these experiences and reap the benefits at home.
Moor mud from Hungary's Heviz Lake, the largest thermal mineral lake in the world, contains decomposed plant fibers, minerals, and humic and fulvic acids. It's used in St. Andrew's State Hospital for Rheumatology and Rehabilitation for pain management, injuries, and some chronic diseases.
Available at: Guests at Nature's Spa in Charleston, N.C., can pair their mud bath with any service or upgrade to a mud wrap. "The antioxidants in the mud really soften the skin, and the wrap enhances this since it opens up the pores so you're basically steaming your skin with the mud," says spa manager Kayla Hastings.
DIY: While Hastings doesn't recommend trying the wrap at home unless you want your bathroom to resemble a pig sty, you can create a mini experience. Since mud can have a very pungent smell, they mix it with brewed blueberry green tea. Combine one part tea with two parts mud, slather it on your skin and let it dry for about 20 minutes, then soak for 10 minutes, she says.
In ayurvedic medicine, mustard baths have been used for detoxification and are said to help release impurities, and Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Natalie Coughlin told Yahoo! Sports that a post-workout mustard bath is her favorite way to unwind. Mustard seeds are commonly mixed with various aromatic oils and salts so, not to worry, these soaks don't leave you smelling like the condiment.
Available at: Auberge du Soleil Spa in Northern California, where mustard seeds are abundant at some wineries, offers a couples mustard bath that includes a grapefruit, juniper, and lemongrass exfoliation; a heated mustard soak infused with eucalyptus, rosemary, wintergreen, and thyme; and a massage with lavender-and-almond infused mustard oil.
DIY: Dr. Singha's Mustard Bath, a mix of mustard seed powder, eucalyptus, rosemary, wintergreen, and thyme, is a solid mustard soak that's been around for 35 years and is Coughlin's preferred mix. But Herbivore Botanicals Bath Soak includes similar scents while also boasting oats, avocado extract, and Dead Sea salt, which makes it extra moisturizing. Use it at home as you would regular bath salts.
This may sound unappealing, considering how bad a dress smells the day after someone spills a brewsky on you at a party. But Kevin Hitt, spa supervisor at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, says the yeast in beer balances pH in skin and helps with fungal issues, while mixing it with honey and massaging it onto your mane softens and brightens hair follicles.
Available at: Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail's Brew and Renew Treatments include soaks, wraps, and scrubs using chamomile oil, honey, and beer from local brewery Crazy Mountain.
DIY: Hitt says anyone with an open mind can emulate a beer soak at home. "Two cans of your beer of choice added to normal bath water will give you similar affects," he says. For a more pleasant aroma, add slices of grapefruit and orange.
Wine therapies fall under the umbrella of vinotherapy and are said to rejuvenate skin with polyphenols while potentially reducing the appearance of cellulite. Most spas use wine extract for bathing purposes, as its antioxidants remain undiluted since it doesn't have the alcohol content, according to Aire Ancient Bath Spa co-founder Armando Prados.
Available at: If you can't make it to the Caudalie Spa in Bordeaux, where wine and honey treatments and merlot wraps are provided, book a trip to New York City to visit Aire Ancient Baths for a red wine ritual that includes a soak and four-handed massage.
DIY: Leave the wine baths to the experts here, Prados says, since the alcohol in store-bought wine can dry out skin.
Salts and Oils
Some bath oils and salts don't mix well with water, and salts can dry out your skin. But the right kinds infuse water with minerals to activate the essential ingredients and healing agents of various herbal extracts, according to Tara Grodjesk of Tara Bath Therapies. From eucalyptus to lavender, black pepper, and vanilla, oils and salts can help with stress relief, muscle soreness, PMS discomfort, and immunity.
Available at: Trump Spas and the Gaddabout Spa and Salon in Tuscon, AZ, carry Tara Bath Therapies, a high-end line of essential oils and salt mixes.
DIY: First draw your bath water, then add the salts, Grodjesk says. "This way the benefits don't dissipate and evaporate before you get into the tub." She recommends soaking for at least 20 minutes to allow for your skin to absorb the oils and salts. Be sure the water isn't painfully hot but is comfortable. "It's more relaxing with a temperature you can stay in longer," she says.
Cocoa is not only for eating. Shian Wing, spa director at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, PA, says cocoa contains flavonoids, naturally occurring plant substances that are high in antioxidants and hydration properties. The scent, of course, is comforting and relaxing-but it might also make you hungry.
Available at: Various spas provide these therapies, but the Spa at Hotel Hershey is the mecca of chocolate bathing. The tubs used in the whipped cocoa bath come equipped with 10 water jets and 20 air jets to increase circulation and promote muscle relief. Hershey's Kisses are also included.
DIY: Hershey sells its signature Whipped Cocoa Bath for $20. To up the ante on your chocolate goodness, the Bernard Cassiere line includes a face scrub, moisturizer, and mask made from cocoa bean extract.
This relaxation and muscle-invigorating practice increases circulation and promotes muscle relief. When heated, it also relaxes stiff joints and is usually mixed with oils and salts that may provide additional benefits.
Available at: The ritual bath at the Spa Palazzo at the Boca Resort and Spa includes hydrotherapy tubs on top of a Swiss shower and a deluge, a warm-water massage.
DIY: Sadly, there's no way to achieve hydrotherapy at home unless you plain to outfit your bathroom with a hydrotherapy tub.
Hammams, also known as Turkish baths, are a Middle Eastern alternative to a steam bath. They typically combine body detoxification, steam treatments, and a cooling bath to pay homage to a traditional style, says Shannon Stringert, director of spa at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Available at: Hammam bathing rituals and experiences are a new common treatment at most spas. At the Sahhra Spa in Las Vegas, a Red Flower Hammam experience includes a full body cleanse, exfoliation, detoxifying wrap, and massage, plus a mint tea purifier, private sauna, and lotions in scents like tangerine and fig, cardamom and amber, and milk and honey.
DIY: "A modern interpretation of the hammam could be done at home," Stringert says. "Using any salt body scrub to exfoliate followed by a warm bath and a cool shower will reinvigorate the body."
Hot and Cold Therapy
A mixture of varying water temperatures is a widely used technique at many spas. "Heat opens the pores and promotes circulation and detoxification, which also prepares the skin for a thorough exfoliation," says Amanda Schmiege, spa director for the Trump Soho in New York City. "Cold water tightens the skin and closes the pores, which will help a guest's body temperature regulate." Don't worry about being dunked in ice water-in Turkish tradition, the cold water is usually thrown on the skin to rinse it so you experience it in brief splashes.
Available at: Most ritual bathing spas and treatments will include both hot and cold therapies. The Art of Bathing package at New York City's Trump Soho includes a service similar to a hammam where guests lie on heated marble and a technician works to scrub the body with olive oil soap and detoxifying clay. Both hot and cold waters are used throughout the treatment, and it's finished with a head and face massage with lavender oil in a refreshingly cold marble room.
DIY: Follow Schmiege's step-by-step: Bathe in warm water for 20 minutes, then drink cool water and place a cold washcloth on the neck and face to keep comfortable. Using circular motions, scrub all over your body with a mitt while the tub drains. To finish, turn the shower on cold for a quick plunge.
Using a dry brush to exfoliate the skin in circular motions is said to boost the body's lymph drainage system, which balances fluids in the body. Dry brushing has been touted for various skin appearance benefits including skin tightening and cellulite reduction.
Available at: All Exhale Spas provide dry brushing as parts of various services such as body scrubs and power body detox therapies. Not only do guests learn how to dry brush, but they leave each treatment with a brush of their own.
DIY: Pick a brush with firm bristles and use short, vigorous strokes, traveling upward on the body, says Exhale National Spa Director Laura Benge. "Brushing toward the heart is important because that is the way the lymph flows naturally. Start with the feet and work your way up the legs, stomach, arms, and underarms."