Real Retreat

A calm place where you can escape the troubles of the world and regroup physically, spiritually and mentally while also doing a little selfcare is one of the most restorative rooms in the house.

A few hours of spa time each week is good practice for keeping your body healthy and functioning well. We know the best homes are those that have routine maintenance and timely repairs. It’s no different for your body. If you want it to last you’re going to love it and take good care of it. 

But, as Christians, we are called to put others first. It’s easy to think that creating a space for rebuilding your own body, mind and spirit is self-indulgent and wasteful–that is until you consider the health benefits of caring for yourself using water and simple treatments, which encourage healing and help you feel good. 

Hydrotherapy, applying water to the body for specific health purposes, has been around since ancient times. Hippocrates said it helped with physical and mental weakness. Thomas Jefferson took a daily cold footbath, a German water treatment commonly used to help fight disease. Recently, French researchers have found the footbath may even help with anxiety, they theorized. Hydrotherapy may also reduce the need for some prescription medications. 

Medical research has shown water therapies, including taking cold showers and hot and cold baths, or a combination of those, may help decrease stress hormones, such as cortisol; balance mood-enhancing serotonin; and oxygenate the body.

How does hydrotherapy work? Cold water therapies, such as cold showers or jumping into frigid lakes, force the body’s natural survival responses into action and uses them for therapeutic purposes. In this case, the cold water causes the body’s surface blood vessels to tighten, vasoconstriction, moving the blood from the surface to the body’s core. When warm or hot water is applied, the reverse happens. Blood vessels dilate, vasodilation, causing the blood flow to return to the surface. The belief is, if managed properly, this causes a cleansing or detoxifying effect along with oxygenation. That purportedly helps with a variety of maladies.   

Professional spas offer à la carte services for hydrotherapy, such as soaking or jetted baths, water massage, saunas and steam showers. The menu of offerings at professional spas—body wraps, detox treatments, facials, waxing and massages—is often extensive and can come with a hefty price tag that easily tops a few hundred dollars a visit. 

Most of these treatments can be done at home in a restorative and private setting—your bathroom. If you have a tub and a shower, take long soaks and stimulating showers. Soaking or jetted tubs, specialty showers, saunas and steam showers expand possibilities. 

Small appliances and products can offer more help. Hand-held facial scrubbers and steamers, pedicure and manicure sets and hand-waxing units are popular items to include. Massages can even be done at home using hand-held models or oversize massaging chairs. Prefer a personal touch? Hire a certified personal masseuse to come to your house for your massage.

Bath soaks, body scrubs, facial masks, essential oils and other products may help with stimulating, cleansing, detoxifying and moisturizing. You can purchase a host of products from bath or cosmetic stores, or make your own.

Using water for therapy and relaxation has been a practice since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans first dipped their feet in natural springs. Baths, whether in a beautiful soaking tub like the one shown or a basic or jetted tub are at the core of the home-spa experience.  

Cast Acrylic Freestanding Bath from Kohler, above
Bath Filler with Handshower from Kohler, above

Luxury showers feature multiple heads and bodysprays aimed in various positions at the body. This shower design from Kohler has all the bells and whistles, including a wall-mounted digital interface to manage lighting (it has color customization capabilities), water temperature, pressure and music (speakers are located on either side of the bodysprays). Serene gray tile and a sleek floor drain make the space even more inviting. 

Body Spray and Shower Digital Interface from Kohler, above left
Ambient Rain Overhead Shower from Kohler, above right

Bathroom Sink and Faucet from Kohler, above

"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51:12 NIV
Caution: Limit time spent soaking in water to less than 20 minutes or as advised by your doctor. Do not take hot baths if you are a child, have a heart condition, are pregnant or have medical issues made worse by hot baths. Consult your doctor about this. While soaking, stay hydrated by drinking water.

Benefits of a bath

HEAT from a hot bath warms the body, encouraging increased blood flow and dilated blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and relaxes muscles. If you slip between cool sheets after a hot bath, the cooling effect drops body temperature, signaling melatonin production and sleep.

HYDROTHERAPY from focused streams of water coming through jets in a jetted or hot tub wall massages the body and relaxes the muscles. 

BUOYANCY is a natural reaction to sitting in water—the body to some extent “floats,” which lessens stress on joints and muscles and relieves pain. 

MOISTURE from a hot bath wrinkles your fingers and toes, a sign you’ve added moisture to the skin. For flaky, itchy skin, caused by conditions such as psoriasis, add 2 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil to the water.

Disclaimer: Test on hand before applying to make sure skin is not sensitive to these products.

DIY BEAUTY PRODUCTS

1. European Clay Mask

This mask is perfect for dry skin. Apply to face and let dry. Remove with a warm, damp washcloth.

Makes 1 mask

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • ¼ cup European clay powder

Instructions
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt together coconut oil and almond oil in microwave. Add clay powder and mix until well-combined. 

2. Bentonite Clay Mask

The earthy elements in this mask absorb skin toxins. Apply in a thin layer and remove with a facial cleanser.

Makes 1 mask

  • ¼ cup bentonite clay
  • 1 to 2 drops lemon essential oil
  • 1 to 2 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5 charcoal capsules
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon aloe vera
  • 4 ounces chamomile tea, strongly steeped

Instructions
In a medium bowl, whisk clay, lemon oil, peppermint oil, charcoal, coconut oil, aloe vera and tea until well-combined.

3. Peppermint Bath Fizzies

Drop one of these beauties in the bath and enjoy an effervescent, soothing and relaxing soak.

Makes 6 fizzies

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ¾ cup citiric acid
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • 5 drops food coloring, if desired
  • 8 drops peppermint essential oil
  • ½ cup water

Instructions
In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add food coloring (if desired), essential oil and water into a small spray bottle. While whisking dry ingredients, spray slowly until slightly moist and packable. Push into silicone ice cube mold. Let dry overnight.

4. Oatmeal Exfoliant Bars

These soft scrubbing bars melt like butter on skin and remove dry spots without being abrasive. 

Makes 5 bars

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon coffee
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 3 drops vanilla essential oil
  • 5 teaspoons oatmeal, divided

Instructions
In a medium bowl combine coconut oil, coffee grounds, raw sugar and essential oil.  Place 1 teaspoon of oatmeal into 5 sections of a muffin tin, then scoop 1 tablespoon of coconut oil mixture into each section. Place in refrigerator to allow bars to set, approximately 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and release bars from muffin tin gently with a knife. Use immediately, or store extra bars in freezer to keep from melting.

5. Coffee & Sugar Scrub

Create smoother, more radiant skin with this coffee scrub. It will awaken all of your senses during your morning shower.

  • ½ cup softened coconut oil
  • ¼ cup coffee grounds
  • 5 drops vanilla essential oil
  • ¼ cup raw turbinado sugar

Instructions
In a medium bowl, combine coconut oil, coffee grounds, vanilla essential oil and sugar. Mix until well-combined.

6. Lemon Body Butter

Get luxurious moisture with do-it-yourself convenience. This rich body butter quenches winter skin to make it feel soft and nourished.

  • ¼ cup cocoa butter
  • ¼ cup shea butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 6 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions
In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt together cocoa butter, shea butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Once melted, place in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture solidifies. Remove from freezer, spoon mixture into standing mixer with a whip attachment. Add lemon oil and whip for 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

7. Lavender Bath Salt

The fresh fragrance of lavender mixes with the restorative, pain-relieving power of Epsom salt. Add a tablespoon or two to hot bath water, and almost instantly you will feel rejuvenated and peaceful.

  • ½ cup Epsom salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

Instructions
In a medium bowl, combine salt, dried lavender, and lavender oil. Mix until well-combined.

Note: Test products on hand before applying for skin sensitivities. Best results are made with organic, raw products and scented as desired.