I believe there are very few things in life that can't be solved by a long soak in the tub. Anything from run-of-the-mill stress to painful heartbreak to PMS to deep, dark despair can be made at least a tiny bit easier to bear, even if just for a little while, by a good bath. A few years ago, I went through a particularly rough breakup, and every night I took a long bath in an attempt to speed my healing. Yes, I sobbed every time — my crying volume magnified by both my raw pain and the bathroom acoustics — but I always emerged from the tub a little bit calmer, a little bit soothed. These days, baths are a primary component of my self-care practices. I'll take a long soak over a shower every damn time.
And sure, you can just fill up a tub with warm water (or cool water, if it's really hot out), climb in, and probably really enjoy yourself, but with a few extra steps, you can turn your bath into an at-home spa, fit to heal your body and soul.
First, I like to make sure I have a fluffy towel or two nearby, plus something good to read. (I'm currently deep into Stephanie Danler's Sweetbitter.) The towel is to dry off with after the tub and to dry my hands on while I'm in the tub so I don't ruin every book or magazine I read while I bathe (if you are going to read on an iPad, Kindle, or phone, consider slipping it into a large plastic zip-top bag first).
Then I pour a beverage. Sometimes I take a glass of wine or bourbon on the rocks in with me. Sometimes tea or a tall glass of ice water. I'm an anxious person, and sometimes have a hard time quieting my brain down after a day of deadlines and fluctuating emotions, so when I need a little help relaxing, I'll make a hot mug of this stuff called Natural Calm. It may be 100 percent placebo effect, but I swear it soothes my nerves after just a few sips.
Once I have my beverage and reading material ready, I'll light a couple of candles and step into the empty bathtub for some exfoliation. There are many body scrubs on the market, but honestly, nothing compares to a brown-sugar scrub you can make yourself with ingredients you probably already have at home. This is how:
Brown-Sugar Body Scrub
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup olive oil
Optional: I like to add a little peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil, something that invigorates the senses while the scrub invigorates the skin.
1. Stir ingredients together in a jar or other container with a fitted lid.
2. To exfoliate, scoop a small handful of the mixture and rub gently all over wet or dry skin (it will be a bit more aggressive if you exfoliate on dry skin, so be extra gentle if you go this way).
3. Note: the oil may coat the floor of the tub and make it slippery, so make sure to completely rinse it clean after use.
After exfoliating, I rinse the scrub off in the shower and then get the bathwater running. Once I have the temperature adjusted (I like to go warm but not hot at first, settle in, and then when it starts to cool as I soak, I crank up the hot water for a minute or two to heat the whole thing up), it's nice to add salts, bubble bath, or a moisturizing milk bath. Currently, I'm loving a half-cup or so of regular pink sea salt (the kind you would use for cooking — I buy it in the bulk section of my local natural-foods store — way cheaper than fancy "bath salts") and a bubble bath I make myself. The bubbles don't puff as high as the kind with lots of chemicals, but they make the bathwater silky and luxurious-feeling. Here's the recipe:
Homemade Bubble BathIngredients
½ cup of distilled water
½ cup Castile soap, like Dr. Bronner's or a generic brand. I like the kind sold at Walgreen's.
1/3 cup liquid glycerin. Look for this at drugstores near the laxatives ... which is the other thing glycerin is used for.
A few drops of your favorite essential oil. I am a big fan of lavender, which I find so relaxing, and rose, which makes me feel like I am bathing in an English tea garden — something I would very much like to do!
Essential oils can be easily procured at natural-food stores. I'm fond of the 365 brand, which is Whole Foods' store brand and is pretty reasonably priced, and Aura Cacia.
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the water and Castile soap with the glycerin.
2. Add 4 to 5 drops of your choice of essential oil.
3. Continue whisking until completely combined.
4. Pour your bubble bath into a clean jar or bottle and cover tightly with a fitted lid. You may also mix all the ingredients in a wide-mouth jar or bottle and shake with the lid secured until all the ingredients are completely mixed.
5. Run the bathwater and pour a couple of tablespoons of the bubble bath into the running water.
Once I'm settled into the tub, soaking away, losing myself in a good book (or stalking my Internet crushes on Twitter, or Instagramming my bubble-coated feet on my plastic-bag-protected phone), I like to take the opportunity to do some sort of beauty treatment. Sometimes I'll coat my hair in coconut oil, or I'll cover my face and chest with a homemade mask. My favorite recipe is gentle on skin, but effective enough on any underlying acne that may be trying to ruin my night. Oh, and, if I wanted to, I could eat it.
2 fresh strawberries
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons plain yogurt (the Greek variety is a bit thicker and makes a better mask)
1. Mash the strawberries in a small bowl with the back of a fork.
2. Stir in the honey and yogurt.
3. Smooth the mixture all over your clean face and let sit for 15 minutes, or until it dries.
4. Wipe the mask off with a clean washcloth and rinse your face with water.
5. Eat the leftovers in the tub, obviously.
Note: If you are allergic to strawberries, try blueberries.
The final step to any good bath is moisturizing all over. Coconut oil straight from the jar or cocoa butter will leave you feeling soft and smelling good.
By this point, I hope, you have achieved bliss. Repeat whenever needed, as often as needed.
Gabi Moskowitz is the editor in chief of the nationally acclaimed blog BrokeAss Gourmet and author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook; Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious, Unexpected Recipes; and a forthcoming book, Hot Mess Kitchen. Currently, she is a producer of Young & Hungry, a Freeform comedy now in its fourth season inspired by her life and writing