Spa days are a necessity not a luxury.
Your Expert-Approved 5-Star Guide to Self-Care Is Here
Stress happens. Whether it’s after a long day at work, or an even longer day at home, unwinding is a top priority for a lot of folks. However, going to the spa isn’t always an option. That’s why bringing the spa home to you is the second best option, at least it is in our opinion.
Practicing self-care is an essential part of surviving our daily stresses. We do little things all the time to institute self-care in our routines. Long walks at lunchtime? Self-care. Weekend gardening sessions? Self-care. That face mask time with your partner? Yep, you guessed it. That’s self-care buddy.
So with all these different activities (and so many more) falling under the umbrella of “self-care” the term itself can itself become stressful. Since that’s not the point, we’re going to break down a simple, effective, at-home spa day self-care routine you can do whenever life feels like a little too much. Or not. That’s the true beauty of self-care. You’ll always benefit from it, no matter how and when you choose it.
What Is Self-Care
The World Health Organization describes self care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” The dictionary defines self care as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health as well as the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular, during periods of stress.”
We get it, that’s broad. Much more broad than we plan on tackling here. Whereas there is a lot to know about mental health, physical health, emotional health, and wellbeing in general, we’re going to focus on healthy habits and simple indulgences you can add to your daily life. Relaxing and reducing stress is fairly universal, so that’s what we’re going to focus on. What’s the most relaxing thing we like to do? Go to the spa.
“Year over year, more and more men are finding their love affair with spa services,” says Vance Soto, president and owner of Ole Henriksen Face and Body Spa. “[Men are] viewing it as essential self-care and less of an indulgence or once a year treat.”
Don’t take this to mean that in order to benefit from self-care you have to take a trip to the spa. Quite the contrary. Making your home an oasis for compassion and relaxation is a great idea, and one we fully endorse. That said, you don’t have to go all out on your spa at home. Just the thought of that can increase stress, which negates the entire point of the process. We’re looking to lower blood pressure her, not raise it.
“Don’t think that something like a bath is only for females (they are for everyone), and start small,” Soto adds. “The simple thing is to make it fun and view it as essential selfcare. Put the phone down and make it ‘you’ time [because] you’re no good to anybody else unless you’re also good to yourself.”
When setting up your relaxing self-care spa at home, there are a few things you might want to have on hand to make the experience as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
- Face: Pamper your face with some of the good stuff it’s craving. Be it an elaborate at-home facial, a fancy eye treatment, a lymphatic massage, or even something as simple as a luxurious shave, any (or all) of these can help reduce stress and facial fatigue — and they just feel really, really good.
- Mind: Between the blurred lines of when work begins and ends, our rolling to-do lists, and the steady stream of ads we see every day — estimates say anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 — our minds rarely get a rest. Self-care depends on having a healthy relationship with your mindfulness and getting it to a healthy place, and allowing it to stay there, even if it is only for a few minutes.
- Body: All that running around we’re doing mentally seems to pale in comparison to the running around we’re doing physically. Give your body a break from the physical activity of everyday life. It’s the only one you have and once it’s done, it’s done. Whether it be resting in a hot tub, sweating in a sauna, slathering on a top notch muscle rub, kneading deep into those tight knots, or simply deep breathing, giving your body some much needed TLC will really make you realize YOLO.
- Soul: Feeding your soul means really focusing on something you like to do. Is it loading up on your favorite superfoods? Moving through your vinyasa flow? Maybe it’s something as simple as listening to the calming sounds of a summer thunderstorm. Step one is figuring out what your soul is hungry for. Step two is actually feeding it.
- Setting: This is the time to focus on all those little things that punctuate your self-care sentence perfectly. Find the right candle, the most relaxing essential oils, and the most comfortable robe you can, and forget about everything else that’s going on. Because the truth is, it will all still be there when you’re done.
Having a checklist is great, but if you’re looking for how to get that sh*t done, we have plenty of resources here to help. We asked some spa-loving self-care experts to give us some pointers on what exactly works for them, and what can work for you too.
Find Your Facial
Giving yourself a facial might sound scary, but not when it’s self-care. It should be as easy as you want it to be. “You can give yourself an easy at-home facial,” says Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care. She advises investing a good minute or two on washing your face while concentrating on doing mini circles and really penetrating the cleanser into the skin.
Follow up by giving your face a little something extra, such as a good exfoliation or a mask. “This will stimulate collagen production, remove dead skin cells, brighten the skin and products will penetrate better into the skin,” Vargas says of her Exfoliating Mask, or any treatment with exfoliating properties. “Scrub a little more carefully in the T-zone because that’s an area that gets more oily and a common area to see blackheads.”
If targeting issues such as zits or blackheads, don’t pop yourself — just don’t. Slow and steady wins the race, and Danuta Mieloch, founder of Rescue Spa in Philadelphia and New York agrees. “Don’t extract your own blackheads and pimples — no pore strips. [Use something] with alpha hydroxy acid to prevent ingrowns and speed up exfoliation,” she says. “One of the products we are always recommending is [Biologique Recherche Lotion] P50. It prevents ingrowns, it’s great post shaving, and [it fights] blackheads on the nose.”
“I like to do a mini lymphatic drainage massage around the eyes to de-puff,” Vargas adds. Since eyes are an often forgotten area for men (until they realize how tired they look and it’s too late), treating the eyes daily is great. “While applying an eye cream, do tiny circles in an outward motion towards the temples. Downward circles will depuff, while upwards ones will bring nutrients to the skin.”
According to Vargas, another great at-home spa experience remedy for eye puffiness is already a pantry staple: chamomile tea. “Steep the tea bags in hot water, take them out until they cool, and put one on each eye for 10 minutes. You will look refreshed and de-puffed.”
If this all sounds like too much to handle right away, just take a quality over quantity approach. “It’s not how much you do for yourself that matters, but rather taking the time to properly care for yourself and your skin,” says aesthetics doctor and founder of her eponymous skin care brand, Dr. Barbara Sturm. She lists the most fundamental routine for a man as:
- Cleanse: Use a good cleanser, and alternate twice a week with an exfoliating enzyme cleanser or facial scrub
- Hydrate: With a high concentration hyaluronic-based serum
- Moisturize: To soothe irritation and protect the skin, use a quality face moisturizer such as her Face Cream Men
“After this core routine, the next thing I would add is a face mask three times a week, to heal, calm, and super-hydrate,” she adds. “Don’t make your spa time the only time you look after your body. Eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet and cutting out harmful foods can provide a much-needed health boost that benefits your entire body.”
Dr. Barbara Sturm Men’s Discovery Kit
“Men should look for health inducing, anti-aging ingredients with hydrating, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and soothing properties,” Sturm says of the makings of a quality self-care skin care routine. “Hyaluronic acid, purslane, gluthathione, and baicallin are beneficial ingredients for men.”
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50
“[This is a] cult favorite,” says Mieloch of what she calls a “magic potion” that does it all. “Exfoliates, hydrates, and balances the pH of the skin, it’s a prep step before any skincare”
OLEHENRIKSEN Cold Plunge Pore Mask
“[The] Cold Plunge Pore Mask is fun, affordable, and makes for a great Instagram opportunity,” Soto recommends. ”I suggest masks to be a focus for at home spa services because these can be used while you meditate, relax to music, take a bath, perform an at home facial, or while you FaceTime your loved ones with a glass of wine or cocktails.”
Hetime Revitalizing and Hydrating Face Mask
This mask is made for men , and it’s a favorite of our here at AskMen HQ. The refreshing sheet masks from Hetime fit on the top half of the face, leaving the facial hair area mask-free. Crafted from biodegradable cellulose fiber and formulated with natural ingredients such as vitamin-rich moringa leaf extract, aloe vera, and cedarwood and baobab oils, this 20-minute miracle brightens, hydrates, and calms dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin — you name it.
Joanna Vargas Magic Glow Wand
If you are looking to take your lymphatic drainage to the next level, Vargas offers a more high tech approach for your home spa experience. “My new skincare device, Magic Glow Wand, is great for at-home and on-the-go lymphatic drainage … Start along the side of the neck to mimic a lymphatic drainage massage and then go from middle to the sides of the face in order to deliver the best result.”
Mind Your Time
Let’s face it, today, it’s not easy to stop going, going, going. It’s ingrained in our minds that if we’re not busy, we’re doing something wrong. Well, there is a reason the hallmark of any spa you walk into is soothing, relaxing music. It’s simply to put your mind at ease. Regardless what spa treatment you decide on, you’re going to get more out of any spa experience if you’re mentally present for it as well.
Whereas meditation is nothing new (in fact, it’s almost as old as man himself), there is an increased interest in the practice these days. Thanks to the need to schedule time to relax, meditation is something a lot of us think about, but not a lot of us do.
“Meditation can be an incredibly helpful tool for managing anxiety and stress,” says Dr. Maggie Luther, ND, Care/of’s Medical Director and Formulator. “Try meditating to music or a guided meditation, so you have something external to focus on. The benefits of meditation happen over time, so be patient with yourself.”
Additionally, if you’re having trouble getting to rest your mind during the day, you may be running into similar problems at night. “Go to bed at the same time and avoid screens 30 to 60 minutes before,” Luther explains. “Building this routine means getting ready for bed an hour before turning off the lights. If you’re used to watching a TV before bed, try taking a hot bath, shower, or make yourself a cup of chamomile tea instead to ease your way.”
Sturm agrees: “Create an experience and an environment that is an oasis away from the rest of the world. This means cutting out distractions, staying away from screens and electronics (other than a speaker that can produce relaxing soundscapes) and respecting the time spent doing all this.”
Treating your body right every day makes it a lot easier to pamper it on those special days. Along with regular sleep and occasional mental breaks, keeping your moving parts powered up and hydrated is pretty high on the list.
Luther — one of the minds behind the recently launched Routines by Care/of, the free app designed to help people establish, track, and maintain healthy routines — mentions the three crucial elements of a healthy daily self-care routine:
- Balanced diet: Stick to whole foods. Tip: The perimeter of the grocery store is where you’ll find vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates (the freezer is your friend if you’re not able to eat them all).
- Water is key: Along with eating well, you should drink about half your body weight in ounces per day, preferably between meals. While having water with meals is fine, drinking too much water with food can actually deplete your pancreatic digestive enzymes.
- Gut health is still No. 1: Take care of your gut, since our digestive systems impact so many functions in the body. Herbal teas like peppermint, ginger, and chamomile support healthy digestion.
So what about pampering? That’s the fun part after all and Vargas suggests a head-to-toe approach starting with a relaxing bath: “Bathe the body in a chamomile and rosemary soak — it’s great for calming stressed skin and it’s also very hydrating. During the bath I like to put on a sheet mask.” If you’re a bath pro and want something to make a truly unique spa session, add dry brushing to your at-home self-care routine to deal with dry skin and so much more.
“Dry brushing increases blood flow, which is healthy, but its main purpose is to stimulate collagen production which will help to thicken the skin and lessen the appearance of fat cells. It also dramatically increases elasticity, so it’s great for lifting and toning a problem area,” Vargas explains. “Start at the tops of the feet and brush upwards towards the heart. Spend extra time on areas that tend to be more stagnant, like the inner thigh, and don’t forget to include the backs of the arms and the back.”
“A dry brush is a great and simple product,” Sturm agrees. “Using it before a shower exfoliates, stimulates circulation, and helps to remove toxins. A milk bath with dark honey (darker honey has higher antioxidant properties) is tremendous for your skin. Close your eyes and listen to a sound bath — this is highly meditative and relaxing.”
Routines by Care/of App
The app from the brand behind personalized daily vitamins offers simple ways to supplement your life as well. Routines helps you figure out your wellness goals and maps out your morning and evening routines. It prompts you to reflect by asking questions about how you’re feeling, thereby tracking your daily wellness levels. You’ll receive personalized data on the routines that are working best for you (broken down into categories such as energy, stress, sleep, and focus).
Dr Teal’s Chamomile Epsom Salt Soaking Solution
A relaxing bath soaking in Epsom bath salts is an old school remedy for sore muscles, but it works. The magnesium in Epsom salt may help rid the body of toxins responsible for exacerbating inflammation and revitalize tired, achy muscles. Add to that the essence of chamomile to help calm the mind and soothe the senses. Just dump at least two cups of Dr Teal’s Epsom Salt under running, warm water and soak for 20 minutes. If you want to add extra sensory relief, add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender oil, or rose oil and rose petals, or make it a bubble bath.
Calm is an easy meditation app that goes above and beyond just closing your eyes. There is always new content, and you’re able to adjust whichever nature sound soothes you in the background of each meditation. If you’re not sure if meditation is your jam, maybe knowing it’s good enough for LeBron James will help. He has a meditation series for “non-meditating people.”
Baloo Satin Sleep Eye Mask with Rose Quartz Stone
None of us get enough sleep and that can chip away at our mental wellbeing. The soft satin and generous construction of this mask blocks out light and muffles sound. It’s substantial and comfortable, but what makes this eye mask stand out is the built-in pocket that holds and includes rose quartz stone just over the third eye chakra, a point associated with the pineal gland allowing for gentle stress release.
Stress Relief Playlist
If apps asking you how you feel and telling you how to mediate still seem like too much, you might just need some stress relieving music.
Nourish the Soul
You need to figure out what really feeds your soul. No one else can do that for you, but if you are looking for some inspiration we suggest starting with a healthy meal from healthy foods that are dense in nutrients and full of flavor.
Consider infusing your self-care spa day with edible additions by sipping on green tea, herbal teas, indulging on delicious, but nutritious smoothies, and enjoying savory and satiating foods. Stress management starts with healthy habits.
Teeccino Dandelion Detox Tea
Propelled by her own sensitivity to caffeine and acidity, Teeccino founder Caroline MacDougall designed this wellness tea beverage as a unique alternative to satisfy both coffee and tea drinkers alike. It’s rich, roasted, robust flavors offer plenty of health benefits including antioxidants, potassium, and prebiotic soluble fiber all while being free of caffeine. All that’s thanks to the blend of organic herbs such as barley, chicory, carob, and of course, dandelion balanced by fruits and nuts.
Sturm Skin Smoothie
With highly hydrating cucumber and Sturm’s own super supplements, which feature anti-aging powerhouse purslane, boswellic and ellagic acids to help the body deal with oxidative stress, and adaptogens — holistic healing nutrients that are known to increase resistance to chemical and physical stress on the skin — this skin smoothie both refreshes and refuels.
- In a blender, combine Medjool dates, fresh strawberries, cucumber, almond milk, ice, and capsules of Skin Food, Repair Food, and Anti-Pollution Food (each opened and emptied).
- Blend until smooth.
- For an extra skin-hydrating boost, add aloe vera.
Easy Smokey Eggplant Smash
After winning Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition The Taste, founder of Plant People Gabe Kennedy served as the Director of Culinary and Innovation for The Little Beet and The Little Beet Table.
“This recipe is super easy, mess free and amazingly delicious,” he tells us. “Perfect for summer or winter, all you have to do is throw a whole eggplant into a hot place and wait — as it cooks, the outside will char, giving a smokey flavor to the flesh, while keeping it tender and delicious. When you open it up you will be amazed by how wonderful and delicious the meat inside is.”
- 1 eggplant
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 teaspoon harissa
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 shallot, sliced
- 4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Mint, basil, and oregano, to garnish
- Place whole eggplant on a grill, or in a 400 F oven for about 40 minutes, or until the outside is charred and the eggplant is soft.
- Split the eggplant open and with a knife cut the meat against the grain.
- With a spoon, mix in tahini, harissa, lemon juice, honey, and olive oil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Slice up the shallot and tomatoes and garnish on top of the eggplant.
- Finish with chopped bail, mint, and oregano.
- Spread the mixture onto bread, chips, crackers, or eat it right out of the skin.
Set the Mood
This may sound obvious, but it sure is easy to forget the obvious things when trying to set up the perfect bath-to-mask ratio after some quality meditative restoration. So allow us to finish off your self-care checklist with a few extra indulgences that can really take your spa day from good, to great.
“You have to tend to all the senses … smells, visuals, etc.,” Mieloch tells us. She suggests you aim for dim light, a clean space, calm music, and an overall meditative environment.
“Lighting is important,” adds Sturm. “It should not be harsh, overly bright, or fluorescent (which also puts out damaging HEV rays). Keep it simple with soft, natural light. Also, light a scented candle beforehand to infuse the space with a calming fragrance.”
Soto insists, however, that this doesn’t have to be five-star spa quality to get the specific results you’re looking for. “At home settings don’t have to be complicated and if you cannot (or simply do not want to) focus on all senses, then I recommend focusing on smell because your sense of smell is extremely powerful to induce feelings, memories, etc.,”
“The question becomes, how do you want to feel?” he continues. “Relaxed? Calm? Energized? Restored? Happy? You can achieve this through the powerful aromas of essential oils and simple inhalation.”
Whereas a lot of spas these days have moved to flameless candles to establish a safer ambience, when you’re at home, it’s better to go with the real thing. Wouldn’t you agree? Finding candles that are infused with high quality, über fragrant essential oils that burn warm, low light make for a perfect addition to your you-time.
If you are really hoping to fill the room with a relaxing bouquet but don’t want to wait for the slow burn of your ambient light to do the work — or want to further compliment it as it does — essential oil-based room and linen sprays are the best add-on you can find.
“Lower the lights, light a candle, and put on your favorite relaxation music,” Soto says. “Once you have set the stage then take three drops of lavender essential oil, rub into your palms and take three deep breaths. You will be relaxed in no time.”
Finally, now that you’re relaxed, you can’t forget to get really really comfortable. Invest in the items you will be all up in while you’re lounging, slowly upping your quality of life. Avoid an old, threadbare towel and definitely avoid any sort of pants.
Find quality, cozy spa essentials — a robe, comfy slippers, and of course a set of luxurious towels — to ensure you can achieve all that mindfulness and self-care you’ve been searching for.
Brooklinen Hammam Robe
If you do nothing else when you establish your self-care essentials, then make sure you find a good quality, thick, plush robe that will really make you feel relaxed. Nothing too tight, nothing too short, just a hammam-inspired robe that will take you to the Turkish baths it is meant to evoke, only from the comfort of your own home.
With essential spa elements including cucumber, eucalyptus, and lavender oil, these just DIY spa day-enough candles give you an easy task to complete so when their aromatic notes fill the hair and help you relax, you really something to feel good about.
Parachute Quilted Slipper
Soft, quilted, washable terry cloth fabric makes up these cozy AF all-season slippers from Parachute. Padded for comfort with a rubber sole to keep you steady, these are an investment you should consider making STAT. You’re on your feet all day, so it only makes sense to indulge them with your self-care routine.
DW Home Signature Room and Linen Sprays
Lavender can help promote calmness and wellness while helping reduce stress and anxiety. Eucalyptus is particularly aromatic and offers cooling properties, which gives it deodorizing characteristics. DW Home has room sprays that capture the essence of both of these oils often used in aromatherapy, as well as more modern takes on calming scents.
Boll & Branch Spa Bath Collection
If you have ever been to an upscale spa, you know they don’t skimp on the towels. If you are looking to create a tranquil, wellness haven in your home, you shouldn’t either. Spa towels, like these ethically made options from Boll & Branch, should be generously sized, made from super-soft, low-twist yarns that fluff up, and ideally, be bright white to help evoke a crisp, calm feeling of cleanliness.
Now that you have some home spa ideas to turn your bath into a sauna, your bath water into spa water, and your date night into a spa night, you can relax, sip on some green tea, and treat yourself to a much deserved moment of indulgent self-care.