Yael Alkalay is the founder of natural beauty brand Red Flower and is essentially a spa anthropologist who’s immersed herself in cultural bathing traditions and created collections around them. Translation? She knows a little something about creating the perfect bath. And convincing you why you should take one.
“Anybody can take a bath, and they make your life better,” Alkalay explains. “Every culture has a different approach, and Americans tend to not use the bath enough. It’s super simple and is such a quick escape.”
Filling up your tub is especially important in winter as it gets colder and drier, which is why she recommends it at least once a week in Athleta’s guide to having your Healthiest Year Ever.
Come winter “you’re more prone to lower immunity, tension, and muscle pain,” she says. “Creating a weekly ritual of taking a bath will help to alleviate tension and will be incredibly restorative in a simple way.”
Alkalay thinks the most beautiful bathing tradition is the Japanese onsen, or traditional Japanese mineral hot springs, which is said to have lots of health benefits, not just beautifying ones.
She shares a simplified take on the process (with suggested bath products) that you can do at home, here.
1. Set your intention. Do a little stretching and take a deep breath before you even turn on the tap. “This sets your intention to make the most of the long soak,” she explains.
2. Wash off first. Shower with a wash that has a citrus base, then use an exfoliating scrub (or a scrubbing towel) from head-to-toe. “This will prepare you for the bath by cleansing the body and stimulating blood flow,” Alkalay says.
3. Prepare the bath. After rinsing, step out of the shower and apply a body oil while you fill the bath at 110 degrees, or as hot as you can handle, before adding in a teaspoon of bath soak. “I like to light a candle then, too, so it’s really dim—even during the day,” she says. “That way you can completely relax.”
4. Play around (or don’t). “Stay in for about 20 minutes,” Alkalay advises. If you get bored, she recommends using a rice buff (a little sponge filled with rice bran) over the body in little circular motions, which deliver amino acids directly to the skin. You can also put facial serum on your finger tips and perform acupuncture by massaging your pulse points. It’s the adult version of a rubber ducky.
5. Transition to reality. “If you’re able, when you get out, take a few ice cubes and run them along your body. This shift is key to stimulating circulation,” Alkalay says. A blast of cold water will do the health-boosting trick, too. Then, while you’re still damp, apply a cream, wrap yourself in a towel, and pat the skin dry. Voila! You just had the perfect, relaxing bath—and hopefully your holiday season won’t feel quite so daunting. —Jamie McKillop