Surely the grimmest thing about cancelling your stay at one of Ireland's spa hotels is missing the treatments. We may have lost their services to lockdown rules for now but three managers have kindly shared with me how to approximate the spa experience at home. There will always be equipment and peels you cannot secure for your bathroom but everyone can elevate their self-care sessions beyond bubble bath and cucumber slices.
Here are eight ways the experts do it:
A spa starts with the room. Warm towels, a Sade-stacked Spotify playlist and a locked door are all key to zoning out in peace. Elaine Armstrong, Spa Manager at The Ice House Hotel, Ballina, Co. Mayo, recommends lighting candles and playing a “sound bath,” produced by Sligo native Rachel Mulrooney and the Salt & Soul yoga studio in Strandhill and available for download at voya.ie.
Find olfactory escape with an exotic candle like Max Benjamin’s Amalfi, Tahiti or Maldives candles, which have scents inspired by the local fruits and flowers of the islands. I especially like Amalfi Dolce Sole Candle, €24.95 at maxbenjamin.ie, a natural wax fragranced with notes of grapefruit, bergamot and tangerine, a heart of rosemary and jasmine and a base of vetiver and musk.
"Treat cellulite with a DIY coffee scrub," says Eva Byrne, Spa Manager at Killashee Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. "Caffeine has exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties and can temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite while smoothing skin." She uses her own recipe at home.
DIY coffee scrub
The Ice House’s Elaine Armstrong also recommends regular dry body-brushing to stimulate lymphatic flow and boost circulation. “I suggest brushing at least twice a week before a shower or bath. Work from the toes upwards onto the legs and back of thighs and backside. Work anti-clockwise in gentle strokes on the stomach to aid digestion. Continue up the arms towards the heart.”
After showering she uses Voya Angelicus Serratus Nourishing Body Oil, €39 at [https://www.voya.ie]voya.ie[/url]. “This seaweed-infused oil is super hydrating and packed with antioxidants. Rosehip slows signs of ageing and evening primrose helps to strengthen your cell structure and elasticity.”
Killashee Spa’s Eva Byrne unwinds by adding Epsom salt to a hot bath. “When Epsom salt is dissolved in water, it releases magnesium which is essential for sleep and stress management. Magnesium helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that induce sleep and reduce stress. Add a cupful of Epsom salt to a hot bath and relax for twenty minutes.”
She soothes dry and irritated skin by adding a cupful of ground oatmeal to a warm bath. “Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory and moisturising qualities and is used in many skincare products. It is also excellent to treat eczema. Grind roll oats into a fine powder in a blender and add to warm water. This water should turn milky when ready.”
Eva also suggests home-making a sugar scrub for pedicures. “Create your scrub by combining three parts sugar with 1-part oil coconut oil, almond oil or grapeseed oil. Soak your feet in warm water, apply sugar scrub to your feet concentrating on areas of dry skin such a heel and ball of the foot. Rinse using warm water and follow with plenty of moisturiser.”
A coat of Chanel Le Vernis in ‘Cruise,’ €25 at boots.ie, includes a bioceramic-based active ingredient— phycocoral— that delivers calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium to the nails to strengthen them. ‘Cruise’ is a new-season coral shade with pearlescent pigments for an intense, lacquered finish.
Alicja Spychala, Spa Manager at Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa, Killarney, Co. Kerry, steams her face before applying a homemade mask.
“A facial steam not only helps you unwind and leave stress behind, but opens your pores so that the mask you apply is even more effective.
She then prepares a fresh mask to suit her skin’s needs. A soothing oat and honey mask is Alicja’s go-to remedy for dryness and fine lines. Blend a quarter-cup of oats with hot water in a blender or food processor until well blended. Mix in one tablespoon of honey and another of coconut or almond oil. Apply the mixture to your face while it’s still warm and leave on for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse well with warm water.
“Avocados are full of healthy fats, vitamins and it will do work magic on your skin, particularly when it’s dehydrated.”
Alicja mashes half an avocado well and adds a teaspoon of honey. She brushes it onto clean face and leaves for 15-20 minutes, then rinses well with warm water.
Medi-spa fans who are missing their Botox and filler top-ups should remember to avoid saunas and the sun, as both excessive heat and UV rays make injectables dissolve faster. Hyaluronic acid serum is helpful in maintaining their effects between jabs, according to German aesthetic scientist (and face-firmer to the stars) Dr. Barbara Sturm.
If you've already felt the burn, you might slather on Clarins After Sun 48hr SOS Sun Soother Face and Body Mask, €25 at [https://www.clarins.ie]clarins.ie[/url]. This cream-gel mask has a comforting cooling effect and minimises burning sensations with sunflower extract. It moisturises intensely for up to two days with organic aloe vera extract and shea oil. It also helps skin to fend off free radicals with mimosa tenuiflora extract.
It is only when you put you hair on hiatus from the heat styling that keeps it in check during a typical work week that you see how stressed it's been. Even those who don't bleach or colour their hair can spot where heat-damaged hair needs more moisture and protein. Many spas offer hair services and a hair treatment session at home can also be very helpful.
For an intensive, antioxidant-rich treatment, try Shea Moisture Superfruit Complex Multi-Benefit Hair Masque, €16.99 at boots.ie. Biotin, marula oil and an exotic fruit complex of goji, açai and guava help to strengthen strands while preserving colour and providing intense moisture.