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Life doesn't get much better than when you kick off your shoes, hit the "hold" button on your hectic schedule, and relax with your closest friends. (That's after husband and kids have been sent on an outing without you!) Want to make the most of this time? Treat yourself to an afternoon of at-home spa indulgences.
It's easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of preparation. Stock up on the elements that even the most luxurious spas rely on, and you'll quickly see that their secrets can be yours, too.
So, let the spa party begin. Here, we show you how.
What's on the (Spa) Menu? Every spa needs a menu -- an array of sigh-inducing treatments -- and your at-home version is no exception. While full-body treatments do require a pro's touch, you still have plenty of options, including:
Fabulous Facial Masks: Few things say spa quite like facial masks. Choose from one of our homemade recipes or treat yourself and your guests to a store-bought clay mask (to purify oily skin) or a cream mask (to moisturize dry complexions). Some to try: Origins You're Getting Warmer purifying clay mask ($18.50) and Phytomer Hydrating Facial Mask ($23.95).
Hand and Feet Treats: Take turns pampering each other's hands and feet with scrubs and soaks. Good to try: the all-you-need Lucky Chick Tingling Tootsies Beauty Bag ($30) with a eucalyptus foot soak and peppermint products, including foot mist, scrub, and foot-and-leg lotion.
Eye Candy: It sounds so simple, yet the act of just closing your eyes can help recharge your batteries. Have a friend massage your temples with a lavender essential oil, such as those listed on the next page, and enhance the effect with an eye mask. Try the tissue-thin Talika Eye Decompress ($25 for nine masks), which you first dip into a solution of cooling cornflower and rose petal extracts. Another option: gel pads, which can be warmed up in hot water or cooled in the fridge. Two to try: Oscar + Dehn Cooling Eye Mask ($12), and Origins Fun and Fruity Eye Lids ($6). Sigh.
How to Prep for Your Pretty Party Your girlfriends are due to arrive, but before they do, take 30 minutes to assemble your spa-at-home essentials, including:
Candlelight: A candle's soft glow is instantly soothing, and candles are the easiest-to-find ingredient of your spa kit. Great to try: Aveda Lavandou Plant Pure-Fume Aroma candle ($16) and Indigo Wild Almond Soy candle ($15).
Towels: Place an inviting stack of soft towels within easy reach of your guests. They'll need them to pat their faces dry after a good cleansing.
Aromatherapy Oils: Oils are the key to ultimate relaxation, and their therapeutic benefits go back thousands of years. Dilute a few drops in water, pour into a mist bottle, and spray the room. We recommend these three scents:
Mood Tunes: Music can transform your everyday surroundings into a sanctuary. Slip an inspirational CD, like Across an Ocean of Dreams by 2002 ($14.99), into the sound system before your first guests trickle in.
Tools and Trinkets: Nail-grooming sets and neck pillows are fun take-aways. Your friends will love Ms. Manicure Marvelous Minis ($2.99), filled with nail-grooming essentials, or splurge on Dreamtime Foot Cozies ($54.99), plush aromatherapy socks.
Culinary Delights: The kitchen, always a magnet for get-togethers, will play a central role in this gathering, too. Stock up on fresh fruits such as papaya and bananas, both for delicious smoothies and do-it-yourself skin treatments. Green tea is a great hot drink, or dunk the bags in cool water and plop them right on your eyes -- the natural antioxidants will instantly reduce puffiness and relax you.
Cures from the Kitchen Did you know that you can create your own mask? Even spas like Salon and Spa Blue in Carle Place, New York, whip up homemade recipes for their clients. "We get inspiration from our clients, and from our interest in natural ingredients," says spa director Lisa Abbey. Here are some masks you can make from scratch:
Glow-Inducing Potion Salon and Spa Blue's Papaya Pineapple Perfection Mask 3/4 cup fresh mashed papaya 1 teaspoon pineapple juice 1 teaspoon wheat germ Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pat mask onto face and neck. If you feel tingling, it's okay; it means the fruit enzymes are sloughing dull skin. Rinse off after 15 minutes.
Peppy Feet Tonic Bliss Spa Exfoliating Mask 2 cups mashed pineapple 2 cups mashed papaya 2 cups warm milk Combine all ingredients in a big bowl. Soak feet (or hands) for 20 minutes. Rinse and moisturize with a cream, such as The Healing Garden's Lavender Whipped Souffle Body Creme ($6.75).
Mix-It-Up Store-Bought Facial Masks In a bowl, mix Asiana powdered facial masks with a few drops of water and voila, a fresh mask! Try the White Thai Mud version ($32), which tightens pores and brightens skin.
Kitchen staples -- such as honey, carrot, or banana -- transform the Andrea Face Mix Powder Mask ($2 for three applications) into different masks for various skin types.
Fun Fixes for Feet The ancient practice of foot reflexology, in which certain points of the foot are pressed to deliver specific benefits, has made its way to your home via beyond-adorable reflexology socks. "Diagram-lined socks are a great way to practice this healing art at home," says John Kang, president of Earth Therapeutics in Plainview, New York, which makes a complete line of pampering essentials. The reputed benefits of reflexology include increased circulation, relaxation and tension relief. Feel free to practice on yourself, of course, but don't shy away from grabbing your buddy's feet and trying it on her, too. Socks to try: Earth Therapeutics Reflexology Socks ($9.99) and True Blue Spa Sole Searching Reflexology Socks ($12).