The other day, it was rainy and cold here in New York, and all I wanted to do was turn on some slow jams and hop in the tub. My Vandross soak session was thwarted, however, because my bathtub currently resembles that science experiment where the bad bacterium takes over the petri dish and wins. Ew.
It’s not that bad, but it’s not something I want to lie down in, either. I actually feel sorry for my feet for being the only part of my body that has to touch the greyish-but-should-be-white tub. It would make me (and my mom) sad if you thought I was a dirty person, so I feel it necessary to explain that I tried to clean the tub with bleach, soap and elbow grease when I moved in, but it was too far gone.
Also, I didn’t want to be that new-girl roommate who’s furiously cleaning like an insane Italian maid at home on a Friday night.
I fully plan on turning my tub into a glistening porcelain beacon of bathing light, and when I do, I will be embarking on what I like to call “the bathing ritual.” I regard bathing as an art form to be conducted in a sequential, ritualistic manner. I might have bathtime OCD, but you guys, sometimes being meticulous is worth it.
I share my profound love of bath time funtimes with Oprah Winfrey. Perhaps you've heard of her? O loves to bathe, and obviously, she does it right. In the November 2012 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, she describes bathing as her hobby, and says, "I love creating bathing experiences--bath gels, bubbles, crystals, salts, lavender milks. I go prune. I go waaaay prune. I've gone to sleep."
This makes me incredibly happy because if I were Oprah, I’d do the same. Actually, that’s a lie. If I were Oprah, I’d bathe in tubs full of the milk, lavender oil and honey harvested from my backyard farm and beehives and then hire buff male models to feed me chocolate-covered strawberries and pour prosecco into my mouth while massaging my shoulders as a harpist plays some relaxing classical from the corner of the massive bathroom. It’s important to have dreams.
Let’s get to creating our own Oprah-esque bathing experience, shall we?
Like a bebe, I like to bathe at night. Nothing readies you to drift off into dreamland like a nice hot bath, preferably followed by getting into a bed with fresh, clean sheets. Oh, I’m squeeeeeing inside just thinking of it! This is my idea of a great night (and probably why I’m still single).
Firstly, clean your tub. Then, if you’re dirty, have a quick shower to lather up and rinse off before you start your bath. This will ensure you are not sitting in a pool of murky water. Don’t shave your legs in the shower, though, because that’s fun to do in the bath. IT’S FUN, OK?
If you have sore and achy muscles from working out, or from never working out, Epsom salts are your little friends. There are many scented varieties on the market, but I find their smells a little overwhelming, and prefer to be in charge of my own bath scent (I told you I was bathtime OCD, right?), so I go with plain ol' unscented Epsom salts that can be purchased at your local drugstore.
Otherwise known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom salts soothe sore muscles and also prevent skin-wrinkling (or as Oprah calls it, the “prune” factor) because they increase ionic strength in the water. I didn’t pay much attention in biology, but that sounds like magic!
As your water runs, pour in a cup or two of Epsom salts. I do this first thing so they’re dissolved by the time I’m ready to get in. I prefer a hot bath, but if the running water is too hot to touch, you’re not going to want to hop in a tub full of it. Adjust the temp by feeling the water as it fills up.
The tub is filling now, and it’s time to pour your chosen bubbles under a forceful stream of water because the harder the water runs, the better the bubbles, y’all.
My favorite bathing scent for a nighttime bath is lavender. It’s calming and puts you in the mood to snooze. If you have a cold, a few drops of eucalyptus oil will do wonders for your sinus and airways. Or you could get menthol or eucalyptus bath gel or salts to infuse the water and air with healing scent.
There are TONS of scent options for bath foam and bubbles, from vanilla bean to orange zest, so pick your pleasure. Bathing is all about making yourself happy.
Oprah says she uses Lollia Relax Evening Bubble Bath, which comes in what looks like a wine bottle, complete with cork. It’s a blend of lavender, "bee blossom honey" with white orchids, Indian amber, and Tahitian vanilla. Sounds divine, and I’m sure it’s lovely, but I prefer a more straightforward scent experience, so my top bubble bath pick is the Lavender Foaming Bath by L’Occitane. I’m sure Oprah would like this choice, if only because the label is the color purple. It smells heavenly, is made from all natural essential oil, and produces a ton of bubbles.
For a more economical bathing experience, you should go baby. My favorite bubble bath in times of tight bank accounts is Johnson's Baby Bedtime Bubble Bath & Wash. It smells like soft lavender, produces bubbles galore and contains something called “natural calm essences.” It’s gentle enough to put in your eyes because it’s for babies (no more tears!), and is also formulated to help babies, and us ladies, sleep better. And it’s $5. Hooray!
For skin-softening goodness, pour a tablespoon or two of olive or baby oil under the running water. Oprah’s a fan of Jo Malone Bath Oil and says her favorite scents are White Jasmine & Mint and Grapefruit. Be mindful of scent confusion, though. If you’re doing the lavender thing with the bubbles, you might not want to go with a grapefruit bath oil. Or maybe you do; I don’t know. I have a sensitive nose.
Also, maybe don’t wash your hair in the bath if you use the oils? Depends on your hair. I like to add the oil to the water at the end of my bath for a nice skin-coating.
While the water is still running, it’s time to set the mood. I place unscented candles around the tub’s periphery because I find that the bubbles/bath gel provide enough scent and I hate to be overwhelmed in the tub. Oprah agrees.
O says she doesn't like overpowering candles, and selects Carrière Frères Candles as one of her Favorite Things. I have not tried these fancy French candles, although I would love to because I love fancy French things.
My favorite bath candles are the Fiesta candles by Urban Barn. They’re just regular candles, but they come in all sorts of colors and they’re unscented.
You can almost get in, don’t worry.
Baths are the perfect time to indulge your face in a little mask action. I picked up the Que Bella Dead Sea Clay Mask from Target this time. Clay or other rinse-off masks are better for bathing with because the peel off kind sort of melt with the heat from the water.
This is the point when I select my bath tunes. It just completes the experience for me to hear old-school R&B in the background.
Finally it’s time to GET IN! Make sure you have a bath pillow or a rolled up towel to rest your neck on, your soaps, and a bath brush. Bath brushes are great because they allow you to clean yourself in the laziest way possible. I use it on my legs and back, mostly. You can get these at drug stores, dollar stores, or fancy bath stores; and if you prefer a loofa, more power to ya.
You could drop in a bath bomb at this point, if you’re so inclined. This is a good option if you’re looking for a one-stop product because it contains essential oils and Epsom salt-or-equivalent properties which leave you relaxed, soothed and your skin soft. My fav is the Twilight bath bomb by Lush, which has nothing to do with vampires and werewolves and everything to do with lavender goodness. Bath bombs generally don't produce bubbles, however, so keep that in mind if bubbles make you as happy as they make me.
As for the soap you’ll be lathering up with, Oprah recommends the Lafco Bath Bar Gift Set and gave them to Stephen Colbert as a gift. I would totally try these, but they’re $238 for set of 14 soaps or $17 each, and I refuse to pay that much for soap. So back to L’Occitane we go!
I swear I don’t work for them, but my best friend Megan did when we were in high school, and she got me hooked on the Shea Butter Extra Gentle Soap. It has a 100% vegetable base and is enriched with soft Shea Butter.
Do gooder fact: L’Occitane supports economic recovery in western Africa by working directly with women's Shea-processing collectives there. I dig that about them. The soap also lasts three times longer than drugstore soap because it’s triple-milled and it’s so moisturizing you can shave your legs with it. Do it!
For a treat, in the bath or shower, I also like to use the amazing Almond Delicious Soap, which smells like almond blossoms and has crushed almond shells in it to exfoliate.
My bathing daydreams of having a vintage clawfoot tub and the sunflower-dotted hills of Tuscany outside my open window may be as farfetched as my dream of Oprah one day introducing me for an interview with “Carla Ciccoooooooooooonnneeee!!!,” but a girl’s gotta dream. And there’s no better place to dream than in a perfectly salted, oiled and bubbled bath.
I’m officially motivated to scrub my tub, and we’re all set to bathe like the mighty O. Tell me your bathing rituals!