After Months of Stress, I Found Relief in a Turkish Spa

Turns out, I forgot all about self-care.
Publish date:
November 7, 2016
exfoliation, stress, stress relief, spa treatments, Rituals, Hammam

I recently celebrated my birthday, and I made it a priority to treat myself. Since arriving in London, I'd been plagued with insomnia, back pain, headaches, hormonal acne and just about every other physical symptom of stress you can imagine. I love this city to bits, but starting your life over is stressful and costly (money stress has always been the biggest bee in my bonnet), and my body was feeling the toll.

One night while searching Groupon for birthday pampering options, I came across a well-priced deal for an hour of treatment at a Turkish hammam. The reviews for its services were glowing, and since I was a first time Groupon user, I got a promo code for an even deeper discount. I was sold, and booked the appointment for the afternoon of my me-day celebrations.

When I arrived, the delightfully friendly receptionist instructed me to change into my swimsuit and a provided pair of sandals, and after that I was taken to the first part of my treatment, a steam room. I was given a small cup of liquefied black soap and told to coat my skin from the neck down while I relaxed and inhaled the steam. Inside of the room, I could barely see further than my own hands, but the eucalyptus-scented steam was incredibly soothing to breathe in, and I could feel every pore on my body opening up and tingling thanks to the herbal soap.

After a few minutes of inhaling the steam, I started to feel a bit dizzy but this was when I was directed into another dim room, completely made up of marble slabs, and rinsed down with warm water. I was then instructed to lie on one of the slabs and relax, and then one of the spa's employees used an exfoliating mitt, called a kese in Turkish, to give me a rigorous scrub down. Living in London, the air pollution can make your skin feel all kinds of grimy, so when I was shown just how gnarly and dry-skin-caked the mitt was after my exfoliation, I felt equal bits delighted and disgusted.

Following the skin purge, I was rinsed down again and then coated in a soap foam and then given a super-relaxing bubble massage. I could tell by how the soap was gliding over my skin how much silkier and smoother I already was, and as my stress tension was worked out of my neck, back and legs, I nearly fell asleep.

Once the massage ended, I was rinsed off again (I can't tell you how weirdly relaxing it is to be repeatedly bathed by another person) and then my hair was washed with the most delicious honey-scented shampoo. Anyone who's ever had a blowout or even just had their hair washed before a haircut knows the simple and wonderful pleasure of getting your scalp massaged by a stranger, so by this point I was in full bliss mode.

When my treatment ended, I was instructed to get dressed and then guided into a relaxation room. It was lit with lanterns and covered with plush floor cushions, and I was given mint tea and Turkish delight (one of my favourite sweets) and told to hang out as long as I liked. Once I finished my tea, I picked up a kese for myself so that I could recreate the relaxation ritual at home.

Reflecting on the experience, I realized I had barely been taking any time for myself in the last few months. My personal care had dwindled to the bare minimum - quick daily showers were the most relaxation I got on a regular basis. Armed with my new kese (there are loads of options on Amazon, FYI) and a new apartment with a big, clean bathtub, I've been making an effort to take chill-out, hammam-esque baths at home.

Helping me along the way has been a big bag of epsom salts for detoxification and Rituals Hammam Body Mud scrub. The eucalyptus scent brings me back to the spa's steam room, and combining this scrub with my mitt, I emerge from the bath feeling soft and renewed.

Now that I've shared my stress confession, tell me: how do you unwind after neglecting your body and mind for too long?