Bathing Beauties: A Guide to Treating Yourself and Self Care

I love being feminine. While on one hand I realize that society has conditioned me to say that pink is my favorite color, to be concerned about my appearance, and to be invested in the ideas and aesthetics of romance, these are all things I can enjoy while acknowledging their problems. Being feminine does not make me anti-feminist.

However, it does bother me how things that are considered ‘feminine’ are treated as lesser. Even things that have no reason to be gendered: eating yogurt, listening to pop music, washing your face regularly, and taking long baths.

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Lana Turner, via screengoddess on Tumblr

As Sylvia Plath wrote in The Bell Jar, “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: ‘I’ll go take a hot bath.'” There are frew things I resonate with so strongly.

In the past year or so, I have started to identify and seek treatment for an anxiety disorder. A lot of my anxiety is rooted in a stressful and busy schedule trying to balance school and work. While taking the right medication and speaking to a therapist have been very helpful, it is very important to take time to relax and practice self care.

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Heart shaped jacuzzi tub in the Poconos, via rlband5 on Flickr

Taking a nice, long bath has become an important self care ritual for me. I have the most beautiful vintage clawfoot tub in my apartment, and even though I definitely lucked out on my bathtub situation, I feel like you don’t need to have the fanciest set-up in the world to be able to create a space where you can take a step back from everyday stressors.

And if baths aren’t really your thing, definitely find a self care ritual that helps you unwind: downloading a meditation app for your phone, or try to keep a journal where you can outline positive things that happened during the day. If you have anxiety or depression, these things will not substitute for other forms of medical treatment, but developing these habits can be helpful management tools.

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Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis filming Some Like It Hot, via marilynettelounge on Tumblr

Below I’ve included some of my favorite ways to de-stress and make a bath extra special. Just a regular bath is sufficiently relaxing as is, and I realize that not everyone can afford special bath products, but if you are looking to treat yourself, here are some things I like to use when I want to pamper myself or have had an especially rough day. I’ve selected health and beauty items that are friendly to a poor college kid budget, so read on to learn about some of my personal favorites.

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Before using a large no-crease hair tie (the only kind that will fit my long thick mess into one tie), I like pulling my hair back with a fabric hairband. Ones with a knotted/bow effect play up the retro factor. This black velvet one from New Look is a good basic, but keep an eye out for a wired headband DIY tutorial coming soon.

Like everyone else on the internet, I have been all aboard the Lush bath bomb train for a few years now. Besides being relaxing, Lush is one of the few companies I know of that pays all of their employees livable wages, as well as the only I know that uses ingredients that are both fair trade and free of strange chemicals. I realize that Lush is a luxury out of most people’s price ranges. For a special treat on the lower end of their price range, I like the Tisty Tosty bomb, with dried flowers pressed inside that bloom as the bath bomb dissolves. Also be on the lookout for local brands. If you are SLC based like me, Cosset Bath and Body in Utah is wonderful. On a national level, Me! Bath‘s Mini Bath Ice Creams are handmade in small batches in California, and are available in biodegradable bags of six at Target.

If you’re not a bath bomb person, my go-to body wash is Soap & Glory’s Clean On Me. The soap has built-in body lotion, and its scent contains mandarin peel extract along with slight hints of rose, jasmine, peach, and amber. Sometimes I pump a little bit directly into running water for a bubble bath when I am trying to ration bath bombs but still want to soak for a while.

Even if I can’t always notice the effect on my skin, the cool feeling of a fresh face mask itself is very soothing to me, especially during the summer. I’ve been a longtime fan of Korean beauty brand The Face Shop, and on a recent trip to California I discovered their capsule pack face masks. Each gel-like mask comes in a Keurig Cup-esque pod, which you peel open and apply directly to your face. Make sure to actually have a damp wash cloth on-hand when you are done instead of splashing water all over your face like I tried to do, as the mask can be stubborn to remove to do the texture. Unfortunately, The Face Shop does not have its own online store yet. They go for about $1 each at their storefronts, but you can order them in packs of 4 from Kpop Mart in cucumber, honey, and  pomegranate.

When I was little I was obsessed with tiny versions of regular-sized products, and that hasn’t really changed as I’ve grown up. Sometimes I’ll pour myself a glass of wine when I’m taking a long bath, but when I have the opportunity I like taking mini bottles and cans. The Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs come in a little can with a straw, and cite my idol/film mom Sofia Coppola as their namesake. Sutter Home also sells four packs of their 187 ml mini bottles in almost every variety of wine that they offer, and are usually pretty affordable because they’re kind of a cheap brand. Unfortunately I have yet to see either product available in Utah, but both are widely available literally everywhere else. I have seen both products at Target, and I’ve even seen the Sutter Home at the gas station in other states.

If you’re going to be in the tub for the long haul, I recommend making a playlist of songs to listen to (with the source of music as far away from the water as possible). Lana Del Rey is always a bath time favorite, as is Frank Sinatra. Light reading is always pretty relaxing too. Recently I have been reading The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, which is the novel Carol is adapted from. Other recent tub faves are Carsick by John Waters or the Sailor Moon graphic novels.

Afterwards, I prefer slipping into one of my nicer pairs of pajamas instead of my usual sleepwear. Wearing clothes that make me feel good about myself can be a nice self care tool, even if you’re just about to fall asleep. My favorite pajamas are a pink satin set from Betsey Johnson with black contrast piping but they are no longer available. This night dress from BooHoo has a very similar aesthetic, and I dig this black and white teddy too. I also have a small collection of vintage slips that I’ve acquired from local antique stores, and sometimes I’ll slip one on after I am all dried off if I’m wanting to feel especially glamorous. This pink slip off of Etsy has some beautiful detailing and is much more reasonably priced than many pieces of vintage loungewear I tend to find on the site.

Even if you aren’t an anxious mess of a human being like I am,finding something that helps your relax and recenter. Besides baths, what do you do to recenter? If you’re a bath person like me, what do you do to enhance your bath experience?

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Hey there, I'm Ellen. 23-year-old film & gender studies student. Art house valley girl. A full-on Monet. I wish Sofia Coppola directed my life.

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