On a visit to a family-friendly resort, my preschool daughter became giddy over the prospect of some pampering time in the “Kid Spa,” a posh area outfitted with fluffy pink robes and sweet-smelling beauty treatments.
Unfortunately, when we saw the spa’s price list ($50 to paint her nails!), we had to temporarily shelve our visions of a mother/daughter spa day.
But my little girl’s crestfallen face forced me to think creatively. I realized that we had many of the ingredients for resort-quality spa treatments in our own garden. Once home, we invited over some friends and mixed, muddled and chopped garden offerings into a memorable (and affordable) spa day.
The next time you’re discouraged by expensive spa prices, take a stroll through your garden and use your backyard bounty to create the freshest spa treatments you’ve ever experienced.
The garden-fresh ingredients and lack of preservatives means these beauty treatments don’t have a long shelf life. Most should be refrigerated and used within one week.
Lavender-Rose Foot Soak
An age-old remedy for anxiety, lavender calms more than just your tired tootsies. The herb is antifungal and antiseptic, aids in healing wounds, and repels insects, as well.
Rose petals transform the soak into a thing of visual beauty. The flower also serves as a tonic and astringent, while its unmistakable scent acts as a mild sedative and antidepressant.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups, enough for two foot soaks
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1/2 cup Epsom salt
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 1/2 cup rose petals, or 1 T. rose water, if fresh petals are unavailable
In medium-sized bowl, mix salts. Add essential oil, and stir to combine.
Fill gallon-sized wide-mouth bowl or basin with warm water. Stir in half salt mixture.
Sprinkle water with rose petals. Soak feet and breathe deeply until thoroughly relaxed.
Mix It Up
Try sweet orange or eucalyptus essential oil with dried lavender buds or basil leaves sprinkled in the water. Sweet orange provides a refreshing, uplifting aroma, while eucalyptus possesses decongestant, antiviral and antifungal properties. Basil contains antioxidants that help protect against cell damage.
Cucumber-Mint Clay Mask
The cooling properties of your garden cucumber and mint, combined with yogurt, calm inflamed skin, while cucumber’s natural stores of silica tighten connective tissues for spa results. Kaolin clay gently pulls impurities from the skin while increasing blood circulation to the face.
Yield: 1 cup, enough for at least four masks
- 1 cucumber, halved
- 2 T. fresh mint
- 1/2 cup kaolin clay
- 1/2 cup yogurt
Chop one cucumber in half coarsely, combine with mint and yogurt in food processor, and blend until smooth. (Some small lumps are OK.)
Pour mixture into glass bowl and stir in clay until slightly thickened. Slice remaining cucumber half to use on eyes.
Recline in a comfortable chair and slather clay mixture on your face (or take turns “masking” each other’s faces). Place one slice of cucumber over each eye. Rest while mask firms up, approximately 10 minutes.
Wash off mask with warm water and pat dry.
Mix It Up
Swap avocado or banana for the cucumber. Avocado is a remarkable skin moisturizer, while the potassium in bananas helps soothe blemishes and other skin irritations. If you can’t find kaolin clay, substitute one egg white instead.
Kiwi Facial Peel
Kiwi contains substantial amounts of vitamin C, useful for the production of collagen. Its heavy-hitting antioxidants help fight the free-radical damage that ages skin. Gelatin pulls out dirt and oil that clog pores.
Yield: 1/2 cup, enough for at least four face masks
- 1 kiwi
- 1/4 cup pineapple or coconut juice
- 1 T. unflavored gelatin
Peel kiwi and coarsely chop, discarding hard inner core. Purée in blender.
In small saucepan, stir together puréed kiwi, juice and gelatin. Whisk over low heat until gelatin is dissolved. Pour mixture in small bowl and refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent clumping, until sticky but not solid, approximately 25 minutes.
Apply thin layer of gel to face, avoiding eyes, eyebrows and mouth. Let set until dry and firm, approximately 20 minutes. Peel mask off in sections. Remove stubborn portions with warm, soapy washcloth.
This mixture cannot be stored for later use, as refrigeration causes it to harden.
Mix It Up
Swap kiwi with 1/4 cup puréed strawberries, which contain salicylic acid to help tone and refresh the skin. Try apple juice instead of pineapple or coconut. If you forget to retrieve your gel from the refrigerator in time, it will solidify, but all is not lost. Sit back and eat your tasty gelatin dessert!
Rosemary-Pecan Sugar Scrub
Rosemary, a plant revered by the ancient Romans and Egyptians, flourishes as the most prolific herb in many gardens. Its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties leave skin clean and refreshed, while its earthy aroma sharpens mental focus. Pecans boast more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, B and E, and their nutty aroma makes this scrub irresistible.
Yield: 1 cup, enough for at least four hand-and-foot scrubbings
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup pecans
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 6 T. coconut oil
- 2 T. fresh rosemary
In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Pulse until blended. Pour into clean glass container.
Gently rub spoonful of scrub onto hands and feet, focusing your massage on rough areas. Rinse with warm water, and pat dry.
Store unused scrub at room temperature. Coconut oil may solidify, but rubbing mixture onto your skin will make it melt instantly. Use within one week.
Mix It Up
Substitute almonds or hazelnuts for pecans. Swap fennel seed, known for its powerful antioxidants, for the rosemary. Add 1 teaspoon cocoa powder for a scrub that smells delicious enough to eat.
Spa-Worthy Snack: Watermelon-basil Fizz
Sip this refreshing homemade beverage while you relax.
Yield: six 8-ounce servings
- 4 cups chopped watermelon
- 2 cups ice
- 2 T. chopped fresh basil
- juice of 1 lime
- 24 ounces club soda
Combine watermelon, ice, basil and lime juice in blender. Fill glasses half-full with mixture, and top with club soda.
Pumpkin Body Butter
Joining the classic skin-care combo of milk and honey, pumpkin contributes its rich stores of vitamins A and C to soften skin and help heal sun damage. Milk helps unclog pores while moisturizing, and honey’s antibacterial properties clean and heal skin.
Yield: 3/4 cup, enough for several hand/foot coatings
- 1/4 cup cooked and puréed pumpkin
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Combine pumpkin, milk, honey and cinnamon. In small saucepan over medium heat, gently warm, stirring constantly. Whisk in cornstarch.
Bring to gentle boil, and reduce heat to low. Continue whisking until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool until comfortable to touch.
Slather on hands and feet. Leave on for at least 10 minutes. (Cover feet with socks if you need to walk.) Rinse with warm water, and pat dry.
Mix It Up
Substitute acorn or butternut squash or sweet potato for the pumpkin. If you have any body butter left over, it makes an amazing ice cream topping!
So go ahead and pamper yourself. And your garden is the perfect start to a home-crafted spa day!