by Tess Schulze
After the year we have all faced, I think we can agree that pampering ourselves should be high on our list of priorities. With Christmas having whizzed past us and the New Year’s relatively uneventful (thank goodness, right?) beginning, we find ourselves with nothing but time and very little money on our hands during this round of lockdown. So how do we pamper ourselves for pennies when we can’t leave our homes and money is tight? Well, lucky for you I spent all of last lockdown mastering the art of spending very little to treat myself when and where I can. This post will be the first in a series where I will provide you with tips and tricks to pamper yourself with what you have or what you can get your hands on.
My pursuit of affordable comfort started with these long, cold Scottish winter nights that are nothing like what I am used to, being from sunny and warm California; during my efforts to adapt to the cold, I discovered the wonder of very hot baths. When the wintry nights have seeped into my bones and no amount of tea or blankets will warm me up, when the news is too bleak and I am missing the people I love: I take a long and luxurious bath. Practicing self-care in its barest and warmest form, while not a fix-all, does wonders for my mental health and my skin!
These baths I take aren’t just your standard hot soak, however; I add a number of things to the water just to pamper myself. The products I use are things you might already have in your kitchen or are easily obtained. What goes into them often varies depending on what I have on hand or how I’m feeling, but they usually consist of:
- Salt (any type will do)
- Oat milk
- Vitamin e oil
- Tea tree and rosemary oils
- Fresh or dried flowers, herbs, and/or herbal tea
- Coconut or olive oil (really, any type of oil you prefer), optional
If it is good enough to eat (with the exception of the essential oils, don’t eat them), it is good enough to go on your skin! It’s also easy to adjust measurements to find what does and doesn’t work for you. I find that if I use too much oil, my skin isn’t always happy – it’s just on particularly cold days when my skin is very dry that I find I need to add extra oil. The oat milk typically does plenty of gentle hydrating for me.
The teas and flowers soothe your skin and make the water smell even lovelier. The herbal teas that I typically use are green and chamomile teas and I source dried flowers from foraging around Dundee or the Maxwell Centre! Throughout the summer and autumn months, I find flowers and herbs then hang them to dry in my cupboard for a few weeks. All you need is a piece of string to do this! I use the flowers for my baths and gifts, as well as in the kitchen (honey, lemon and chamomile scones, anyone?).
Once you start looking out for foragable things in urban scapes, you can find treasures everywhere! One of my favourite places to go to (other than the Maxwell Centre) is the Bank Street community herb garden just outside the entrance to the Overgate Shopping Centre. During the winter months you won’t find as much variety, but they still have a good number of beautiful herbs that are available to anyone who wants or needs them. At the height of the garden’s bloom I spotted: borage, hyssop (a natural source of expectorant, so it is great to brew into a tea if you have a cold), thyme, chamomile, lavender, sage, rosemary, tarragon, and more!
It should be noted that if you are foraging, make sure that you are not taking anything from private land without asking the owner’s permission first. Always respect the space you are entering and leave as little impact on the area as you can.
Having fresh ingredients is preferable, but not always possible. So going for as natural as possible is the next best thing and will make your skin soft and luminous. Now, here is my luxurious and cheap as chips tea bath recipe:
2 tablespoons of honey
200ml oat milk
3-4 drops of vitamin e oil
3-4 drops tea tree and/or rosemary oil
2-3 herbal tea bags and/or a small handful of dried flowers
1 tablespoon oil of your choice
As the bath is filling, pour the ingredients directly into the tub (top tip: if you suffer from eczema, adding a few tablespoons of turmeric and cinnamon to the water can also help to ameliorate some skin irritation). The ingredients you choose to use can be entirely up to you and are easily interchangeable. The salt and the honey help your skin absorb the moisture and aids in softening your skin. If you don’t have oat milk, you can omit it entirely or replace it with coconut milk or almond milk. If you feel like you need a little bit more of a pick me up, add about 100ml of fresh citrus juice to the water (lemon works best for this, but any old citrus fruit will do if it’s what you have). The antioxidants in lemons are great for your skin and can even be used to lighten the colour of your hair. The tea tree oil and rosemary oil are just two essential oils that I use most often, but there are many others to choose from if you prefer other scents or other benefits (note: many essential oils are highly toxic to pets, so if you have a furry friend at home please use caution when using these products).
Once the tub is full, light a few candles, put on some music or a podcast and step in! If you’re feeling particularly tense, another great way to relax during your tea bath is to practice mindfulness; emerging research suggests that mindfulness meditation can help reduce anxiety, stress, and even has potential benefits to your overall health!
No matter how you choose to fill your time or your tub, taking steps to regularly be kind to yourself within your means will inevitably yield a happier and healthier you. Even at the best of times we can find ourselves faltering, so it is all the more important during this pandemic and historical political change that we make sure we care for ourselves and our loved ones as best we can. We are all in this together!
Check back for my next post of Pampering Yourself for Pennies: Ultra-Moisturising Hair Mask.