Make your own spa this Valentine's Day
By Melanie Haiken
What better way to celebrate coupledom than with a stress-relieving spa experience? No need to splurge. You can create your own relaxing, rejuvenating -- and romantic -- retreat right at home.
Courtesy of some of the best spas around the country, here are seven tips to help you plan the perfect Valentine's Day at-home spa escape.
1. Add luxurious details.
Have plenty of soft, fluffy towels and "his" and "hers" robes handy. Toss them in the dryer for a few minutes just before your spa session so they're warm and cozy. You'll need just three other products: a massage oil, a skin scrub (e.g., a salt rub) and a scented bath product.
2. Explore each other.
When it comes to couples' spa treatments, it's all about the shared experience, says Robert Vance, spa director at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz. Customize these experiences to fit your own preferences: If you don't like the invigorating exfoliation of a salt scrub, do a mud or clay skin treatment instead, and slather each other in slippery body mud.
3. Set the mood.
Turn off your cell phones and computers for the night, and make a pact not to talk about work. Turn off the overhead lights and use reading lamps or candles to create an inviting glow. "Use whatever's available in the environment of your home to make things feel quiet and private," says Jenny Helling, spa director at Cavallo Point Spa in Sausalito, Calif. "If you have a big bathroom with an oversize tub, bring in some candles, pull in a soft rug and create a retreat right there."
4. Feature food.
For maximum sensuality, go for food that's slippery or involves dipping or spreading. You might start with fresh fruit -- such as grapes, strawberries or raspberries -- that can be dipped in whipped cream. Or try bread or crackers with soft spreads like goat cheese and hummus. The final bubbly touch: Create a romantic cocktail by dropping pomegranate seeds into champagne, suggests Shane Bird, spa director at Aji Spa at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix.
5. Make things scent-sual.
Light a scented candle or a stick of incense, and drop aromatherapy oil directly in the bathwater or sprinkle on the sheets. If you have a fireplace, throw a few juniper logs on the fire, suggests Camelback's Vance. The wood contains essential oils that scent the room with a southwestern straight-from-the-desert aroma that will make you feel like you're camping under the stars.
6. Pamper like a pro.
Nothing is sexier than a full-body massage. There are two basic ways to approach massage. Some like to start with a neck, shoulder and back massage, since that's where most people experience aches and pains. Another technique is to start with the feet and hands, and work inward to the center of the body. Choose a massage oil with a grapefruit oil base: It's lighter and less greasy, which allows you to get a bit more grip than do massage oils with an olive or vitamin E base.
7. To each his/her own.
It often works best if there's a variety of offerings on your home spa "menu" and each of you picks what you like best. Maybe your partner would like a foot rub in the tub, but you want an all-over body massage. Try making a menu of experiences that you can offer each other. Write them on a whiteboard -- or on cards, which you can then pick one by one from the deck. The happy ending? You and your honey feel closer than ever.
Melanie Haiken has been a writer and editor for numerous magazines and Web sites, including Parenting, Health, Fitness, Yoga Journal, Real Simple and BabyCenter.