I know I’m not alone in this, but seriously? I thought having a newborn was hard, but parenting during a pandemic might just be worse. Yes, I may be conveniently forgetting the agony of sleepless nights, the chaffed nipples and painful perineum, but, having two kids cooped up, while the school sends home reams of incomprehensible activities, while you’re trying to work is pretty stressful.
None of Max’s school e-learning platforms or passwords seem to work for me (something to do with the fact we’ve changed schools), so overnight I’ve turned into a Luddite. This means I’ve been having to make up activities that are based on what I think the school curriculum is. But every time I sit down to take Max through his schoolwork Lulu lo-lo-loses it. They fight constantly: over the stool the other is sitting on at lunch, the toy that the other is playing with, the size of the piece of apple that I cut them…
And all this while I’m actually trying to work! It certainly gives infanthood a run for its money in the Hard Stakes. Add to that the stress of running a business during an economic downturn and the barrage of depressing media reports that clutter the newsfeed daily, it’s no wonder I’m not exactly gliding through the house with a Mother Teresa-like calm.
So guys, I’m going to have a long mother-effing-bath this Mother’s Day. And I’m going to do ALL the face masks. And maybe even a butt mask too. Just try and stop me. I’ve been working my way doggedly through the Beauticate beauty cupboard and I’ve discovered a few little gems that I’d love to share with you, so that you too, children or none, can indulge in some unadulterated, guilt-free you-time.
Don’t even start your bathroom ritual until you have lit at least one (preferably 12) of your favourite candles flickering. I like to turn the lights off for the full effect. My favourite bathing candles? Diptyque Feu de Bois is like an instant fireplace wherever you are, and since my dream has always been to have a wood fireplace alongside my claw foot bath, this will have to do. Is there anything better than a hot bath on a stormy day? A hot bath on a stormy day while burning Lola James Harper Rainy Days candle – the labdanum, ylang ylang and myrrh combo is haunting and totally atmospheric. Finally, for a bit of herbal relaxation try the Malin + Goetz Cannabis candle. The earthy mix of fig, pepper and patchouli is cosy, comforting and cool all at once.
A bath is possibly the most instantly effective in the Relax-Me-Now stakes. Contrary to what skin experts recommend I like it super hot. I love that full body “Ahhhhh” you get when you climb in and your core temperature regulates and adjusts. It’s instant relaxation. Hot baths are also good for you. A British study did find that sitting in a hot bath burned the same amount of calories as 30 minutes of walking. Another study found that people with depression improved after taking warm baths in the afternoon. As long as you don’t submerge your face then your skin won’t suffer too much. I love a combo of Epsom salts (just the ones you buy at the supermarket) and a few drops of lavender, geranium or rose essential oil. When I’m feeling really fancy I’ll add Santa Maria Novella Rose Gardenia Bubble Bath or Weleda Relaxing Bath Milk. When the kids jump in we load it up with Dr Teal’s Soothe & Sleep with Lavender Bubble Bath and soon everyone ends up yawning.
If you don’t have a bath you can still turn your shower into a spa-like experience. In my old apartment we didn’t have a bath so I would put a few drops of essential oil on a face washer and put it over the drain. This creates a scented steam room while filling the shower recess with splashy satisfaction. I would sit, or sometimes even lie on the shower floor, allowing the water to pummel my back or stomach like a soothing, therapeutic at-home Vichy shower. If you have a blow up pool toy or chair to recline on it’s even better. Make it the full spa experience with an in-shower body treatment. Start with a head-to-toe scrub with Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub (on dry skin to really up the ante) then scrub it off while lathering up with This Works Deep Sleep Shower Gel. For my face, I like a self-warming scrub mask like Dermalogica MultiVitamin Thermafoliant or Ole Henriksen Sauna Scrub.
As I pointed out in my recent IGTV 5 free ways to get more out of your masks it’s key to exfoliate before you start any type of mask. And where better to do that than a bath? You’ve got time, a tap nearby and a healthy dose of pore-cleansing steam thrown in for good measure. So grab your cleanser, a scrub and mask and go to town. The bath is the place to do those messy masks that take longer to work or are harder to get off. (I save the clear, leave on masks for bed or on my laptop working from home.) To hydrate and relax in the bath I love a cream clay mask like Minenssey Rejuvenating Mask, while Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask gives facial-like results with the skin-sloughing enzymes (skip the scrub if you’re using this). Another enzyme genius is the Tata Harper Resurfacing mask which uses pomegranate enzymes and smells sublime. The single-serve tissue masks from Sephora are amazing too – I love the heating mask for warm winter baths.
While you’re in there, you may as well whack a scalp treatment and hair mask in, too. This is your time. Make it count. I’m a big fan of the scalp scrubs doing the rounds at the moment, like the aforementioned Ouai or the Oribe Serene Scalp. Kristin Ess Bubble Hair Mask is a pretty amazing experience – it’s like those popping candies we had as kids, only on your head. It crackles away in a most entertaining way while purifying your scalp. Do your scrub then make sure you rinse it off really well before rinsing the hair with clean water (I do this under the faucet) and applying a treatment. Schwarzkopf 4in1 Repair Treatment contains cocoa butter and can be used pre-shampoo, as a conditioner, as a mask or leave-in. I slather it on as a mask and then put a hair turban on to let the heat infused it. Otherwise, when my hair is turning brassy I like to use Christophe Robin Shade Variation care nutritive mask with temporary colouring in ‘baby blonde’ to neutralise the orange tones in my highlights. Essential in these miss-your-colourist times.
The final step that simply must never be skipped post shower/bath is obviously moisturizer. I love to use this indulgent time to really massage in a body oil with firm strokes towards the heart. This helps boost lymphatic drainage. Current favourites are Subtle Energies Ayurvedic (the Bliss blend or Relax blend both smell amazing) and Ipsum Best Skin Body Oil that I got from The Green Edit. If your skin is sensitized or playing up (as mine sometimes does around my neck – from testing different things), opt for a fragrance free moisturizer like Sol de Janeiro Nude Cream – the pump pack is also convenient when you have slippery post-bath hands. While we’re talking top to bottom hydrators, there’s a bum mask that I’ve been meaning to try – the Bawdy Bite It Plant Based Collagen Bum Mask. This would probably be the time to do it – post bath, slap it on and lie on your stomach? Then it’s just a case of slipping into something fleecy and comfortable (skip the silk if you’re wearing body oil!) and hit the nearest bed/couch/book. Remember… You deserve it.