The title of this post may be misleading. It may lead you to believe that I bask in a sauna on the daily, and that I’m about to share some unattainable weekly pampering routine that takes place in a luxurious sauna, ready to my avail at any time.
Well, not exactly.
The purpose of this post is to share how you can enhance your sauna experience when you do go to a sauna, whether it’s at your gym, pool, spa, condo, cottage, friend’s house, wherever. In my particular case, I’ve had the delightful benefit of having an authentic sauna experience thanks to my boyfriend’s Finnish background.
Saunas are a quintessential part of Finnish lifestyle, and some Finns who live in Canada have made sure to maintain that lifestyle by building a sauna in their Canadian households and/or cottages. My boyfriend’s parents were one of them, and they made sure to build a proper custom-made cedar sauna in their home.
Over the years whenever I’ve come over, his parents always kindly offer if I want to use their sauna, which is another Finnish custom, sharing the sauna (aside from the need to constantly feed you).
I always, always, gladly accept. For someone who loves spas, skincare and beauty routines, I would never miss out on this free spa experience.
According to my boyfriend and his fellow Finnish partisans, a sauna session can basically be a whole day affair. You can spend hours in a sauna, taking breaks and cooling down by jumping in the lake and rolling in the snow (true story), and then getting back into the steaming heat and doing it all over again.
I’ve done the plunging in a bath part when we went to Scandinave Spa, just not the snow bit yet. I’m sure that’s bound to happen at some point.
So what is it that I do to make my sauna experience so special? Three main things: aromatherapy, hydration and exfoliation.
The most important step before, during and after a sauna is to keep yourself hydrated. Drinking water throughout your session is key so you don’t feel parched when you’re sitting and sweating your butt off.
Aside from keeping hydrated, knowing when to take a break and cooling down is just as important. That’s what makes the sauna experience enjoyable. You shouldn’t have to feel like you need to last as long as possible in the heat. In fact, the hot and cold cycle is part of the process, and over time, you’ll learn to be more in tune with your body by understanding what it needs, and its limits.
Now that I’ve shared my little disclaimer, it’s time for the fun part: the little additions that can will make you feel like you’ve had a luxurious spa treatment.
Add Essential Oils
This is optional but believe me you’ll want to try this at least once, if you can. Adding a few drops of essential oils in the pail of water that you throw into the sauna rocks creates such an invigorating aromatherapeutic steam experience.
This is especially enjoyable if you have a cold or if you just need to unwind and relax. I love using lavender essential oil (that’s usually my go-to) and I’ve also used eucalyptus or Immune from Saje on the days I was getting over a cold. Just as the Finnish saying goes, “Sauna is the poor man’s medicine cabinet“.
(Keep in mind that throwing water in sauna rocks is most likely prohibited in public saunas in Canada, although some spas do have aromatmerpeutic steam rooms, which could replace this step).
Deep Condition Hair
Before starting my sweat sesh, I apply conditioner to wet hair to get an extra deep conditioning hair treatment. The sauna steam and heat really make the conditioner soak into my hair and rewards me with with lustrous, shiny, soft hair.
My go-to conditioner is this Devacurl Decadence One Condition which is perfect for curly hair.
Similarly to the conditioner step, I like to apply an exfoliating facial mask before entering the sauna so it can sit and do its magic for the duration of my steamy sauna time. When I’m done and ready to shower, I gently scrub the mask into my skin and rinse off with cool water, revealing silky clean skin.
I love this French Pink Clay Facial Scrub from The Apothecary Boys because it serves as a mask and is gentle for sensitive skin.
Exfoliate with Body Loofah
Exfoliation and saunas go together like skiing and hot chocolate. You’ve just gotta do one with the other. You can dry scrub dead skin cells before your sauna, and scrub again after your sauna for a squeaky-clean wash.
Finns traditionally use a bath sponge called karhea saunasieni but any loofah or bristle body brush does the trick. Similarly to a hammam spa, exfoliating your body after a nice hot sauna will give you incredibly clean, smooth soft skin.
Here’s that cup of water again! You’re gonna wanna drink a few of these once you’re done, and you might also challenge yourself to the coldest water setting of the shower. Normally, this is the part where Finns jump in the lake or snow.
The final cool down is one of my favourite parts because at this point, your body is so incredibly hot that you will embrace that cold water to soothe and stabilize your body temperature. It feels like such an enjoyable relief.
You all know I love my skincare routine and there’s something extra special about pampering your face after a sauna, because it feels like you’ve just gotten a facial.
Think about it: the prior steam, mask and exfoliation preps the skin for the serums and oils and creams. It just seals the deal perfectly. The feeling of smoothing out my face (and neck and chest) while my clean, exfoliated body cools down is my most favourite part of the sauna experience.
The current products that I love using after a sauna for a luxurious “at-home facial” feel:
To lock in the moisture from the exfoliation and to cool your skin down from the heat, massage your clean skin with a good body cream.
I love using this Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm from Aesop because it’s gentle, nourishing and smells incredible.
We’re going all out here, folks. Finish up your routine with a rich lip moisturizer to keep your lips ultra soft. You can actually just use the facial oil you use for your face too, but I like to add a thicker treatment on top.
I love using the Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask. It smells delicious and feels wonderful after a sauna because the consistency of this lip mask is a little thick, but the après-sauna body temperature on your lips makes it melt just a bit so that it smooths on your lips like butter.
Jade Facial Roller
Finns will probably scoff at this step and tell me to just go jump in snow, but what better time to reap the cooling effects of a jade stone than after a sauna? If you have a jade or rose quartz facial roller, this is an ideal occasion to use it.
Rolling the cool stone on your skin feels so soothing, and it helps massage all the serums, oils and creams into your skin. For extra cooling effect, keep this in the fridge while you sauna, and take it out when you’re ready to use.
Once you’re completely cooled down and dressed, the rest of your day or evening will feel so relaxing, yet at times, I’ve actually regained a sudden burst of energy after a sauna.
Since I’m at my boyfriend’s parents’ house when I sauna, we usually just lounge by the fireplace, roast some smoked sausages and watch movies, trying hard not to fall into a deep sleep. Speaking of sleep, you will have the best sleep of your life after a sauna.