As a diehard traveler, I have done all sorts of escapist things to try to replicate my beloved globetrotting vibe while stuck at home during Covid. I’ve cooked traditional recipes from around the world, I’ve taken the time to organize my photos from past trips, I’ve read and watched countless transportive books and movies, and I basically turned my living room into a global night market. I even wrote an entire book on how to travel without leaving home (Destination Wellness, out April 6, 2021). 

Various tea leaves on white background
The scent of dried flower leaves can transport you to another country.  ©Getty Images

But lately, while all of these tactics have certainly helped me recreate a vacation vibe in my apartment, I’ve been on an especially obsessive mission to turn my bathroom into a global-inspired spa. Maybe it’s after coming through a gruelling winter, and all I want is some sun on my skin, or perhaps it’s because we’re now at the one-year mark of the pandemic, and my Covid couch body is craving some extra TLC. Whatever the exact reason, I’m all about DIY spa rituals right now, so I asked some top beauty experts around the world for their go-to favorites. Here’s hoping their answers will inspire you to travel the globe through beauty treatments, too — and help heal your tired pandemic soul at the same time. 

500px Photo ID: 128715621 - Early morning at the famous Hanalei Bay, on the island of Kauai.
Hanalei Bay on Kauai, Hawaii. ©Glowing Earth Photography/500px

If you want to travel to Hawai'i...

...try a hibiscus + salt steam

First things first: for any Hawaiian ritual, the most important thing is to put good energy — i.e. aloha — into everything you do, advises Oʻahu native Kapua Browning, founder and CEO of Honua Hawaiian Skincare. “In Hawaiian culture, going into any tradition or ritual with aloha is really important,” she explains. Alo means “presence” or “share,” and ha means “the breath of life,” so aloha means honoring the idea that we are all connected — because we are all sharing the same breath of life. “Hawaiian products are so special because aloha is infused into their planting and harvesting, so be sure to thank them for their healing powers when you mix them,” Browning advises.  

Her instructions for a traditional Hawaiian steam: gather some paʻakai (Hawaiian salt) and a handful of dried hibiscus leaves, and put them in a small wooden bowl that’s special to you. Most health food stores carry dried hibiscus leaves, and you can also order them online. If you don’t have Hawaiian salt, you can also use regular Himalayan sea salt.

Next, boil a pot of water, then pour the water into the wooden bowl over the hibiscus and salt. As soon as it starts to steam, put your face right above the bowl, and cover your head with a towel for about three minutes — all while channeling your aloha spirit and thinking good thoughts. 

Kapua Browning Hawaiian.JPG
Kapua Browning, founder and CEO of

...or an ‘olena (turmeric) + kukui nut oil face mask 

For centuries, Hawaiians have used ‘olena (turmeric) for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and kukui nut oil — a traditional Hawaiian healing oil — to keep their skin soft and fresh. “Ancient Hawaiians originally used the kukui nut oil for sun protection, as they didn’t understand cancer and all of those things,” Browning explains. “But they always knew that using the oil from the kukui nut kept their skin soft and youthful.” 

To reap those health benefits yourself: mix a sprinkle of ‘olena and black pepper with two spoonfuls of pure kukui nut oil (you can buy it online). This will create a little paste, Browning explains, which you can then apply to your face and let sit for five to ten minutes. While using your fingers is fine for this, Browning recommends using a brush, instead, to make it feel more special and magical. 

Once five to ten minutes have passed, rinse off the paste, towel dry your face, and finish it off with more kukui oil as your moisturizer. Alternatively, you can also use lā'au 'ala (Hawaiian sandalwood) hydrosol spray, which is another ancient Hawaiian healing ingredient that you can buy online or through Honua directly.   

Grand'Riviere, Martinique
Grand Riviere, Martinique ©Bruno De Hogues/Getty Images

If you want to travel to Martinique

...try a banana body exfoliating scrub 

Ripe bananas are basically synonymous with tropics — but they aren’t just for eating. They are also rich in mucilages — a thick and gluey substance produced by plants — which creates a soothing and moisturizing mix, explains Shirley Billott, founder of the Creole-inspired sustainable banana science beauty brand Kadalys

Nourishing banana peel face mask
Homemade face mask made from oil and inside part of banana peel.  ©Getty Images/iStockphoto

For the scrub: mash one ripe banana, three cups of sugarcane, and four teaspoons of oil (you can use any oil you like, though Billott recommends her Kadalys Radiance Oil). Rub it all over your body, then rinse. “The banana associated with sugarcane is more rich in vitamins and minerals, creating a perfect natural exfoliator that gently soothes dead skin,” Billott explains. 

Store any leftovers in a glass jar with a small amount of  freshly-cut lemon for freshness, and use within two days of making. 

...or a banana peel face mask

Although the banana itself is most commonly used in beauty treatments, the interior of the peel — the white textured part — is filled with healing properties, too. “Banana peels are known to have healing properties that the banana growers use to disinfect and heal wounds,” Billott explains. “These nutrients can soothe and calm inflamed skin, and reduce acne or psoriasis.” 

For the mask: scrape the inside of a banana peel, and mix it with one teaspoon of honey, plus two teaspoons of oil (ideally an olive oil over a sunflower oil, or Kadalys Radiance Oil). To soothe acne specifically, add two teaspoons of probiotic-rich yogurt to the mix. Apply directly to your skin where you are dealing with a breakout or any other inflammation, leave on for a few minutes, then rinse.   

500px Photo ID: 87259433 - Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yukatan, Mexico
Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico ©Svetlana Bogomolova/500px

If you want to travel to Mexico your soul with a copal incense ritual

Copal incense was one of the most sacred healing tools in ancient Maya civilization. Made from tree resin from the copal tree—a tree found in wet tropical forests throughout Mexico and Central America—copal smells like a mix of pine and citrus, and has been used in grounding ritual ceremonies for centuries. 

Copal incense purifiction therapy ritual before Mayan Temazcal- traditional steam sauna bath. Shaman performing resin smoke ceremony- clear away all negative energy and make positive changes
A copal incense purifiction therapy ritual before Mayan Temazcal. © Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Burning copal incense helped the ancient Maya stay in the present moment because it’s always been considered incredibly centering,” explains Emmanuel Arroyo, the regional director of wellness at Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. “The ancient Maya interpreted time as a circle rather than a straight line,” he continues, “so in that way, there was not really a beginning or an end to anything. There was just now. And burning copal incense helped them intensify their ability to meditate in the present moment.” To adopt this technique at home, pick up some copal incense (you can find it online), find a quiet, sunny space to sit (the sun is especially sacred in Maya culture), and burn it while focusing on the now. You may just emerge feeling more present and pure, and if nothing else, the fresh, lemon-y aroma will transport you to the tropics.  

...or make your own lunar essential oil blend to lift your spirits 

The ancient Maya also believed that we all have a direct connection to the universe. As part of that philosophy, they believed that our spirits are incredibly impacted by the lunar calendar. To honor this connection, the Rosewood Mayakoba worked with professional aromatherapists to create four uplifting essential oil blends meant to lift your spirits by honoring the phases of the moon — and the best part? You can create these blends at home. “Each blend is intended to boost the positive effects that the moon cycles have on your energy, your metabolism, and your sleep, while also withdrawing the negative effects the moon cycles have on us,” Arroyo explains. 

To get the effect, whip these up—then apply them to your skin before bed: 

1: During the new moon phase: Mix jasmine, rose, and lavender essential oils

2: During the crescent moon phase: Mix orange, pomegranate, and nutmeg essential oils

3: During the full moon phase: Mix ginger, violet, and cardamom essential oils

4: During the waning moon phase: Mix benzoin, cinnamon, and copal essential oils 

Farmland near Mount Muhabura, Rwanda. ©Eric Lafforgue/Lonely Planet

If you want to travel to Africa...

...try a Rwandan coffee scrub 

“A-Beauty — or African Beauty — is all about celebrating beauty and simplicity, which is what I believe Africa is as a whole,” begins Ghana-based Valerie Obaze, founder and CEO of the African beauty brand R&R Luxury. “Africa as a continent is rich with raw materials and raw ingredients that derive from the Earth here. In our history, we’ve always just used what was available to us, and so, as a brand, we try to modernize the ancient African traditions and ingredients — like shea butter — that have been around for centuries and generations and have never failed.” 

Case in point: on a recent trip to Rwanda, Obaze picked up some coffee at a local farm, and decided to make an all-natural body scrub with it. To follow her lead, mix a scoop of fresh Rwandan coffee with a spoonful of coconut oil and shea butter oil. (To support local coffee farmers in Rwanda, try using the same coffee Obaze picked up on her trip, Kivu Noir. Otherwise, any coffee will do.) Then, rub it all over your body and your face, followed by a rinse. “It’s simple, but so delightful,” Obaze explains. “It encapsulates East Africa and West Africa into one quick ritual that doesn’t require a lot of measuring and adding. Plus, the sensory aspect of it — the smell of the coffee and the coconut and the shea blended into one — is really soothing. And then the coffee granules themselves are super exfoliating, and the oils of course moisturize.” 

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Valerie Obaze, founder and CEO of the African beauty brand

...or a shea butter oil self-massage 

In Ghana, Nigeria, and West Africa, babies are massaged with shea butter as a traditional welcome-to-the-world ritual — but Obaze says that the tradition can extend into adults’ lives, too. To work the softening magic of shea butter into your system, massage your entire body with shea butter oil for five minutes, either in the morning, in the evening, or both. While regular shea butter oil from Amazon will work fine for this, R&R Luxury also sells shea butter oils with a couple added ingredients particularly tailored to the time of day: Revive shea oil with invigorating lemongrass for the morning, and Serenity shea oil with soothing lavender, bergamot, and ylang ylang for the evening. 

“When you look at the women who work in rural parts of Ghana, West Africa — the home of shea, which comes from the nut of the African shea tree — you may find it hard to believe that you’re looking at women in their 60s and 70s,” says Obaze. “All they use is shea butter and the natural resources that are available to them, and they look so young and their skin looks so fresh.” The lesson? “Sometimes we tend to overcomplicate things when we don’t need to,” she continues. “Shea butter is a traditional ingredient that has been used for centuries to soothe, soften, and protect skin, and often that’s all you need. The beauty of African beauty is the simplicity of it, the naturalness of it, and the rawness of it as well.” 

Illuminated hammam bath house beneath the Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca. ©roevin/Getty Images

If you want to travel to Morocco specifically: 

...turn your bathroom into a hammam 

As one of the oldest self-care traditions around the world, a hammam is a steam room where people go to cleanse themselves — fully naked. “A hammam purifies the skin by removing all of the dead skin and sweating out toxins in the heated room,” explains Malika Rojhani, spa director of the Royal Mansour in Marrakech. “The black soap and traditional Kessa mitt (basically an exfoliating glove) is the base of every hammam, but you can adjust to use local items as well,” she continues. 

To recreate a hammam at home: run a hot shower or fill your bathtub with hot water until the bathroom is quite steamy. Then, soak in the hot water for several minutes to prepare your skin for the scrub — it should be hot to avoid irritation, Rojhani advises. Once your skin is ready, apply traditional Moroccan black soap all over your body, leave it on for about two to three minutes, and then rinse it off. If you don’t have traditional black soap, you can use regular soap, too, but it must be oil-free and fragrance-free, Rojhani cautions, as the hydrating ingredients will not allow the scrub to work properly. (Pro tip from the Kessala, the women who do the scrubbing in traditional hammams: add a few drops of lemon juice if you have oily skin.)

Royal Mansour - Spa - Hammam.jpg
Royal Mansour spa's hammam © Annie Daly

After you’ve rinsed off all the black soap, scrub your entire body with a Kessa mitt to remove dead skin cells.  For the final touch, Rojhani recommends taking a cue from Royal Mansour’s signature treatment and whipping up a natural body wrap using traditional Moroccan Ghassoul clay powder (you can find it on Amazon), rose water, and one tablespoon of Argan oil. Leave it on for five minutes after you finish scrubbing, then rinse it off. “Your skin will feel purified and extremely soft,” Rojhani says.

Jinshanling Great Wall, Hebei Province, China
The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling. ©Horizon Images/Motion/Alamy Stock Photo

If you want to travel to China/Southeast Asia

...try gua sha 

Gua sha is an ancient Chinese beauty tradition that dates back more than 4000 years, and is all about scraping your skin with massage tools to improve circulation. “In the US, gua sha is largely tied to its ability to sculpt the face, but many people don’t realize that it has a rich history and so many healing capabilities that go far deeper than physical looks,” explains Lin Chen, founder and CEO of the sustainable beauty company Pink Moon. “As a big part of traditional Chinese medicine—or TCM—gua sha is great for relieving tension anywhere in the body, in addition to improving blood flow, inflammation, sinus pressure, congestion, and lymphatic drainage. It can also help your skincare products work more effectively, as gua sha tools can push the nutrients into your skin.”

Rose quartz is a popular gua sha tool © Annie Daly

To try gua sha at home, pick up a tool online or at Chen’s shop Pink Moon (the heart-shaped rose quartz tool is seriously beautiful). While most people are familiar with the jade roller—one of the more popular gua sha tools—Chen says that her heart-shaped stone is especially great for beginners. “Rose quartz has a cooling effect that helps soothe inflammation and reduce puffiness, and in terms of energetic healing, it’s also tied to self-love, compassion, and kindness,” she continues. To do it on your face: clean off all your makeup, apply a thin layer of face oil (though any face oil will do, you can also get it at Pink Moon), and use the tool to gently push your skin up for about five minutes, using light to medium pressure and upward strokes only.“The key is to keep the stone as flat and close to the skin as possible—at about a 15-degree angle—to make the most of the energetic healing effects of the stone,” Chen advises. To do it on your body: apply a thin layer of oil or balm to the area you are treating, and then use quicker strokes that go upward or downward; you can also use harder pressure than you do on the face. Doing gua sha on your neck is particularly useful for lymphatic drainage—which removes toxins and waste from your body tissues—but for this, downward strokes are best. 

Traditional spices and dry fruits in local bazaar in India. ©Curioso/Shutterstock

If you want to travel to India

...try an Ayurvedic stress-relieving scalp treatment called pichu

Known as the sister science to yoga, Ayurveda is the ancient Hindu medical system of holistic healing that originated in India around 5000 years ago. “Ayurveda teaches us that each person has a unique energy pattern and makes it clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to healing isn’t the best path for genuine wellness,” explains Ayurvedic practitioner Dr. Pratima Raichur, founder of Ayurvedic brand Pratima Skincare. “An Ayurvedic health journey shows us that true healing involves an ongoing participatory process where close attention to the ‘right’ diet, thinking, lifestyle, and herbal supplementation can lead to a more absolute state of health and beauty—from the inside out.”

To try an Ayurvedic treatment at home, Dr. Raichur suggests pichu therapy. To make: heat up one quarter cup of sunflower oil in a small pot so that it’s only slightly warm (be careful not to overheat it). Then, add three to five drops of either rose, jasmine, or sandalwood essential oil—whichever one you like best. Next, dip a small washcloth in the oil, gently wring it out, and fold it in half. Finally, sit back or lie down, and place the cloth horizontally on your head, starting half an inch above your eyebrows and going over the top of your scalp. When the cloth starts cooling down, place it back inside the warm oil mixture and repeat. 
“This whole treatment reduces mental tension, activates the ‘third eye’—a point within the frontal lobe associated with intuition—and quiets the mind from ‘mental chatter,’ known as chitta vritti,” Dr. Raichur explains. Sounds pretty perfect for our current state of affairs, right? I don’t know about you, but in these trying pandemic times, filled with all sorts of uncertainty and anxiety, the ability to quiet my mind may just be exactly what I need.

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