The Turkish Bath (at Home)
Can’t make it to Istanbul? Re-create the experience at home.
Perhaps you have visited a Turkish bath before, or perhaps you have always wanted to. While nothing can replace the real-deal experience, you can recreate elements of this important ritual at home.
A Bit of History
Turkish Baths, or Hammam, occupy a wondrous place in the imagination. Scenes of mostly nude figures lounging atop glorious marble slabs immediately jump to mind (Ingres The Turkish Bath, anyone?). For centuries, Turks have been stripping down and getting scrubbed as part of their weekly routine. Separated by gender, the hammam was one of the only places women could gather outside of the home. At the hammam, gossip was exchanged and future daughters-in-law selected (for a great read about this and more about Istanbul life check out Irfan Orga’s wonderful book, Portrait of a Turkish Family). For men, the hammam also provided an important social setting for political machinations and business dealings. I think the west missed out BIG TIME by not borrowing this tradition. We at Loomed are here to help!
- Prep your skin:
- When you enter a Turkish bath, you strip down to your level of comfort and spend some time lounging in a hot steamy environment; some hammam have saunas, some have hot tubs or pools, some have large steamy rooms complete with marble tubs and pedestals. All of these areas perform the same function: they help your skin get really soft and easily scrubbed.
- At home, you can recreate this experience by hanging out in a steamy shower for at least ten minutes, although the longer the better. You can also soak in a tub for that time, but make sure that all of your skin is being exposed to the warm water. In traditional Turkish baths they have copper or aluminum bowls used to pour water over your body to make sure that all of your skin is good and soft. Don’t have an authentic hammam bowl lying around? No worries – a plastic cup works just fine.
- Slipping your hand into your kese, your Turkish exfoliating mitt, you scrub your body in long strokes and always in the direction of your heart (good for circulation). As you scrub, you will start to see dirty spaghettis of dead skin forming. Success!
- Periodically rinse your kese under warm water to clear off the dead skin. DO NOT USE SOAP.
- I repeat, DO NOT USE SOAP with your mitt! The soap will fill in the tiny grooves in the fabric, and your kese mitt will not exfoliate well if this happens.
- Once you have rinsed your kese and hung it to dry (never wash your kese in the machine), lather a wash cloth or bathing sponge really well and wash away all your dead skin!
- Dry off and apply calming lotion
- In Turkey, hammams will apply different scents to calm and soothe. Rose and lavender are particularly common; you can use whatever you have on hand.
- Re-hydrate: drink lots of water and relax!
Your skin will be grateful.