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The Hammam Tool Kit

by Sandra Ramani

Rooted in Arab traditions, the hammam ritual is more than just a way to get clean, it’s also got deep physical, emotional and social benefits.

On the mind-body front, the treatment—which typically takes place in a steam room, on heated tables—"helps remove dead skin from the body, unclogging pores and eliminating toxins,” explains Tina Santana, Spa Director at the BABOR Signature Spa at New York City’s The Dominick hotel, which recently introduced a Traditional Moroccan Hammam experience. “It revitalizes the skin by providing essential vitamins and minerals, along with hydration. At the same time, it helps reduce stress, anxiety and muscle tension, and promotes relaxation, balance and better sleep.”

In many communities, the weekly hammam visit is also a chance to reconnect with family and friends. Whether in the dome-topped, white marble chambers of the Turkish hammams or the lantern-lit, mosaic-lined ones traditional to Morocco, these wellness hubs—which are separated into men’s and women’s sections—are an “opportunity to gather and socialize,” says Katharine L’Heureux, founder of Kahina Giving Beauty, which ethically and sustainably sources its product ingredients in Morocco, working with co-ops of Berber women. “You will often see multiple generations of women bathing in the hammam together,” in a time-honed ritual, she says.

While the most famous hammams are of the shared variety (think Istanbul’s grand Cağaloğlu Hammam, which dates back to the Ottoman Empire), many hotels and resorts are introducing intimate versions in their spas, wherecouples, friends, or solo guests can enjoy an upscale version of the tradition performed by trained therapists, surrounded by beautifully tiled walls and twinkling ceilings.

Or, you can enjoy the healing experience at home. Here are all the products you will need to recreate a weekly Moroccan or Turkish-style hammam ritual, along with expert tips on how to use them.

Step 1: Get Steamy 

“Run a hot shower to create steam,” says Santana. “The heat and steam help clear airways and pores, and activate blood circulation.” While the steam is rising, spritz a few pumps of EuroSpa Pure Eucalyptus Oil Showermist, a scent often used in the Moroccan hammams. Breathe in deeply to help clear your passageways, invigorate the senses and center the mind.

Step 2: Lather Up 

Once the shower has heated up, soften the skin by standing under the shower for a few minutes, or lie down on the now-hot surface of the tub. Once skin is heated, turn off the water and lather on some soap: Moroccan tradition uses black soap (or savon noir), which is a gel-like blend of pure saponified olive oil, crushed olives and scents like eucalyptus, rose or neroli, all calming to both the skin and nervous system. Try KENZA Pure SPA Bar Soap, made with ground argan seed shells and relaxing neroli oil, or Kahina Living Beauty’s Moroccan Beldi Soap. Leave on for a few minutes to allow the pores to open up.

Step 3: Start Scrubbing 

In a traditional hammam experience, your dedicated attendant—called a “Kess” in the Moroccan version—guides you through the steps, from applying the soap to washing your hair and applying the final products. She or he really earns their fee, though, during the scrubbing process. Donning an exfoliating mitt, the therapist will “vigorously scrub skin until all the dead layers literally roll off,” says L’Heureux. At home, use Kahina’s Kess Mitt to thoroughly exfoliate from neck to feet. Fill a bowl with warm water and pour it over your head while sitting in the tub, then mix water and soap in the bowl until bubbly, and dump over your head again. 

Step 4: Steep in Clay

Now that skin is cleansed and exfoliated, it’s ready to absorb some nourishment. Slather on Red Flower’s Jasmine Rose Rhassoul Clay, an upgraded version of the traditional clay mask featuring mineral-rich bentonite and Moroccan red clay infused with oils of clove bud, jasmine, rose flower, and more. While it’s working its detoxifying magic on the skin, pamper hair with KENZA Prickly Pear Moroccan Oils Hair Mask, a regenerating mask full of native Moroccan ingredients like Argan, black seed, and olive oils, prickly pear extract, and essentials oils like rosemary and Atlas cedar. Wash everything off with warm water.

Step 5: Wrap Up

Once thoroughly rinsed off, step out of the shower/ tub and wrap yourself in a cotton Turkish towel. Based in Miami, Bikini on Demand (an ingenious service that offers same-day delivery swim- and resortwear and accessories within Miami, and shipping across the country) stocks super-soft, made-in-Turkey towels in variety of colors and patterns. The oversized towels are made to be taken to the beach—so they are perfect for enveloping yourself in post-hammam.

Step 6: Hydrate and Mist

Once dry and cozy, slather on Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil, a completely natural and organic formula that absorbs quickly into the skin, helping to seal in moisture and nourishment. As a final touch, spritz Red Flower Orange Quince Steam Mist on the hair, face and body; the uplifting mix of neroli, quince, and cedar atlas helps brighten and tone the skin, tighten pores and leave you feeling re-energized.

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