BeautyReviews

Hotting up: Discover the steam room you never knew you had

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I have always rated the Rituals brand for products that are effective, wonderfully fragrant and make you feel like you want to spend time in the bathroom with them. So I was excited when my PretAirporter editor charged me with putting the latest Rituals range, The Ritual of Hammam, to the test.

Hammam is the practice of using steam and heat to cleanse the body in a time-honoured purifying ceremony that dates back to the ancient Greeks. Most often these days we associate the term with the traditional Turkish steam bath experience, usually administered in a public bathing house. The Ritual of Hammam collection aims to capture the benefits of this practice for modern times with a range of products to be used in the comfort (and privacy) of your own home.

I can’t help wondering however: Is creating a spa in your own home really what you want to be doing? Can you carve out a sanctuary amongst everyone else’s towels and toothbrushes? Can you sufficiently elevate yourself out of the everyday domestic flotsam and jetsam to make it worthwhile?

Surely the point of going to the spa is to get the heck out of a space where you can’t help but think ‘I must put a towel wash on’ or ‘We really must re-grout these tiles’ or even ‘I must give my cleaner a pay rise’.

Enough with the doubts. In the name of beauty journalism, I will give it my best shot.

The recent UK heatwave provided the perfect conditions to try out the Hammam experience. As the mercury reached unprecedented levels, just walking out of the door into the humidity of a balmy English June made me feel as if I was in nature’s own steam room. So, I turned the shower on hot, closed the bathroom door and windows and prepared for the full steam experience. The Ritual of Hammam promises ‘a purifying ceremony for body and soul’ no less.

The signature ingredient of the range is eucalyptus. Prized for its antiseptic, decongestant and deodorising properties, eucalyptus is no shrinking violet (ahem). Its bold fragrance is nothing if not exhilarating, although I was interested to see how a scent so reminiscent of cold remedies would work in a pampering ‘spa’ scenario.

The Ritual of Hammam range comprises: Ultra Hydrating Black Soap; Sea Salt Hot Scrub; Purifying Body Mud; Refreshing Foaming Shower Gel; Soul Uplifting Body Cream. In the wider range, there is also a Shampoo; Massage Oil; Bath Oil; Bed & Body Mist; a Kessa Glove (a traditional Turkish scrub glove), Fragrance Sticks and a Scented Candle. The number of steps alone makes it feel like an indulgent practice although it did mean I had to keep referring back to the press release to remember which product to apply in which order…

First up: Ultra Hydrating Black Soap with eucalyptus and olive oil. The high olive oil content makes this soap glide easily onto the skin and immediately it feels like it’s doing good. Smearing a black paste all over yourself is also quite a fun way to wash. I feel like I’m unleashing my inner child but getting satisfyingly clean rather than dirty. As well as beginning to clean the skin, the Black Soap also prepares the body for exfoliation. My instructions advise leaving the Black Soap on the skin and applying the Sea Salt Hot Scrub over the top. So that’s what I do…

The Sea Salt Hot Scrub does not mess around. It is seriously gritty and certainly lives up to the ‘intense’ description on the packaging. It makes me (almost) glad I’m getting to apply it myself and not having my skin sandpapered by a muscle-bound Turkish Hammam man. By now the steam is building up and I’m definitely feeling the hit of eucalyptus, here combined with warming ginger. I’m pleasantly surprised by the fragrance which I had feared would be overpowering and medicinal. In fact, the scent is beautifully fresh and invigorating and makes me breathe deeply to intensify the feeling of being on a pure Alpine hillside (not sure, geographically speaking, I’m in the right location for eucalyptus but you get my drift).

The instructions advise using the Rituals Kessa glove to massage the Scrub over the skin. Not being in possession of a Kessa glove, I use a regular loofah mitt which works a treat. Remembering to always massage in the direction of the heart, I work the Scrub and Black Soap combination gently over the whole body. Given that the Scrub is so abrasive, massaging it in with the Soap means that a layer of olive oil helps the Scrub to glide across the skin and offers a little protection from the coarse Sea Salt. You still need to go gently but this is the method I’d recommend unless you’re looking for extreme exfoliation.

 

After rinsing with lukewarm water as per the directions, I turn the temperature back up ready for the third part of the Ritual: Purifying Body Mud. Containing mineral-rich Rhassoul clay along with the eucalyptus, the Body Mud is formulated to intensively ‘purify and polish’ the skin. This part of the Ritual involves massaging a thin layer of the Mud into damp skin and leaving it on for two minutes before rinsing off. The Mud is not as thick as I’d anticipated and far from looking like I’ve been caked in thick brown soil, it is a beautiful, delicate grey colour and slips easily over the skin.

As someone who has never been to Glastonbury because I am alarmed by the mud, this is the perfect neurotic’s mud bath. It is slightly grainy so more exfoliation ensues and the eucalyptus aroma seems particularly strong this time – or perhaps this is due to the layering of products. Either way, it’s not unpleasant and as I stand in the steam of the shower for two minutes breathing it in, it feels genuinely invigorating.

A note to the wise: It is best to carry out your ritual while standing in the bath or shower to avoid pebble-dashing your bathroom with mud and salt crystals.

Next up, the Refreshing Foaming Shower Gel: As it is, with all the exfoliation and purifying that has now taken place, I feel as clean as a whistle already and not really in any need of further cleansing with the Shower Gel. However, I obediently comply with the steps of the Ritual and, actually, this final cleanse does ensure that all the last little grains of salt and smears of mud have been successfully washed away. Rituals Shower Gels have many fans around the world thanks to the magic that occurs when you squirt a tiny bit of Gel into your hand: Suddenly a luxuriant, marshmallow-y pillow of foam mushrooms out from the smallest dab of product. A little scientific wonder to make everyday showering more fun.

It occurs to me that the energising and invigorating nature of this Ritual lends itself to the morning. It would be the perfect preparation for starting the day but carrying out all the steps would be a little time-consuming pre-work. So when time is scarce, the Shower Gel would provide the perfect quick hit of eucalyptus-infused stimulation.

Emerging from the steam, the final stage of the Ritual is the Soul Uplifting Body Cream which blends fresh eucalyptus and rosemary. The light, whipped texture of the cream is easily absorbed into prepped and primed, steamed and cleansed skin.

“The result is as good as a spa treatment and prompts me to stop work periodically to stroke my arm and marvel at its baby-softness”

Again, the fragrance doesn’t seem too ‘medicine cabinet’ and in fact the overall effect of the scent is to bestow a cool-as-ice freshness onto the body. While the other products belong in the shower cubicle, the faux-wood effect lid of the Body Cream lends it an aesthetically pleasing touch helping to score on bathroom shelf appeal. Eco as well as elegant, it is a re-fillable jar with refill packs of Body Cream available from Rituals.

My verdict? Softest. Skin. Ever. The result is as good as a spa treatment and prompts me to stop work periodically to stroke my arm and marvel at its baby-softness. I’ve repeated the Ritual subsequently and it has made me feel like I’m turning the mundane practice of showering into a bit of a spoiling treat. I’ve also become better acquainted with the product order and can go through the steps of the Ritual now without having to break off, splattering mud and salt across the bathroom, as I try and read the instructions through the steam.

I also like the way the practice lends itself to two different effects: the eucalyptus can be energising and invigorating, or, if you’re feeling sniffly or sinus-y it can really clear your head and, together with the steam, makes for an effective decongestant treatment.

It just goes to show, for all the advances of our high-tech world, sometimes a bit of steam and mud is all you need.

The new Hammam Collection is available now in Rituals’ standalone airport stores and a selection, including Black Soap, Hot Scrub, Shower Foam and Body Cream, will be available in all Rituals shop-in-shop locations.

Clare Austin
written by: Clare Austin
With a background in fashion and beauty journalism for magazines such as Elle and Harper’s Bazaar Clare is a beauty enthusiast whose pulse quickens whenever a new product hits the shelves.