A combination of earlier magazine work and new blog posts

Spa Daze

Melt Away Holiday Stress

Everywhere you turn someone is counting down the days until Christmas. You’re trying not to binge on holiday food and drink, while also searching for gifts that don’t max your credit cards. No wonder holidays can be so stressful.

That’s why, girls, this is a super time to fine-tune the art of relaxation, de-stressing from head to toe. You could spend hundreds of dollars at a luxury spa, but I prefer getting the same results at a fraction of the cost in the comfort of home. A quick trip through your local drugstore can get you ready for some pampering.

First, set aside a day free of interruptions. Transform your bathroom into a retreat with some candles. Parfums de Coeur has great fragranced ones in scents like Cucumber Melon.

A little trick is to pop your bathrobe and towel into the dryer, so that when you’re ready for them, they’re toasty warm. Now prepare your bath. Add in bundles of luscious crystals, beads and bath oils for silky smooth skin. And don’t forget bubble bath and scented soaps. Pure Spring has super spa products in great scents, namely Brown Sugar and Pomegranate. The Healing Garden also has invigorating body soaks, including luscious-smelling Tangerine Therapy and Jasmine Therapy-both include energizing natural extracts like tea tree, ginseng and balm mint.

If you are not a bath girl, take to the shower. St. Ives Body Washes are an affordable luxury in divine flavors from Fresh Berry to Apple Blush. Formulated with Swiss glacial water and blended with a unique combo of herbs, these are also great bargains under $4 each. And just as good is Suave’s new moisturizing body washes, including a Tropical Coconut that reminds me of being on some Caribbean island.

Don’t forget to exfoliate away dry skin. My new favorite is Pure Spring’s Brown Sugar Granulated Sugar Body Scrub. This yummy-smelling scrub polishes and buffs dry skin with the natural ingredient of sugar.

Out of the water, it’s time to slather on body lotions. Just as you will layer on the latest fashions this winter, it is essential to layer on the right combination of products to provide foolproof protection from the elements. I like St. Ives’ 24 Hour Moisture for dry skin, as well as Johnson & Johnson SoftLotion, a grown-up version of its classic baby lotion that moisturizes for 24 hours. For a subtle glow to warm winter skin, smooth on Jergens Shimmer Moisturizer.

Now that you’ve cleansed and moisturized your skin, slip on your warm bathrobe. This is a great time to open your pores and remove impurities by spending 10 minutes with your face over a bowl of steaming water. If you want to skip the steaming, opt for a facial mask, something like Neutrogena Hydrating Facial Cloth Mask that will draw out impurities.

Now that you’ve given your face the spa treatment, it’s time to spoil your hands and feet. Nothing is as relaxing as a slow, careful manicure and pedicure. There are many terrific products, but two standouts are Sally Hansen’s Grande Salon nail set-from a bargain $4.99 to $9.99 -and Trims’ manicure and pedicure set with all the necessary tools, under $10. As for nail polish color, go for festive ruby reds on fingers and toes.

Now that your nails are dry and you’ve removed your facial mask, apply some more moisturizer. This would be a great time to get a massage, but unless you can persuade your partner to give you one, you’ll have to settle for a Pure Spring Mini Gel Eye Mask that has been sitting in your refrigerator. Lie on your bed, lay the cooling gel over your eyes, turn on some great music, light some more candles and let yourself daydream. After a spa day at home, you’ll be ready to tackle the holidays with a newfound, stress-free zest.