BELIEVE IT OR NOT you might have already experienced part of this age old ritual. A Hammam – a Bath House, Turkish Bath, Banya… a three part health and body cleansing that primarily takes place in a steam room, is a ritual whose origins go back to ancient Greece, Rome, Turkey and North Africa. Originally the hamam was frequented on a weekly basis to bathe and socialize. Men had one, the women and children another.
Still common today from Morocco to Istanbul, Hammam’s seem to be popping up all over the world, primarily in major cities and luxury hotels and resorts.
THE HAMMAM – This is not just a steam shower or a soak in the tub. The purpose is to scrub your skin until you are sparkling clean.
In a traditional hammam you are given a robe, panties and sandals to exchange for your street clothes. Some women prefer to wear a bathing suit or underwear but rest assured, the attendants at Hammam’s are very aware and respectful of your modesty.
The first room is warm and dry and is where your body acclimatizes to the heat slowly before entering the second room, a large sauna. It is there that you will sweat, your pores softening in preparation for the ultimate in exfoliation. You might be served some cool water with a slice of orange while you relax and hopefully you brought a friend with whom you can chat and gossip while you steam, just as the did in days of yore.
Then comes the cleanse. You or your attendant will first lather your entire body with black olive soap and then vigorously scrub your skin with an exfoliating scrubbing mitt sloughing away all of the dead skin. Rinse, another lather and then your hair and face are washed.
Then comes the good part. A nice relaxing massage. In most modern hammams they offer all kinds of other lovely spa treatments such as reflexology, facials, body wraps and finishing touches such as mani-pedi’s and hair blow-outs to go along with the new you.
Lastly, you are wrapped up in a Turkish towel robe to relax in a cooler room with a cup of tea and perhaps some sweets before you return to the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
“The Healing powers of hammam were known for centuries. Famous Arab doctor and scientist, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) considered it to be one of the exceptional means of improving health and general well-being. Echoing the opinions of Greek doctors he believed that “physical exercises, healthy lifestyle and regular visits to hammam will render all medicine useless”. In his famous work, The Canon of Medical Science, he pointed to beneficial effects of hammam on blood circulation, respiration, weight loss. He recommended hammam as a treatment for insomnia, paralysis, nervous disorders, digestive problems, low appetite, kidney and liver malfunctioning and much more.”
Skin Care: “Steaming increases the circulation of blood which is good for the skin as it moves toxins away from the epidermis (our largest organ) and moves them to other organs for purification,” says esthetician and skin care expert, Jackie Bernardi of JackieBernardi.com. “There are some misconceptions around steaming and skin care. The pores of the skin become plump when exposed to steam because of the increased circulation of blood. Your pores do not get larger or smaller with steam, they merely soften for a brief period of time which helps the effectiveness of skin care products used during a facial.”
Jackie recommends giving yourself a “mini-facial” in your own steam shower or at the gym and to wash and shower thoroughly afterward.
Hamam Skin Care Products: Mr. Steam, the manufacturer of one of the best professional and home steam shower systems, has just launched TALA, their new hamam skin care brand. The traditional ingredients of black olive paste, clay and the oil from the nut of the argan fruit are used to create soaps, masks and creams based on products used in hamams in ancient times and today. The products help cleanse, balance and make the skin feel more elastic resulting in minimizing imperfections and wrinkles.
The Moroccan Beldi Black Soap is applied after the body has warmed, perhaps in a steam room, hot bath or whirlpool. A rich mixture of oil and crushed olives, the soap is soaked in salt and potash and when applied with water becomes a creamy, not foamy, scrub which moisturizes, gently exfoliates and prepares the skin for a deeper exfoliation. This can be left on for a few minutes after which it is washed off with an exfoliating glove.
The Rhassoul Lava Clay is used as mask and it exfoliates. Leave it on for about 10 minutes or until it dries, it is then gently washed off with a washcloth to remove the impurities that have been brought to the surface. This can also be used as shampoo mask for the hair.
Argan Oil applied to the skin seals in the benefits of the treatment. In between steam cleansing, Argan Cream can be used as a body and face cream to help hydrate and improve the firmness and texture of the skin giving it a shiny, new glow.
Whether you have access to a hammam or not, you can reap vast health benefits if you have access to a steam room at your health club or a install a Mr. Steam steam shower at home.
Cleanses and Hydrates the skin
Fosters a sense of well being
Promotes a deep and restful sleep
Promotes respiratory, sinus and nasal health
Removes toxins from the body
Relieves pain & discomfort from arthritis