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Turn Your Shower Into a Spa

You only have time for a shower  -- but even if it lasts just five or ten minutes, it can be as relaxing and recharging as a leisurely bath. Some ways to pamper yourself:

AN INVITING SPACE
Start by softly lighting your bathroom  -- fragrant candles add a nice glow and scent the room. Hang a sprig of eucalyptus or mint from the curtain rod, suggests Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty From the Garden; steam from the shower will release the herb's aroma.

Be lulled by pleasant sounds: "Open the windows so you can hear birds sing or hang a wind chime outside the window," says Carole Meltzer, a New York City-based practitioner of Feng Shui, the Chinese philosophy of balancing your environment with your inner self.

WATER WORKS
Set water to a moderately warm temperature, neither hot nor cool, and if possible, adjust the showerhead to its most powerful setting. As you step under the spray, close your eyes for 10 seconds to feel more tranquil.

Enjoy a water massage of your shoulders, spine, and lower back, advises Caroline Benton, an esthetician at Noelle Spa for Beauty & Wellness, in Stamford, CT. Then lift each foot separately into the jets of water.

HEAD GAMES
Focusing on a single thing is a classic relaxation technique, so as you wash your hair, think only about that: the movement of your fingers, the way the lather feels, the scent of the shampoo. Don't use this time to figure out your plans for the day or what you need to accomplish at work.

Try a shampoo infused with calming lavender or energizing citrus, suggests Christopher Mackin, a hair and scalp expert at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa, in New York City. Two to try: Willow Lake Lavender & Mint shampoo and Thymes Limited Citron Daily Wash shampoo.

If you love the idea of a facial mask but don't have 30 minutes for a full-blown treatment, use a cleanser that incorporates one, like Sea Mineral Cleansing Clay from H2O Plus. Another option: "I apply my cleanser, then add a facial scrub to wash and exfoliate at the same time," says Leslie Blodgett, president of Bare Escentuals bath and body products and mom of a 6-year-old boy.

After cleansing, give yourself a stress-relieving facial massage. Andrea Stotsky, director of national training for Decleor, an aromatherapy-based skincare company, explains how: Lace your fingers together (to keep pressure even) and place your thumbs on your tear ducts. Press gently for 15 to 20 seconds, or until you feel your pulse. Keeping fingers laced, slowly glide your thumbs to just under your eyebrows and hold until you feel the pulse there, then move to your temples. Repeat the gentle pressure at the top of the cheekbones, on the cheekbone under the eye, and below the cheekbone, in the middle of jaw. Finally, press thumbs into your jaw hinge.

BODY TREATS
To wake up all over  -- and get smooth, glowing skin  -- slough with a liquid or cream exfoliator. Look for a product with rounded particles, like those made from polymers, or loofah strands (avoid nut shells, which can be sharp). Some gentle buffers: Earth Therapeutics Loofah Exfoliating soaps and Avon Aromatherapy Energizing Mandarin Exfoliating shower gel. Or make your own scrub by combining 1/4 cup of either sugar, Epsom salts, or Kosher salt with 1/4 cup of baby oil, suggests Caroline Benton.

Apply it with your hands or a textured cloth, like the Scrubbica Japanese scrubbing cloth. Work upward from your feet, concentrating on rough knees and elbows  -- and don't forget your derriere!

Treat yourself to a cleanser with aromatherapeutic essences, such as Time Out for Fresh Picked Flowers from Sears. Lather up with a bath puff or sponge for extra foam.

Coddle your feet with a rich foot scrub like Merle Norman Luxiva Pumice Foot Scrub. Carefully lift foot out of the shower spray, slather on scrub, buff, and rinse off. To get the effect of a foot massage, stand on a nubby shiatsu bath mat.

Wind up the shower with a 30-second rinse  -- in cool water to invigorate or very warm water to relax. Then reach up toward the ceiling in a gentle stretch. Flex from side to side, then bend down to your toes. Slowly rise, extend your arms out to the sides then up over your head. Inhale deeply, and slowly exhale. Now face the world, rejuvenated.

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