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To understand the beauty innovations in Europe, we much first understand the century-old practices that have influenced them.

Bathing is a necessity for hygenic reasons but it was once revered as a ritual more than the simple desire to be clean.

Both the Greeks and Romans revered cold water as a symbol of health and would plunge themselves into the icy waters of rivers and lakes.

Public Baths: Greece

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According to Françoise de Bonneville’s The Book of the Bath, “The history of public baths begins in Greece in the sixth century BC, when they were associated with physical education. Bathing was not simply a matter of relaxing after muscular exertions but of keeping the mind and body in harmony.” These baths took place in the open air in the shade of olive trees.

How relaxing!

 

Balneae and Thermae: Italy, France and Bath, England

161010 Europebathing englandRome was the place that really put bathing on the map, introducing the first balneae (“bathhouses”) and thermae (“thermal baths”). According to de Bonneville, “The bathhouses were originally small, private, commercial establishments. Here the Romans first discovered the pleasures of he hot and cold baths of the Greek model.”

Romans first introduced the practice of transitioning from different rooms and temperatures for health and beauty. A patron would start by passing “into the warm-air room, then into either the dry heat or humid room, then into the hottest room, the vapour bath and then he moves into a pool for his second-to-last step and cleans his skin; finally he moves on to the cold room where he plunges into the pool,” according to de Bonneville.

When the Romans settled into what we now know as Bath, England, they used the powers of natural springs to create public baths.

Thermal spas were frequented in areas across Europe, especially France, but one standout location was Vichy. Mara Vezeau, integrated communications and medical relations leader for Vichy Canada, explains, “From Julius Caesar during his conquests to the famous marquise de Sévigné at the court of Louis XIV, the benefits of Vichy water became known and rapidly became the meeting point of European aristocracy.”

Hammam: Turkey

161010 Europebathing turkeyTurkish baths entered the European scene in the 19th century. De Bonneville describes these hammams as having steam baths, massages and perfumed water, all adorned with luxurious furnishings and ornamental tiles. The luxurious experience was topped off, lying on reclining sofas with fine linens, confectioneries and coffee.

Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris (mirajcaudaliespa.com) brings the luxurious hammam into the 21st century with steam baths, full body scrubs and ample time to relax and unwind like a 19th century aristocrat.

Saunas and Steam Rooms: Finland

161010 Europebathing finlandThe Scandinavian way was to bathe in vapour baths and saunas during the cold and long winter months. According to de Bonneville, “Near the house, a wooden cabin would have been built, a hearth dug and large pebbles heaped on top and then heated; cold water was then thrown to release steam.” The saunas were a “family bath,” particularly for farm workers to “soothe their tired and aching muscles.”

For a modern twist on these practices, visit Scandinave Spa (scandinave.com). “You start by warming up, either in the sauna, steam room or warm pools,” says Mylisa Henderson, director of marketing and sales at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain, “followed by plunging into a cold environment. The wellness experience happens at the cold plunge, not only when you’re relaxing and opening your pores in the hot.”