Have you noticed lately that expensive relaxation has become chic? I'm talking about the recent influx of different boutique spa experiences focused almost exclusively on doing nothing and feeling great—obscure healing exercises, tony meditation centers, technological advancements in stillness, all with Swarovski-diamond encrusted price tags. It's all part of the self-care Renaissance, maybe, or we're living in a post-recession world or something, I don't know. What I do know is, in 2017, the price to chill out can be an extremely high one.

The cost for me to relax is about $15—the collective MSRP of a bottle of Crosby red wine and Zootopia rented for 24 hours on Apple TV. It works just as well as anything. But I wonder aloud to myself, sometimes, wine glass in hand and vintage Mac laptop perched on my bed: "Is there a better way to relax than this?" After three weeks of falling asleep in various Manhattan-based massage beds, beanbags, and one pool, I'm delighted to say: There is! I'm a changed man. Can you tell by the tone in which I'm typing?

My experiences were recorded in a little Shinola journal I bought a week ago out of peer pressure. I loved this assignment for two reasons: one, it combined my loves of doing nothing and spending money at the same time, and two; it got me back into journaling! My life was improved before I even began.

Is relaxing in New York worth the extremely prohibitive cost? Let's find out:

Floatation Therapy

Imagine floating naked in a small pool—but you don't really know it's a pool, because the water is room temperature so you can barely feel it, and it's so dark that you can't distinguish the room from what you see when your eyes are closed. You don't even know you're in room—you could be in an ocean. Wait, where are you? How is it so quiet two blocks from Grand Central Station? Are you going to be here forever? Is it even possible to imagine being bathed in nothingness? Such is the somewhat horrifying, somewhat blissful sensation of flotation therapy.

For a little over a hundred bucks, you too can lay in the ether of Chill Space NYC for an hour. It is unlike anything I have ever done before, and the experience is almost indescribable, so I apologize for any blind spots in this review. By reducing all external stimuli, floatation therapy allows you to be seized by a meditative state. After a few initial wandering thoughts—mine were all dinner-related—you truly don't think about anything. Give yourself over to the float and allow yourself to truly, deeply, sincerely relax.

One hour, however, is far too long. Because when your mind comes back to the stratosphere, you realize your body is still in outer space. You wonder, having picked the last available appointment for flotation therapy, if the staff has forgotten about you and gone home—forever. You accept Chill Space NYC as your final resting place. Where else in New York can you come face to face with your mortality for a thrifty $100?

Infrared Sauna

There is a lot of thought surrounding the infrared sauna experience: infrared rays penetrate the skin, heating your body much more effectively than a steam sauna would, and the whole experience is thought to be purifying and detoxifying. It is also really boring if you don't have a waterproof book or a podcast to listen to, which I didn't. I lay in the fetal position for 40 minutes, unable to convert my anxiety into perspiration, but Claire and Emily loved it. Let them tell you about it!

Acupuncture

Never underestimate the tranquility of having 50-some needles placed tenderly into your flesh by an Eastern medicine practitioner. This was one of the best things I did, and maybe the only thing on this list I will continue to do on the regular. It all starts with a man named Paul Kempisty—I just call him Paul because I love him so much.

Paul practices accupuncture, aromatherapy, and reiki out of an extremely zen office above the Chipotle on Spring Street. Upon walking in, you are immediately greeted by an enormous water fixture. If that doesn't scream "tranquility" but also "$$$" I simply don't know what does.

For introductory sessions, Paul starts with an interview that's akin to talk therapy. His voice, a hybrid accent between Polish and Australian that sounds like whipped cream, lulls you into sharing all of your physical and mental secrets. Then, he sticks some needles in you.

Acupuncture is based on manipulating and releasing the energy flow of the body—which, if you're skeptical, sounds a little crazy, until you try it. I'm somebody who suffers from pretty moderate anxiety (I'm a writer! It's endearing!), which manifests itself both physically and mentally, and acupuncture treats it both ways. This looks like: several pins in the foot, which send signals to the brain to please relax and a few on my chest to stop overthinking this one meaningless encounter, while others placed around my body direct the flow of energy to restore balance. If your body is a temple, you've got to get spiritual. Acupuncture works. I bid adieu to Paul's water fixture feeling 10x more rejuvenated than after any massage. I miss him (his voice) tenderly, but I'm absolutely going back.

Sound Bathing

At the apex of yoga and meditation, there is sound bathing—available almost everywhere incense is sold. Basically, you do some quick and easy movements, and then a professional gives you a pillow and blanket and tucks you in for some ambient chiming. (The sound in which you are bathing.) The idea is to be present, so if you fall asleep, somebody will come up and gently tousle you awake. I thought it was a fine way to spend an hour, but I also think a nap at home is a fine way to spend an hour. I went with Emily Ferber and tried to reach her for comment:
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Boutique Meditation

Meditation, a heightened state of being, can be hard to get to–just like it can be hard to fall asleep—but everyone theoretically can do it. It should be impossible to be bad at meditation, but trust me: I am really, really bad at meditation.

Inscape in Flatiron, a meditation center with a .life URL, does its best to accommodate people like me by doing absolutely everything short of sedation to ensure a relaxing experience. The music in the gift shop is ambient and all-consuming. The Dome, where my class was, is like a moistureless womb. They give you blankets, beanbags, and a voice recording of a friendly and beautiful-sounding Australian goddess to guide the process. I had every potential to relax, and I fucked it up wherever possible.

I sat on one of the custom meditation beanbags at the start of Mindfulness 33 (the number is how many minutes long the class is) and tried to make myself comfortable. The waiflike fairy woman who checked me in came over to me and handed me two cylindrical cushions, in case I needed "extra support," but I didn't know what they were for and nobody else was using them! As a result, my technique could be best described as "criss-cross applesauce; freeform." My legs were vaguely tangled before me, as if to say to the room, "We're relaxed! We're loose! Can't you tell? Everything is fine!!!!"

After 60 seconds of total womblike silence, the recording started, and I jumped an inch from my beanbag it was so startling. I spent the rest of my 33 minutes trying to follow descriptions of arm movements that included placing my elbows in front of me "like the bow of a ship" and timing my breathing to an unnatural pace. Every three minutes, my beanbag would slip one centimeter forward, bracing itself under my emotional weight. The silence portion was my favorite part—focusing on breathing, with a voiceover occasionally (abruptly, terrifyingly) asking us to drop our worries like a light rain into the lake of our awareness. Watch them ripple across your consciousness, and try to keep your beanbag still as possible.

"Us" refers to: two young heterosexual couples, a mother daughter duo having the time of their lives, a woman who's definitely done this before, and a handsome mysterious drifter named Brennan Kilbane. Mostly everyone seemed to enjoy themselves—I did not talk to them afterwards, but everybody spoke in hushed, enlightened tones. Probably all good meditators.

—Brennan Kilbane

Photographed by the author.

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The #ITGTopShelfie interview series focuses on the beauty routines of Into The Gloss' lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Submit your own on Instagram—post your Top Shelfie (tag us @intothegloss!) and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie for a chance to be featured on ITG.

"I'm Tammi Ireland (@tammi_ireland). I'm a publicist at strategic communications and engagement agency DEC PR. I used to be a journalist, and made the move to PR about five years ago. I'm studying psychology and sexology in the evenings as a side project, and I really love applying what I'm learning to my work in PR. I've previously worked in fashion public relations, where there was a lot more pressure to look a certain way. I'm an Australian size 14, which I was acutely aware of during my time in fashion PR—and that definitely gave me a negative view of beauty in particular. Now that I'm in a positive environment, I approach personal beauty differently...less makeup, for starters. And I wear my hair up more, because I work better when it's out of my face.

My hair is my constant battle. If I could change one thing about myself, I'd love the ability to roll out of bed and not have to do anything to my hair before heading to work. In reality, I double-shampoo my very thick, curly hair with Tresemmé Perfectly Undone Shampoo before conditioning ends only with L'Oréal Elvive Anti-Breakage Repairing Conditioner. While that’s sitting in my hair, I take care of the rest of my body–shaving my legs and exfoliating–until I rinse it out with cold water. After pat-drying my hair with a towel, I’ll run some Schwarzkopf Extra Care BB Hair Beautifier into my lengths. My friend recommended this to me and it’s one of those products I’ve stayed loyal to. I’ll blow dry and then straighten my hair with a GHD before running one pump of Seven Wonders Argan Oil through my ends for straight hair.

If I’m tired I’ll pull my hair up to get through the day. If I’m feeling great, the cheeks get an extra swipe of blush and I’ll do a fresh at-home manicure. I’m inspired by girls with similar aesthetics to mine–dark features, fair skin, brown-almost-black hair. Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor, Phoebe Tonkin, and Nicole Trunfio all feature pretty high on the list, though it’s the real girls I find on my late-night Instagram scrolls who I keep coming back to. I’ll mix Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint in Medium with either Clinique Even Better Foundation in Ivory for a little coverage or Bobbi Brown Even Finish Foundation in Warm Beige for deeper, longer-lasting coverage and apply it to my face and neck with my fingers. It looks best around lunchtime, after the product has had time to settle into my skin.

I use a flat blush brush to apply Nars Orgasm in colder months to give a bit of a flushed-cheek look, or MAC Margin when it’s warmer for a bronzy look, taking the blush across my cheekbones and up to my temples. I read somewhere that going that high is more natural a look and it works for me. Using Estée Lauder Artists Eye Pencil in Soft Smudge Black—which is the best eyeliner for drawing on your waterline—I line my top eyelid from the middle to the end. This creates a ‘winged eyeliner’-type look on my eyes, without the effort required to make both lines perfectly even. On super special occasions such as birthdays or weddings I always turn to Dolce and Gabbana runway models. Soft makeup with a defined winged eye—Clinique Brush-On Cream Eyeliner in True Black—black clothes, soft messy hair peppered with flowers or trinkets... Every look from those shows is a dream.

For my skin, prevention is just as good as a cure. Drink water, always. Avoid alcohol where you can. Sleep, always. My skin is pretty good on most days, however since having the Mirena IUD inserted about four months ago I’ve been struggling with hormonal breakouts on my chin. As soon as I see one start to come up, I dab some Mario Badescu Drying Lotion on the spot and it’s gone by the next day. That stuff is liquid gold.

The scent of my skincare can really affect my mood. I can’t wash my face with Sukin Cream Cleanser in the evening for example, because the botanical scent reminds me of morning. I pack Sukin’s Hydrating Mist Toner in my bag for use after every shower or to cool down at my desk at work. It’s all-natural and smells really fresh—the act of spritzing it on kind of closes one chapter of my routine and opens the next.

I always apply Clinique All About Eyes Eye Cream under my eyes after the mist and before makeup. This is the lightest formula of eye cream I’ve found and a little goes a very long way. Plus it makes me feel like I’m doing something good for the European bags and discoloring I have—even if it is just a placebo. Lastly, skin’s not done without fragrance. Carven, Narciso Rodriguez For Her, and Commodity's Cocktail Kit are currently on rotation."

—as told to ITG

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“We just made this pajama set—I just got it today so I had to wear it. Of course, it’s pajamas, but you can also wear it out. A lot of what I design is like that…comfortable, elegant, easy to wear during the day and into night. And then you can sleep in it! Because running a company is exhausting! [Laughs] So I don’t really go out as much as I used to, but when I do, I spend a good amount of time getting ready. Mostly because I enjoy it so much and at the end of the day, I’m just a little girl who likes to play dress up. It’s more about the ritual and the process then the ultimate result. I often will end up wearing the first thing I tried on. I think something that’s definitely shifted over the last couple of years is comfort being at the forefront of the look. Like, I’m very careful about wearing comfortable shoes. Jumpsuits are really easy for me to wear when I go out because it’s kind of like a whole outfit in one and you can have a bit more fun with the beauty aspect.

Something I’m always using is my Ice Roller. It de-puffs and just wakes you up. It’s like having my own cryo-facial. Then I’m also obsessed with Korean sheet masks. My favorite one is the black J.One Jelly sheet mask—you put that on for half an hour, and then you do the step two mask which is the serum. They now sell it separately so it’s like a primer for a glow-y situation. I use that every time I go out. It lets your skin hold the makeup without feeling cakey. You end up looking really fresh and hydrated and dewy.

After a sheet mask, I like to do a lip mask. Everyone in LA is getting their lips done, so it’s hard not to want to plump them up a little. I have one called SOS My Lip Patch that works, and there’s also Kiss Kiss Lovely Lip Patch by Tonymoly that I’ll use. It helps keep my lips hydrated, which makes them look fuller. My favorite lip stain is called Dear Darling Tint and it’s also Korean. Just a little of it gives this nice, natural color, and I’ll use the Glamglow Plumprageous Lip Treatment on top of it because it’s the only one I’ve tried that doesn’t get too glossy. It’s pretty matte, so the finish is super natural.

For foundation, I use the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk. Then I use this Terracotta spray from Guerlain and I’ve been using that for 10 years. All my friends make so much fun of me because it makes a lot of noise when you shake it up. They hear that sound and they know I’m doing my makeup. It’s really amazing for contouring lightly—but if I’m going for a little bit more, I’ll use the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Palette on top of it. The spray is, I think, a very chill version of contouring. You don’t have to have such a defined line it’s kind of just a little shadow. My blush is the Tarte Cheek and Stain Blush Stick. I have olive skin, so I usually pick a coral or darker shade because light pink doesn’t look that natural on me. For blemishes, I use this thing called the Everything Pencil you can pick up at a beauty supply store. It’s a little stick that works on spots or under my eyes. First I’ll use the 3Lab Eye Cream to depuff and then do the Everything Pencil on top of that.

On my eyes, I use the Stila Liquid Eyeliner in Black every day. It’s always a cat eye, but sometimes it’s a little less exaggerated and close to the lash line. My favorite mascara was discontinued, I think, because I can’t find it anywhere. It’s Too Faced Lash Injection and it makes these little tubes around your lashes that come off so easily, but also don’t run while you’re wearing it. If you can get your hands on it, definitely get it.

There’s this exfoliator called the Cure—it’s for your face, but I use it on my neck and chest right before I shower if I’m going out. It makes the whole area really shiny and nice. I’m a little too nervous to use it on my face though, because it’s pretty intense. Instead, I just use the Biologique products. I do the Lotion P50 every day and the Masque Vivant with baking soda once a week. It’s really strong and can dry you out, so I’m really conscious to moisturize afterwards. Either the Masque VIP 02 or Biomagic Masque work for me. If I’m feeling really dirty, I use the Microdermabrasion Scrub from DermE—I love how many little grains are in it. And if I feel like my skin is really needing some cleaning I’ll use the CosRX Blackhead Liquid. That stuff is also very intense but really works. You have to leave it on for twenty minutes before you put anything on underneath it. And that one I just use very sporadically if I feel like I’m breaking out on my chin or something.

My favorite fragrance is the Le Labo Baie Rose 26, which is their special Chicago scent. It’s impossible to find because there’s not actually a Le Labo in Chicago–you have to call the Barneys there and convince them to send it to you. Once a year, they sell it at all the Le Labo stores and I’ll get it in LA. If you buy the right bottle, you can refill it during the year, which is a great secret I didn’t know until recently. I use it both during the day and at night—you just need one spray because it’s strong, and you’re good to go.”

—as told to ITG

Sarah Staudinger photographed by Emily Knecht at her home in Los Angeles on January 27, 2017.

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A horror story: You're sitting at your hot pink marbled vanity, unwinding after a long day of massages, facials, and breathing quietly. You reach for your Mason Pearson to begin your nightly routine of brushing your hair 400 times before bed. The brush glides through your roots—naturally, because it's the best, and it's yours, and you are very rich—but begins to tug at your ends. You look down at the brush and see a swath of hair come off with it; you look in the mirror, and you're bald!!!!!!! The scream you emit warps you back to reality—in your bed, in your shared studio, in a cold sweat. It was all a dream. But the bad news is this: your nightmare is (sort of) real, and it's called hair breakage.

Breakage happens when your hair is so brittle—from treatments, from the elements, from whatever—that it snaps right off. Because it's winter, your risk for hair breakage heightens; if you color it, that's another deduction; if you heat style it, oh God, forget about it. Beauty editors should not have the authority to tell you how to live your life, but if the nightmare above spooked you in the least, consider the following precautionary steps to avoid the avoidable. Your hair is the only hair you got—until it all comes out and you're forced to grow it back. Just saying!

Shop Sulfate-Free

If your hair is even the slightest bit dry, try avoiding sulfates in your shampoo, for risk of drying it out even more. Sulfates, or sufactants, can be harsher on the body as they emulsify and pry dirt and grime from your skin and hair. But eliminating them is easy: Look for the word SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) in the ingredient list. If you find it, put it down.

Living Proof's Full Shampoo is universally adored and free of sulfates—the perfect swapout for the drugstore shamp you've been using since high school. For hair that's especially dry, coarse, or curly, low- or no-poo cleansers—like Briogeo's Co-Wash—tend to be sulfate-free and are especially nourishing.

Eat More Protein

"Avocado toast with an egg is the key to life," bellows Senior Editor Emily Ferber daily. And she's right, if you swap "life" with "healthy hair." Protein-rich foods actually sustain hair growth and body. They also sustain appetite, which is unrelated, but not a bad thing. Good fats are also essential, like Omega-3s—and if you're wont to go the supplement route, Viviscal is endorsed by Caroline Trentini, Karlie Kloss, and countless others. Hair health from within, etc.

Try Hot Oil Treatments

We mentioned regular massage as an effective way to combat dry scalp last week, but hot oil does the trick, too. All you need is an oil of choice (avocado, olive, jojoba, or coconut are all fair game), the means to heat said oil, and a head full of hair. Heat the oil until it's warm—NOT scorching hot, please test it on your person first—and when it's ready, lean over your bathtub, and pour it into your scalp. It feels like pure, unfettered bliss. You are welcome.

Massage the oil from scalp to root to tip, separating out any excess stuff, and tuck your hair into a towel or shower cap. Chill for an hour, sulfate-free shampoo it out, and repeat as often as you'd like. Experts recommend once a week, but your hair, your rules.

Wear Silk

Like this $1,300 La Perla robe wrapped around your head at all times, or this much less expensive Silke London Cap that affixes to your head, stays in place all night long, and serves major Louis Vuitton Spring 2011 vibes. Friction between your hair and pillowcase is a real thing, but sleeping on silk prevents all of that. Slip's silk pillowcase is an office favorite, but isn't a jewel-toned sleeping cap, like, 40% more glam?

Swap Hair Ties For Scrunchies

Because ponytail holders can stress out hair. Maybe! Why not? Everything old is new again.

Photo via ITG.

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Every couple of months, my closest friends and I descend on Cape Cod for a weekend of card games, intimate bonding, and excessive alcohol consumption. It is a very specific ecosystem we refer to as "Cape Weekend"—and the assignment of specialized skills is critical to our survival. One of my friends, for example, is a skilled cook. Another possesses the skill of owning a home in Cape Cod... I won't go on, but needless to say, we are a talented group of individuals. What is my uniqe Cape Weekend skill, you're asking, or maybe thinking quietly to yourself? Here it is: I give a mean, lean, guerilla facial.

There is nothing more satisfying halfway into a 12-hour rum and tonic binge than a relaxing facial given by me, your good friend Brennan, in scenic North Falmouth, Massachussetts. This time around I test drove Espa Skincare's Procleanser, a three-in-one skincare product (cleanser, exfoliant, mask) and the star of the Espa range. Espa developed their products spa-first, with feedback from a constellation of spas across the UK and the United States. The moringa-based Procleanser is a staple during facials at the Madarin Oriental, which are definitely comparable to the facials I deliver in a beach-themed Cape bedroom. Or so I hear from my friends, who offered to comment on the product for me in exchange for one of my coveted facials. Below are their words, edited by me for length and clarity only:

Shailagh Kennedy, friend: "First of all, I'd like to thank Brennan—my sweet dear friend, who I am literally obsessed with—for enriching my life and also my skincare routine so profoundly. I fell in love with this cleanser just as quickly as I fell in love with him. The jojoba beads are as soft as my knees whenever Brennan smiles as me, and as environmentally-friendly as Brennan at an Earth Day parade, wearing jeans recycled from other jeans. 10/10."

Danielle Eads, friend: "My skin got so many compliments throughout the evening, but I didn't deserve them. You know who did deserve them? Brennan. He worked so hard to make French toast for everybody, and when he set the fire alarm off accidentally, we all laughed at him. He didn't deserve that. He has his life together and is also really good-looking. 9/10, but only because I feel guilty for not cherishing him more."

Jake Cochran, friend: "What could I possibly say about Brennan that hasn't already been said? Cooker of French toast, purveyor of fine skincare goods, charmer of every person he meets. Shakespeare said, 'Nothing is as common as the desire to be remarkable,'—meaning, we are all common, but Brennan is remarkable. He is also uncommonly and remarkably handsome. 100000/10, heart eyes emoji forever. He adds value and joy to my life."

Rave reviews!

—Brennan Kilbane

Photographed by the author.

Posted in Uncategorized.