While Finnish sauna culture can conjure up images of large bearded men, drinking and beating each other with bunches of birch, sauna is also a wonderful way to introduce a ritual of cleansing and quietness to the end of a busy week.
In fact, the sauna is considered the cleanest room in the house, making it the preferred place to give birth and lay out the dead in years gone by.
Most homes will have one, or at least a common one in the building that tenants can book for use each week. Accordingly, most department stores in Finland have a dedicated section where they sell a range of sauna accoutrements.
I recently discovered this included felt hats to protect your hair and ears from getting too hot and to protect colour-treated hair. (For the record, I do not wear one).
With bath tubs uncommon in Finland I’ve learnt to enjoy the ritual of sauna and take the time to use all the masks and treatments I buy and otherwise forget to use.
While I’m no expert on what real Finnish people do, here’s my sauna routine that I recommend as the Nordic winter draws near:
- Shower first – always shower before you go into sauna to wash off dirt, make-up and any perfume
- Sauna naked – imagine if you were doing a facial steam bath and someone added a few drops of chlorine – this is partly why swimsuits are not generally welcome (unless you’re in a mixed gender sauna or have agreed beforehand)
- Stay until you are comfortably hot and sweaty – even if this is only ten minutes – remembering the higher you sit, the hotter you’ll get
- Come out and shower. This is when I like to use a face scrub, followed by a face mask.
- I might also put on a honey body mask and put coconut oil in my hair (or an expensive hair treatment I promised my hairdresser I’d use weekly and only remember the night before my next appointment).
- Have a glass of water and return to the sauna
- Come out and shower again. For men, this is a good time to shave as your pores will be open and your skin relaxed.
- Repeat until done. During your final shower wash and condition your hair.
- Drink more water, moisturise and get ready for the best sleep of your life.
- Wake up feeling relaxed and ready for the week ahead.
*Results may vary but you will smell good & possibly attractive to bears.