Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit a Russian Banya
You may have heard of banya: a Russian custom that's been a part of the culture for centuries. It's a steam bath loved for its plethora of wellness and skincare benefits, including relaxation, detoxification, and blood circulation-boosting benefits. If you're new to banya and want a full rundown, we've got you covered. Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about banya, including what to bring with you, what to do when you're inside, and how you should expect to feel after.
Before You Go:
Not all banyas are created equal so do your research! It's supposed to be a relaxing wellness and beauty experience, so before you schedule your appointment, take a look through the photos and make sure it looks like an environment you'd be comfortable in. While subjective, similarly to other spa services, reviews can paint a good picture. As a reminder, cheaper often doesn't usually mean better. You don't have to splurge on the most luxe option out there, but strike a perfect balance for the experience you would want to go back for.
Think of your regular visit to a day spa and pack all the essentials: a bathing suit (don't go for your best number as heat may fade the colors), a hair tie if your strands need some taming, and flip flops. Some places may provide bathrobes and one-time use slippers, and towels are usually included with your entrance fee, but it's always a good idea to double-check—better safe than sorry.
What Not to Take:
The temperature inside the banya will be soaring high, so make sure you leave your jewelry and watch at home. If your bathing suit has metal details, opt for a less sophisticated style to avoid getting burned (yikes!) For selfie lovers, banya may be a cool photo opp, but your cell phone may not appreciate the heat. Do it a favor; give it a break by leaving it in your locker.
Banya is an excellent time to apply gentle scrubs to your face and body. Come prepared with a DIY concoction (mix 1 cup salt, 1/3 cup honey, ½ cup olive oil, and 5-6 drops of your favorite essential oil), purchase one of Rumore's favorite scrubs in advance (we love X), or sign up for a professional scrub or body wrap at the spa. While you may shell out an extra $50-150 per sesh, it will most likely be worth the splurge.
To protect your hair from the heat, wear a special banya hat (link to St. Petersburg) or simply wrap a towel or turban around your head. You can also take a birch whisk with you (eucalyptus or oak whisk would be great, too!) to embrace Russian traditions. Just be sure to have a friend or partner with you who won't mind gently slapping you with the whisk, as this is essential to the banya massage experience. It helps improve blood circulation, tones skin and helps let the toxins out of your body.
Who to Go With:
It's always fun to go to banya with your friends, but if you're looking for quiet time and relaxation, going solo is certainly an option, too!
What to Do Once Inside:
Just sit, relax, and prepare to sweat. You may notice that there are multiple benches at various levels inside the hot room. Pro tip: If you're enjoying the heat, climb up to the highest bench. You can always start low, where the temperatures are the coolest, and play it by ear, climbing up one step at a time and taking a temperature check on how you feel. Make sure you don't spend more than 15 minutes inside at a time. After time's up, step outside, cool down (you can dive into a pool with ice-cold water for the ultimate Russian experience!), and take it easy by drinking a glass of water or juice at a café. Don't go in on an empty stomach, and don't overindulge before your banya sesh, either; moderation is key! The rule of thumb: make sure to stay hydrated. You'll lose a lot of water through sweating, so actively replenishing your hydration levels is necessary.
You'll feel relaxed, and your body will thank you. Enjoy a delicious meal (some banyas have great restaurants on-site), take a nap, or spend the rest of the day relaxing and giving your body a well-deserved rest.
As is the case with most beauty rituals, banya shouldn't be a one-time thing, especially if you're looking to see all of the beauty and health benefits it has to offer. Consider making your banya getaways quarterly or even monthly and use these wellness escapes as an opportunity to bond with your girlfriends or spend quality time with your significant other.