I Took a Bath in Maple Syrup

© Getty Images/iStockphoto
Trying the trend.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to pancake yourself?

Not in the sense of frying on a griddle, but in being slathered in maple syrup. If so, a new luxury spa treatment can supply the answer. A limited-time “hot-cake bath,” now offered at Tokyo’s Hakone Kowakien Yunessun hot springs spa, consists primarily of maple syrup and is the latest iteration of the bathing-in-delicious-liquids trend. At this particular spa, patrons have soaked in green tea, coffee, ramen and even Beaujolais.

If this seems like a waste, you’re probably not rich enough. I’m not rich enough, which is why I got the idea to make myself my very own, marginally affordable maple syrup bath in my closet-sized N.Y.C. apartment. I have access to a tub and a supermarket, and for some reason, the idea of getting maple syrup in my toe crevices didn’t bother me. Plus, the supposed benefits of giving your body the waffle treatment seemed worth the enormous hassle of filling your tub up with sap: maple syrup promotes blood flow and soothes the skin, according to the scientific organization known as The People at the Spa Who Want You to Buy the Thing. After doing a bit of research on my own, I found that maple syrup does, in fact, have antioxidants that can help fight dryness and inflammation, much like honey.

With a trip to South Beach looming, my skin ravaged from winter, I was willing to try anything (except for actually taking care of my skin on a regular basis). So I decided it was time to fill my bath tub up with real maple syrup, none of that fake stuff. Aunt Jemima, being so chemically and legally removed from maple syrup that “maple” isn’t mentioned on its packaging, wasn’t going to cut it. Pure maple syrup, however, is expensive; luckily, the Japanese maple baths are diluted with some hot water, so I didn’t have to spend $400 filling up my tub. I bought four bottles of maple syrup, spending $44 total.

© Maria Yagoda

I chose a time when I knew my roommate would be out for at least another hour, and then I lit some candles, cleaned the tub and retrieved my four containers. Opening maple syrup bottles in the bathroom felt incredibly transgressive and strange. The syrup smelled almost bitter, and I felt sticky already, without having touched it yet. I turned on the bath and started pouring the syrup into the bubbles; it drizzled out slowly, almost stopped by its own thickness. I poured in another bottle. The bath liquid turned the color of rust, or pee when you’re dehydrated. Luxurious. After dumping in the fourth bottle, I turned off the water and sat down in the bath.

It felt… pleasant? But I couldn’t tell if that was just because I was soaking in hot water, which is a notoriously pleasant sensation. I definitely didn’t feel sticky, as I’d expected. I rubbed some extra syrup I’d saved on my arms and legs, and the texture felt soothing on wet skin. After ten minutes of trying to get mentally on board with what was happening, I let the syrup-water drain and rinsed myself off. My skin felt slick and smelled weird: not like fresh maple syrup, but rather the sap hole of an old tree. I rinsed again and tried to scrub it all off with soap. When I dried off, my skin felt smooth… but I was itchy, almost everywhere, especially around those places you don’t ordinarily put breakfast condiments.

While the experience itself was relaxing and somewhat therapeutic—again, not sure if this is just because I was in a bath and baths are like that – the post-maple-dunk itchiness sort of negated the benefits. But my skin was noticeably softer.

There, I just saved you a trip to Japan.

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