Welcome to Clothing Optional, a series in which we test out all the newest products and treatments meant to help us look better naked.
Let me just start off by saying that there's nothing I hate more than when people tell me to "relax." As a highly emotional person, this is possibly the worst thing you can say to me when I'm feeling stressed or high-strung, and I guarantee that I will do the exact opposite the second I hear those words (my ex-boyfriends can attest!). Therefore, I felt like I had come to a place that really understood me when I walked into NYC's Chillhouse and saw that all the staff were wearing shirts that said, "Don't tell me to relax." Finally, a place full of kindred spirits who understood me!
If more people realized that relaxing is not just something you can tell yourself to do, the world might be a more understanding place.
For me personally, the concept of relaxing often feels like a nice but unrealistic fairytale. Yes, of course, I'd like to zen out and release tension from my body and mind. Now, would someone explain to me how I'm supposed to do that? Clearing your thoughts and allowing yourself to slip into deep relaxation is something that feels quite unattainable in a world where information is exchanged at lightning speed and there's always, always something on your mind—from work stress to realizing you really underestimated Jessica Biel after watching season one of The Sinner (just me?).
Anyway, all of this goes to say that I walked into Chillhouse feeling hopeful but slightly dubious about the de-stressing benefits promised by its CBD massage, an add-on you can choose to boost any of its normal massages for just $15.
So what is a CBD massage, exactly? First of all, let's talk about CBD—full name cannabidiol—which is non-psychoactive and is found in high concentrations in cannabis and hemp (not to be confused with THC, which is the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant that people associate with the "high" feeling). Health-wise, incorporating CBD into your routine via tinctures, oils, and lotions has been shown to have amazing anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and antibacterial properties, and lately, there's been a boom of CBD products and treatments in the wellness space.
In terms of the benefits of CBD massage specifically, "CBD oil has natural anti-inflammatory effects that can more effectively soothe sore muscles and joints, which makes it great for massages," explains Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, Chillhouse founder. "It encourages the body to speed up the healing process and is beneficial in relieving anxiety as well as gastric distress. Our CBD cream also has arnica and lidocaine, which also allows for additional anti-inflammatory benefits." (As a note, arnica is a common natural ingredient that people swear helps reduce bruising and muscle fatigue more quickly, and lidocaine gives a soothing, cooling feeling).
Ramirez-Fulton is clearly a CBD believer and told me that if she ever can't make it in for a massage, she'll turn to her inventory of CBD oils and creams—the second she puts them on her shoulders or anywhere tense, she feels temporary relief. "For creams, I love Lord Jones and Cannuka. For ingestibles, I love Soul Addict's hemp butter (so delicious!) and Cap Beauty's The Daily Hit," she says. "Hard to say what's working for me long term, but I'm overall less stressed these days, so something's gotta be working!"
As someone who also wants to feel less stressed overall, I immediately took her up on her offer to experience the CBD massage. I told the masseuse I'd like her to focus the CBD part of the massage on my shoulders, which always hold a million knots from sitting hunched in front of a computer all day. As I laid face down on the massage bed, I felt the familiar hurricane of thoughts begin to swirl in my mind. Deadlines, upcoming projects, what I'd be eating for dinner (one of my favorite things to think about)… I tried to quiet my mind and focus on my breathing using a meditation technique I had learned last year that involved counting up to eight while picturing the shape of the number eight.
It worked—I literally felt my shoulders unclench (though that may have been because of my skilled masseuse). The last thing I remember was feeing a slight cooling, chilly feeling on my shoulder blades. Then, the next thing I knew, my masseuse was gently shaking me awake and telling me she was done. Apparently, a full hour had passed. It felt like minutes. Slightly surprised at just how quickly it had gone by and how the tension in my shoulders seemed to have all but melted away, I floated out of the room in a hazy cloud.
I felt inexplicably calm and, yes, relaxed. If someone told me at that moment to relax, I probably would have smiled serenely and said, "I am. Isn't it lovely?"
So if you have the opportunity to incorporate CBD oil into a massage or facial treatment, I highly recommend it. It adds another level of relaxation, and you'll emerge a chiller, less anxious person. As a very un-chill, anxious person, I can attest.
You can book a CBD massage at Chillhouse here.
Click here to read our woke guide to cannabis.