When thinking of spas, one imagines retired men unwinding in a steam filled savusauna after a day of golfing on the estate and the wives of stockbrokers filling their days with hot stone massages and French manicures. We imagine this ethereal place where people disappear into and emerge with a renewed spring in their step, talking about things like chemical peels and rhythmic sequence on acupuncture meridians. But what exactly are these incredible treatments people seem to be addicted to:
Massage therapy is the most popular treatment and is considered one of the oldest and most effective methods of healing, on both a physical and emotional level. Methods vary from culture to culture, but the concept remains the same – health and well-being is improved through manipulating the muscles and soft tissues of the body. Methods range from gentle stroking and kneading with the hands, to pressing down with specialised tools and implements, and can be practiced on just about every part of the body. Through these various techniques, massage therapists are able to release tension in muscles, reduce stress and help clients reach a state of blissful calm and relaxation. Popular types of massage include: Swedish (this is the most common), hot stone, Thai, reflexology, deep tissue and Shiatsu.
Facials are the second most popular treatments and are usually carried out by an experienced esthetician. Through cleansing, toning and moisturizing, dead or dry skin cells are removed from the surface, thus rejuvenating and revitalizing the facial area and making it look younger. Facials generally comprise of all or several of the following steps:
- Skin analysis
- Application of toner, serums, moisturizer and sunscreen (during the day)
Although the entire face is targeted, specific problem areas can be focused on. Tightening and smoothing out the skin with collagen is also an option, although this is not offered at all spas.
Body wraps are another popular treatment which promotes weight loss (albeit temporarily) and improves the health and texture of the skin. Methods and ingredients vary from spa to spa, but are generally the same or similar. Ingredients can include algae, seaweed, mud, clay, eucalyptus, lotion or cream. Methods usually entail a salt scrub, which exfoliates and removes dead skin cells. This is followed by slathering the body in a number of natural ingredients and then wrapping the body tightly in seaweed, Mylar or towels for anything between 20 to 45 minutes (this absorbs any remaining impurities). Once the wrap and mask have been removed, you will rinse off with either a regular hand held shower or a Vichy shower and then moisturize with lotion. The main types of body wraps are moisturizing, detox, slimming and cellulite.
Exfoliation treatments aim to remove old dead skin cells on the skin’s epidermis by using a scrub, which usually comprises of ingredients such as sea salt, honey, oil and aromatics like lemon. A number of spas use their own blend of ingredients, so scrubs are varied. When getting a treatment, you lie face down on a sheet and plastic covered massage table and a therapist scrubs your body (for between 10 and 15 minutes) before removing the scrub in a shower. A coat of oil usually remains, and the skin feels smoother and looks fresher. The most common exfoliation methods are mechanical peels, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.