IN theory, spas operate as temples of rejuvenation and calm: A place for men and women to recharge and, with any luck, roll back the years.
Yet a growing number of places are turning to increasingly bizarre methods to lure in customers… and get them the results they want.
Heading the charge on the silly spa treatment front, predictably, is Gwyneth Paltrow, who has announced she is a fan of the Thermage laser facial. Also known as “face ironing treatment”, Thermage plumps the lower layers of skin, which supposedly creates a tightening effect.
“It’s like being smacked in the face,” she enthused recently. Um, okay. The pain doesn’t come cheap either: A full-face treatment is thought to cost about $6,500 (€4,860).
Some bright spark in Indonesia has decided that having a snake draped over your body is actually a great way to distress. Over at the Bali Heritage Reflexology and Spa in Jakarta, clients have their mouths sealed with sticky tape before three or four deadly pythons slither around their bodies. A 90-minute treatment costs around €33.
Spray tans are so 2013. In East London — birthplace of a thousand trends — take yourself off for a whitening spray. Using body make- up, clients are transformed into porcelain beauties, and there’s not a tanline in sight. We’re not sure how well this would go down in Ireland, where we are fairly porcelain to begin with, but the service, offered for £30 (€37) by Hula Nails, is reportedly a hit with burlesque dancers.
First snakes, and now bees… when honey isn’t doing the business, bee venom will supposedly deliver the goods. Kate Middleton is reportedly a fan. Manuka honey and bee venom stimulate collagen and elastin production in the skin, leaving the face baby soft. Hyde Grooming in Johnson’s Court, Dublin 2 offer this service for €70 (or €270 for 5 treatments). See www.hydegrooming.com.
Back in the ’80s, beer was thought to be a hugely beneficial hair treatment… the only problem was you could end up smelling a bit like a brewery. Mindful of beer’s beauty benefits, Brown’s Hotel in London offers a novel pedicure for the princely sum of £85 (€107): Soak your tootsies in Hooky Gold ale, then enjoy a sesame seed food wrap.
Over in the Czech Republic, the Chodovar Family brewery offers bath treatments to visitors for 660 Czech koruna (€23). Best of all, there’s no hangover involved.
Who can forget the Instagram pic of Kim Kardashian (left) covered in flecks of blood… and all in the name of beauty? Vampire facials, or platelet-rich plasma therapy, have taken off worldwide. Here comes the science bit: the plasma creates more skin cells, blood vessels and tissue, which counters the signs of ageing.
Make your way to Limerick, where Ita Murphy offers the facial at a cost of €500 per treatment at the Otto Clinic in Pery Square. See theottoclinic.ie for details.
Also known as the “peach smoothie”, the vagina facial is big news in (where else?) California. Isla Fisher (right) is reportedly a big fan. The process involves cleansing of the area, exfoliation, and a calming, moisturising mask, all of which leaves your lady-garden in tip-top condition. Probably not one for shy, retiring types.
Forget regular cupping… fire cupping has been hailed as a painless alternative to acupuncture (despite the fact that there’s, eh, fire involved).
Flaming bulbs are placed on the back in a process that reportedly improves overall circulation and relieves congestion. The vacuum brings blood vessels to the surface of the skin, which according to hard science, is a good thing. Just make sure you’re not wearing a backless dress afterwards.
At the Yunessun Spa in Japan, take your pick from a host of spa baths: there’s a green tea bath, or maybe you’d prefer a coffee, red wine or sake-flavoured bath? Massive fake noodles reportedly hang over the ramen bath. Delightful. Treatments start from 3500 yen (€25). One for the bucket list.
Nightingale excrement is said to be the elixir of youth in certain parts of Japan (Victoria Beckham is also reportedly a devotee). Sterilised bird-poo, which is packed full of useful, skin-boosting enzymes, is used during the treatment, which is now available at the Shizuka Spa in New York for $180 (€135).
Over in northern Italy’s Hotel Heubad, clients can relax on a water-bed for around €35… and then get wrapped in fresh, wet hay. The treatment boosts metabolism and is great for the immune system, apparently.
Hari’s Salon in Knightsbridge, London, has discovered (somehow) that bull semen has myriad benefits for glossy and strong locks. Its Aberdeen organic bull sperm treatment (£55/€70) combines the semen with Katera root to provide a protein hit to the hair. No There’s Something About Mary jokes, please.
Forget hot stones — at the Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico, clients with a taste for adventure are offered a massage complete with prick-free cacti for $245 (€183).
A blend of cactus blossom and cactus meringue is also massaged into the skin, leaving the client hydrated and detoxed.
If you’d rather wear your gold on your face than around your neck, Japanese beauty experts Umo have the treatment for you.
A 24-carat gold facial is on offer for $250 (€185), and just like Cleopatra herself, you can get blinged up with a facial that allegedly reverses oxidisation and promotes cell renewal.
Not unlike the vajacial, the v-steam (a steam treatment for your vagina) promises many health boosts for clients. Enthusiasts have reported many benefits, from easing of menstrual cramps to reversing digestive upsets.
Manhattanites are signing up in their droves, and are seemingly willing to pay up to $75 (€56) for the privilege.
Medical leeches have long been used to treat various ailments and upsets… and they’ve made their way to Ireland.
Ulf Stahlberg offers Hirudo therapy to hardy clients in Wexford; apparently the unique saliva of leeches removes toxic build-up in the body. It’s thought that the treatment is used to tackle arthritis and cardiovascular disease… and doubles up as an alternative to Botox, too.
If you’re interested, see wexfordboldyinbalance.com for more details.