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Relaxing with water
Spa trends are using H20 and soft tissue therapies to address clients’ health needs

Photos Courtesy of The Kohler Co.

May 2015

Back to basics is the best way to describe the spa trends to watch coming out of Europe this year. For centuries, Europeans have been "taking the waters" in places like Baden-Baden or Bath, and now hot springs have never been hotter as more spas rediscover the use of water for everything from improving skin conditions and relieving muscle and joint pain to lowering stress and improving overall health. "The number one reason worldwide both men and women visit a spa is to learn how to manage their stress," says Lynne McNees, president of the International SPA Association (ISPA). "When looking at European spa trends that are making their way to America, we are seeing a renewed respect for the original intent of spas. Europe has a tradition of remaining true to the core of the word ‘spa,’ which originates from the Latin phrase ‘salus per aquam’ and translates to ‘health through water.’"

Anne Bramham, founder of the international spa consulting firm ASTECC, says that approximately 85 percent of spa treatments in the U.S. are based on massage and facials, whereas in Europe, therapies would more likely focus on specific needs. "European spas have begun to explore the anti-aging aspects of the spa experience. They are developing a broader perspective, which explores wellness and rejuvenation through lifestyle changes, yoga and meditation," she says.

How does this translate to the U.S.? "I think we will see soft tissue therapies expand more — the use of specific reflex therapies in connective tissue modalities, such as manual lymph drainage," says Bramham. "More and more properties like Kohler are investing in more in-depth education around hydrotherapy and soft tissue therapies so they can develop treatments and customized programs for their guests."

Director of Kohler Water Spas Garrett Mersberger says many of the services they offer are inspired by European trends. "Every year we close down for a deep clean, and at the same time, we bring in experts to discuss the latest trends from around the world. Last year we spent four days discussing the principles of hydrotherapy, thermalism and thalassotherapy, which all come from Europe. As a result of these talks, this May we are launching a new hydrotherapy service called the Magnificent Wrap," he says. The treatment begins with a body scrub followed by a mineral bath, a mud or seaweed wrap, reflexology foot message, and finally a Vichy shower. "We end the treatment with a magnesium moisturizer that leaves you refreshed and completely revitalized."

Mersberger says that magnesium is the buzzword this year in the U.S. spa industry. "There have been a lot of studies that show both how important magnesium is for the body and that it is something most people lack in their systems. For the first time we are seeing magnesium incorporated into lotions like the one we use in our wraps. We are also selling more products that include magnesium. I think you will also see more seaweed and mud products available to purchase and use at home this year, too."

It’s not all about the past. On the other end of the spectrum, spas are going high-tech with highly personalized treatments and products. Lotions and moisturizers using in-house computer technology to create one off customized products and spas offering clients bespoke treatments are becoming the norm. Part of this wave began in Spain, where the Sha Wellness Clinic offers its clients a DNA testing service that promises to identify the proper nutrients for each individual’s skin.

What’s left? "A good intake of the guest that would identify which treatments would best serve them in accomplishing their desired outcome. More guest education of how the spa can serve them and a good variety of food offerings so that those seeking health can choose food based on nutrient values and not just fats, carbs and calories," says Bramham.


This story ran in the May 2015 issue of: