From six-handed massages to diamond dust skincare, these are spa treatments on the far side of ordinary.
Sultan’s Royal Six-Hand Massage
How to make massage more luxurious for those who’ve been there, done that? If you’re The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Istanbul, you add a few extra pairs of hands. This Turkish spa was one of the first to take the cloistered calm of the treatment room to the level of sultan-worthy sumptuousness by surrounding the massage table with a trio of therapists, each dedicated to the same task of reducing the stress of one lucky guest.
Four-handed massages are common enough on spa menus from Bora Bora to Bali. “But there wasn’t a spa offering six-hand massages with three therapists anywhere when we debuted the Sultan’s Royal Six-Hand Massage,” says spa manager Bülent Tüysüz. It’s not the spa’s most-booked service, but dozens of guests perusing the menu comment on the over-the-top treatment and how fantastic it must feel. And the spa’s happy to encourage the idea.
What’s it really like? To make sure that there aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen, your body is divided up, so to speak, among the therapists: Two work in tandem — their job is to coordinate their massage movements in a predictable, synched-up pattern — and the third therapist performs pressure-point work on your face, scalp and feet.
So is it relaxing or stressful to have that much attention paid to your tight muscles and knots? “Some guests are concerned that it will be too much for them,” Tüysüz admits. But those who try it do relax. “It’s an amazing feeling to have six hands moving on your body. The same pressure and movements feels like one therapist has six hands on you,” Tüysüz says. That’s different from a regular massage, where just one area of the body is massaged at a time. During this souped-up treatment, your feet, scalp and back can be worked on simultaneously. Fit for a spa sultan indeed.
Heaven in a Hammock
Among the most inventive massages on spa menus right now is one that takes place in a hammock. But it’s not your standard-issue “Gilligan’s Island” setup swinging between two coconut trees — this is in another league altogether.
Heaven in a Hammock, offered at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Amelia Island, takes place indoors, in an “environmentally controlled” treatment room. Everything from the hammock (a tight-weave, hand-crocheted cotton that doesn’t pinch) to the stand, which suspends you 14 inches off the floor, has been carefully considered and tested. You wear loose-fitting clothing and don a pair of tight-fitting eye goggles that “block out white light and stimulate the pineal gland to create a relaxation response,” says Stacy Myers, the spa’s lead therapist and creator of the treatment. Even the soothing music — rolling ocean waves, rise and fall, ebb and flow — is engineered to bring your body into the alpha state, a relaxed condition.
The rhythmic sensation is not unlike being enveloped by a giant, gently swinging cradle — but with your head and feet free. What good can come of a massage (table) that moves? The hammock allows two therapists to work on both sides of your body at the same time. Further proof that it’s serious spa stuff: only four of the spa’s 30 therapists are qualified to give it.
“When the brain isn’t challenged, and the body is weightless and suspended, the cervical spine releases, which is an ideal state for healing,” Myers says. That’s when the therapists move in with multiple massage modalities — Thai, craniosacral and shiatsu — to knead you through, around or over the hammock. They use palms and fists, feet and knees, and shins and toes — though you probably won’t feel the difference. “It’s all about keeping the flow and transition of touch to other movement,” Myers says. Most guests walk out with an amazing sense of peace and calm. “And some experience a profound emotional release,” she adds. “With this treatment, I’ve come to think that if you can totally let go, you’ll be surprised at what can let go.”
Diamond Magnetic Body Scrub
As long as there is skin to cleanse, there will be beauty companies devising ways to make the quotidian soap-and-water habit a bespoke spa ritual. That’s the case with the Diamond Magnetic Body Scrub, which uses microfine magnetic particles — and bona fide diamond dust — to purportedly draw the dirt from your pores and negative energy from your body.
This is no ordinary scrub. First, the therapist sprays the air around you with Diamond Water Mist, then she applies Diamond Dust with massage strokes. Next, holding a magnet in her gloved hand, she lifts off the product section by section, along with your dead skin cells, just as with a regular scrub. Of course, this one claims to take away your bad vibes, too. I prefer focusing on what you’re left with: an iridescent shimmer, thanks to the application of Diamond Body Cream at the treatment’s conclusion.
According to Lulu Katrivesis, spa director at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa, the head-to-toe exfoliation is just the cosmetic aspect of the process. Its real point is to “energize the magnetic field of the body” — an Old World therapy that’s meant for a New Age spa-goer.
Although the health benefits of magnetics or magnetic therapy have not been confirmed by peer-reviewed studies (nor are they likely to be), the spa plays on the idea that magnets “draw the hidden imbalances of negative energy to the surface, [as they] purify the skin, bringing balance to mind and body,” says Laura Gamboa of Natura Bissé, which makes the Diamond Magnetic Body Scrub.
When I asked how the magnets do that, Gamboa said they have the ability to “counter the effects caused by electromagnetic pollution in the environment (cell phones, TVs, computers, microwave ovens, etc.), relieve stress, and improve cell functioning.” I’m still not sure how the finely ground particles I felt in the jar do that. But the treatment sure does feel luxurious.
Warming Peat Ritual
Mud, seaweed, honey and chocolate have become fairly commonplace ingredients in spa body wraps, those neck-to-toe envelopments that treat your skin to special products that aren’t exactly shower-friendly. But ESPA at The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, County Wicklow in Ireland uses a more rarefied material for the job: warmed peat.
You might associate the stuff with your favorite Scotch, but peat has qualities that make it good for soothing muscles and conditioning skin, says Kellie Ann Hayden, spa manager at ESPA. “And it’s an authentically Irish ingredient,” she says. Not to mention an organic one. Still, shouldn’t we be squeamish about slathering ourselves with a material most often used for fuel?
To hear Hayden explain it, peat is a lot like mud. It comes from wetland bogs and is made up of partially decomposed plant matter, which contains minerals and other nutrients. The spa sources its peat from County Offaly, and it arrives in heavy, 5-liter buckets. Nothing is added to the peat in its raw state, says Hayden proudly. “It’s black, has no aroma, and feels damp and soft on skin.”
While the description might inspire a shudder in some spa-goers, ESPA manages to elevate this lowly bogland substance to the cosmetic echelon of Crème de la Mer. The treatment begins with a vigorous salt-and-oil scrub to remove dead skin cells, while the peat is warmed to a very pleasant temperature. Then, just as a Michelin-starred chef might spread foie gras on toast, your therapist lavishes the warm peat over your just-exfoliated skin. Next, you’re wrapped in a heated, waterproof blanket, and, while your skin soaks up the nutrients of the peat (for about 15 minutes), your therapist gives you an Oriental Head Massage. After a shower to remove the peat, you enjoy a 30-minute massage, concluding a full-body ritual that lasts a total of 90 minutes.
Cosmetically, peat performs a detoxification function by pulling debris from your pores — ironic for something that’s akin to dirt itself — and it imparts moisturizing minerals. “We’ve found that it’s wonderful for many skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as well as muscle stiffness and joint inflammation,” says Hayden, who adds that by the time guests leave, they’re converts to the treatment. “Because they see a visible difference in their skin and feel reconstituted, they have entirely new connotations of peat,” Hayden says. Will you?