Very intrigued after the excited discussions at Good Spa Guide HQ about hot new spa thing "lava shells", I met Alison at the Citypoint Club where she was spending the day with journalists, demonstrating the way of the lava shell massage.
In the Philippines, tiger clams are usually harvested from the warm seas, the clams eaten, and the pretty shells discarded. UK-based Shared Beauty Secrets joined forces with Spa Revolutions over in America (who designed the heating technology), to create a new eco massage aid.
The shells are polished and a hole is bored into them. Then, a "tea bag" sachet of algae, minerals and dried sea kelp is placed into the shell, a salt water activator is added and a rubber bung seals the hole. The chemical reaction between the salt water activator and the sachet creates a strong, steady heat that can last up to a couple of hours. Wow!
Alison started by smoothing an exotic massage oil over my arm. She tested the heat of a lava shell against her inner forearm, ensuring it was not too hot before touching me. The sensation of the hot shells against my oiled skin was surprisingly hot but bearable. What a great way to relax your muscles. I could feel them giving way to the shell's powers.
Part of the lava shells massage includes a stomach massage and a "pelvic floor lift". It’s a really fabulous addition to the massage and particularly good for people who suffer from bloating and constipation, like me. I explained that I often self-massage my stomach and relished Alison treating it with the hot shells. I found it very comforting and I'd love to be able to do this at home.
Alison used two shells at the same time or sometimes only one. The shells do cool after much massaging action, so she put one between my feet and carried on with just one shell, maintaining contact at all times, whilst miraculously the other shell heated up again. Very impressive.
Alison worked my knotty shoulders with the side of the shell, and really gave my rhomboids what for. There's a bump on the shell where the hinge would be, and Alison likened it to a thumb being applied to the body. This was great for melting away the knots. Great – more, more, more! I particularly welcomed the massage on my laptop-strained neck. In fact, I could rave about it all – it was all just so darn lovely and warming.
I was lucky enough to be given a homecare kit which contains a light, smaller shell and four sachets of algae mixture/activator liquid, and Alison gave me a little lesson on how to self-massage my problem areas of colon and shoulders. Superb – the experience does not end as soon as I leave Citypoint – I can continue at home! Homecare kits are on sale in spas only, so that anyone having the massage can be shown by trained therapists how to activate them and use them properly. This felt like a top quality experience. I left feeling lighter of step and psychologically uplifted – and it lasted all day!
I have now sampled the take-home kit, and the shells are still as impressive the second time round. I don't have as good control with the shells as Alison, but it still felt lovely. (The take-home kit did not include an actual tiger clam shell and I’m not sure why not.)
Alison is currently training therapists in how to use the shells in some great spas all over the country.
It’s exciting times for these Shared Beauty Secrets ladies, and as we predicted, they really are the big business of 2009.