Thalassotherapy might sound suitably Greek (thalassa being the Greek word for sea), but it’s reported to have been invented – or at least developed – by the French. Technically, thalassotherapy is any treatment that uses seawater or seaweed; think pools filled with seawater, powerful water jets and seaweed wraps.
There aren’t many thalassotherapy spas in the UK, though Champneys Tring and Thermae Bath Spa both offer water-based treatments including Watsu, Vichy massage and hydro circuits. Elements of marine therapy have been used by brands such as Thalgo (marine-inspired and oh-so-chic), Voya (Irish seaweed baths) and even mainstream brands like Elemis.
I’ve been lucky enough to try the water circuit at Evian spa in France, Vichy massage at The Old Course in Scotland and perhaps less lucky to experience Watsu at a public bath in Slovenia where my male therapist proudly met me in the tiniest pair of speedos imaginable.
But as a self-confessed water junkie, thalassotherapy should make the part of my soul that loves the ocean sing, be it marine-inspired or seaweed. I don’t get a lot of time to visit spas when I’m not working, so while on holiday in Crete (a 16-month-old son, short haul flight, nothing could go wrong… right?), I booked two marine-inspired treatments to see whether thalassotherapy could help my back and shoulders, which are slightly wonky from carrying my little one around.
We were visiting the Atlantica Caldera Palace, and I was booked in for the Elemis Musclease Herbal Bath Synergy and the Hot Mineral Body Boost Massage.
The herbal bath was in a very quiet room off the main spa. My therapist poured the herbal powder including maritime pine, rosemary essential oil and mineral-rich algae into the large glass hydrotherapy bath and helped me in. A glass bath, large mirrors and a body-shy new mum were perhaps not the best mix when trying to switch off and relax, but the heat and the darkened room allowed my muscles to warm and relax, ready for the mineral boost massage.
The Mineral Body Boost Massage uses an oil first and then a mineral-rich balm to relax the muscles, detoxify and replenish your skin. I warned my therapist that I had back pain from carrying a 10kg toddler and she said she would pay extra attention to the overworked muscles. She worked lengthways first, from my left toes to the top of my left fingers and the same on the right – I love this technique for fully stretching the spine. She moved onto my back and muttered about having ‘too much tension’ as she tried to ease the knots from my shoulders.
I turned over and my therapist repeated the pattern on my front, working up my legs, arms and décolletage. She applied the balm to finish and gave me a few moments to rouse from the relaxing massage. My skin felt soft, much more so than with a traditional oil massage, and it stayed soft until the next day, defeating the chlorine from the pool.
The scents of my treatments were very marine-inspired -- pine, rosemary and algae smelt like a walk along a winter beach and the mineral boost balm left my skin super soft and supple. Both added to the experience of the treatment for me.
Next time I might up the ante and go for full hydrotherapy…
My current go-to product: While travelling I tried Elemental Herbology’s new Essentials Kit, a set of five skincare minis to look after your skin while you’re away from home. The sizes are very generous, the facial moisturiser lasted me the whole week and the sheet mask is perfect for post-flight rehydration. Plus, the botanicals scents were perfect after a hot day on the beach.
My new favourite book or podcast: Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan – what would life be like if Alan Turing had completed research into robotics?