The Good Spa Spies have been out in force, reviewing and inspecting over 70 spas in the UK during the last year plus some spas in India, California, The Maldives, The Seychelles, Cyprus, Vancouver and Marrakech. We have been scrubbed, buffed, polished and shone, all in the name of research of course! We found some interesting new trends in the spa world.
Several spas are now offering lifestyle consultations where you focus on key ways to improve your health. Some offer consultations with complementary therapists, a nurse or a dietitian. This is a trend we predict we will see more of as we are hit by the double whammy of a crumbling health system and a rapidly retreating retirement age. We all have to take more responsibility for our own health. Disease prevention and supporting recovery after illness are important programs that spas can develop. Some spas also offer follow up sessions so you can go back to do a refresher course. Great for boosting one's flagging willpower.
We used to 'take the waters' at a spa as a cure for almost anything; gout, indigestion even TB. Now spas are offering focused spa packages to help with problems as diverse as insomnia, stress, weight loss and the menopause. And they are using activities like power walking, dance, meditation, mindfulness and even singing to help you manage symptoms.
We have noticed a trend towards using spas to meet up with friends and family. A spa day together gives everyone time to relax, and gossip and do that ‘kinship keeping’ that our modern lifestyle prevents. And now that spas have become mainstream, men are no longer shy about spending the day in a robe. Summer Spy recently found herself sharing a sauna with a group of about eight men who had booked a spa day together.
Advances in skincare technology (especially nutri-cosmeticals and multifunctional products) have meant that many treatments now provide visible results. That's important because spa goers are looking for noticeable results. We all want to know that the money we are investing pays off, and if we can see the difference, we will buy again.
Massage is the single most popular treatment at most spas. In the past you choose a style of massage; Swedish, Aromatherapy, Thai and the like. Now, therapists are combining various aspects of massage styles. And sometimes they even throw in some reflexology and pressure point work as well. In skilled hands this is great tailor-making of a massage to suit your needs.
Of course mostly we want to go to a spa and have a slow day. Spend all day in a robe just drifting from treatment to treatment, read a page or two of a not very demanding book, have a gentle swim and come out all calm and collected. But sometimes life does not let us find the time to be slow, so spas have started offering shorter treatments that can easily be fitted into lunchtime or an evening. A thirty minute neck massage may be just what you need to get you through to the end of the week, or a mini facial may give you enough of a glow to be able to face that evening out.
Bright and cheerful spring packages that include the use of enlivening aromatherapy oils like sweet orange to banish winter blues. Body polishes and pedicures make for perfect summer spa days. Autumn packages may include treatments that help boost the immune system such as lymphatic drainage or Traditional Chinese Medicine. Winter packages often include warming treatments using hot stones and warm foot soaks, followed by Korean plum tea to warm you inside.
Post treatment treats to boost the blood sugar
You know how tiring it is lying down for an hour or so while someone pummels and pushes you. One trend we love is the offering of tasty and healthy snacks along with the post-treatment herbal tea. We have had frozen grapes (very refreshing) chopped fruits (very healthy), Indian style crackers (spicy), hummus and breadsticks (great if the hunger pangs are getting noticeably noisy), a glass of champagne with a raspberry sorbet added to it (our favourite of course).
Warm towels or robes
This is a treat we really appreciate. Therapists have been known to hang our robe on a radiator so it is toasty warm when the treatment is finished. One Spa Spy was offered a warm towel to put round her neck after a particularly effective neck massage. This goes very well with under-floor heating in the changing areas, but is obviously much cheaper than ripping up the flooring to install heating and any spa could offer this nice touch.
Couples rooms for, err, non couples
There was a very strange Victorian law in the UK which forbade the use of couples rooms in spas. What did those naughty Victorians get up to we wonder! When it was revoked a few years ago spas went all out to create couples rooms which are great for a romantic time with your partner. But we have noticed a tendency to use them for friends who have booked a spa day together. No problem with that of course, if you want to have your treatment with your pal and you are asked. But more than one spy spa has been automatically booked in without being asked. You may not want even your best pal to hear the fat being pummeled on our thighs. So spas please ask first!