Treatment review: Lava Shells at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental

Why we wanted to review it

With a big celebrity following, Lava Shells has been making a splash in the spa world over the last couple of years. Having had a couple of hot stone massages and not feeling particularly enamoured, I was keen to try a Lava Shells treatment instead. Trying the treatment at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental was the icing on the cake!

What products did they use?

Lava shells are large, smoothed tiger clam shells found in the Philippines. Inside the shell is a sachet of minerals which is activated -- or heated -- using a saline solution. Unlike hot stones, the lava shells stay hot for an hour and a half after activation. The shells have two edges, the rounder edge where the shells join together is used for general massage strokes, the shaper edge is used to penetrate the muscles for the deep tissue part of the treatment.

During the treatment a therapist will apply an oil to the skin to help the shells glide. Mandarin Oriental offers a choice of Aromatherapy Associates oils; however Lava Shells treatments are usually accompanied by the Lava Shells Green Tea and Mango Oil.

What happened before the treatment?

After checking into the sleek and stylish reception area, I was welcomed into the spa and given a cup of Sencha Aloe Vera tea and a warm cloth to clean my hands. I exchanged my shoes for a pair of reflexology spa slippers and was shown through to the changing rooms. 

Through the changing rooms the spa décor is predominantly black marble. Set the hydrotherapy pool to a 20 minute cycle and lay back and bubble. I was enjoying the steam room next to the pool when my therapist, Hannah, came to find me. She took me downstairs to the very sensory treatment area. There was a gorgeous water feature and flickering candles lighting the dark slate stairway. The effect was beautiful and relaxing.

Describe the treatment

Hannah started the treatment by asking me to choose a body oil. I chose the Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Mind Oil; I loved the scent of frankincense, white chamomile, rosemary and petitgrain.

I changed into paper underwear (so glam!) and got comfortable lying face down on the heated treatment bed. Hannah covered me with towels, leaving one leg free, and then smoothed the anti-stress oil over the back of my leg. She used one of the hot lava shells to press into my calf muscles; she checked whether the pressure was right, and then added a bit more pressure for me -- I do have very tight muscles! All I had to do was lie back and enjoy the sensation of having the hot smooth shells pressed into the tight muscles around my body. When Hannah worked on my back I felt myself drifting off as the heat of the shells produced a deep sense of relaxation.

Hannah asked me to turn over mid-treatment, placed a mask over my eyes and began work on the front of my legs. I often find it difficult to loosen my thigh muscles, but the heat of the lava shells really worked, and the tension rapidly dropped away.

I'm never particularly comfortable having my stomach massaged, but in the name of research I decided to try and I needn’t have worried. The combination of the heat and pressure was just as wonderful here as it was on every other muscle in my body.  

How did you look/feel afterwards?

Hannah chimed some small cymbals to gently signify that the treatment was over, and asked me how I felt. I could barely manage ‘fine thank you’ as I was so deeply relaxed.

She electronically adjusted the bed to an upright position and gave me a glass of water before leaving the room. It took me another five minutes to gather myself sufficiently to get off the bed and get some clothes on. I was completely on cloud nine.

Who would like this treatment?

Anyone who enjoys the sensation of heat will enjoy a Lava Shells massage. It is perfect for going into winter when you need a bit of warming up -- especially at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental with its sleek subterranean cocooning vibe.

Price and duration

£155 for 80 minutes.

Where can you have the treatment?

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA.

Lava Shells treatments are also available at spas nationwide, find your local Lava Shells spa.

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  • Author

    Super Spy

  • Age Ageless (47)
  • Skin type Dry and sensitive

Spa Likes

"Length size pools; strong swan pipes; seriously deep tissue massages; beautiful views from outside thermal experiences."

Spa Dislikes

"Sniffing therapists; cold treatment rooms; hard sell on products."