4 Spa Industry Trends That Will Make You Feel Great About Spending

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — For some reason, it remains little known that Massage Envy also offers facials.

The nationwide franchise, best known for the massages it's named for, heard customer feedback and made a strategic business move a few years ago to add skincare to its offerings.

Massage Envy's facials are fabulous, professional, relaxing and — here's an important point — affordable, which is not always the case in the spa world. For a $59 to $79 monthly membership (depending on your location), customers get one facial a month for $10. The facial includes a detailed skin analysis, custom treatment plan and, in the best of both worlds, a head and neck massage.

"We try to listen to our customers," says Massage Envy's Sheila Ullery, vice president of retail and merchandising. "We realized we had an opportunity to offer high-quality facials but at a lesser price point."

The move appears to have been a smart one for the company. Ullery says Massage Envy's facials are one of its fastest-growing business segments. To publicize its offerings even further, Massage Envy is offering "Summer Glow Skincare" from July 5 to Aug. 2 in which members and guests get $10 off the company's four Murad Healthy Skin facials.

The expansion is just one headline to emerge from the recent 2015 West Coast International Spa Association gathering in California and in the 12th annual trends report from Spafinder Wellness 365. The report, which identifies the top 10 spa trends of the year, says there's a search among spa goers in a world overwhelmed by technology, for simpler, healthier ways of living. The spa world is happy to tap into the demand, including in these ways:

Forest bathing

Topping the list of new treatments in terms of how quickly it's spreading across the country is forest bathing, known as shinrin-roku, coined by the Japanese government in 1982 and literally meaning "taking in the forest atmosphere," says the report.

"Forest bathing speaks to the art of walking through forest and being intent on the sounds, the smells and how it feels, all of which has been proven to have calming affects with regard to anxiety," says Mia Kyricos, chief brand officer for Spafinder Wellness. "It's really about mindful contemplation, deep breathing ... It's something that has been done for a long time in Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. But it's really just emerging in the modern spa and wellness world. And the reason why it's emerging is because it's not just touchy-feely; there is actual evidence behind this and its benefits for the immune and cardiovascular system." 

A study from the universities of Kansas and Utah, for instance, found that three days of wilderness hiking improved scores on creativity tests by 50%. A recent large study from the University of Michigan and Edge Hill University found that nature walks significantly combat stress and depression.

Kyricos says forest bathing is an ideal calming activity for the often highly stressed Wall Street crowd, and there are several spas within a few hours' drive of New York City that offer the opportunity to indulge. Her two top picks include Woodloch Lodge in Pennsylvania, including walks led by a master herbalist who teaches mindful contemplation, deep breathing and foraging for edible plants and remedies, and Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont, with its "Wei to Wellness" package that includes a "Mindful Snowshoe Tour." 

The treatment is also at such spas as L'Auberge de Sedona in Arizona and The Mayflower Grace in Washington, Conn.

Cannabis treatments

Cannabis-related treatments are also highlighted in the Spafinder Wellness report, which says the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in the U.S.:

has spawned an explosive ... 'cannabusiness' market, led by sophisticated 'ganja-preneurs' ... reinventing who consumes marijuana and the many ways it can be used — essentially taking it from dorm room to boardroom, from dime-bag to Hermes bag and from counterculture to over-the-counter, with sleek dispensaries that are channeling Apple stores.

Markets and products are springing up, and cannabis is becoming integrated with spa, yoga and beauty and wellness products. 

North American dispensaries and European cannabis clubs are shifting to become spa-like wellness centers that do more then just sell product, but also offer free massages, yoga, Pilates, meditation classes and alternative medicine specialists. Some even now offer trendy cannabis juice bars, the report says. 

At Canna Clinic Medicinal Society in Vancouver, Canada, there are free cannabis oil massages. The same city's Sea to Sky Alternative Healing Clinic has an in-house naturopath and medicinal smoothie bar. At Sparc, in San Francisco, free acupuncture, meditation, acupressure, Ayurveda and live jazz are among the latest offerings.

Traditional medical spas are jumping on the cannabis bandwagon by having clinic doctors recommend or prescribe medical marijuana, after which topical cannabis products can be used in spa services. Examples include Restorations Wellness Center & Spa in Denver and MD Medical Spa & Wellness Center in Boston and Cape Cod, Mass. 

"We are literally seeing bed and breakfasts rebranding themselves around cannabis," Kyricos says. "And it's being integrated into skin care products. There's a company called Dixie Elixir that's producing very slick, topical products that wouldn't look out of place on a shelf at Whole Foods. They look that refined."

The range of products made from cannabis include lotions, massage oils, salves, salts and soaps. Although there has yet to be a great deal of research on the benefits of cannabis used on the skin, there are some indications topicals can be pain reducing and anti-inflammatory, the report says.

Islamic traditions

The Islamic traditions being incorporated into offerings at U.S. spas are perhaps the newest and least fully developed of the trends highlighted by the report.

Stemming from a consumer hunger for all things authentic and indigenous, there is an increasing interest in Islamic spa treatments that go beyond the long familiar hammam. Spas are now branching into additional Islamic practices such as rasul (mud experiences), camel's milk baths and even new sand-immersive massage tables.

"Sand bathing from the Middle East and North Africa has translated into a new innovation — the sand table," Kyricos says. "It's been found that there is a therapeutic benefit to laying on sand during a massage. Camel's milk is going to be another big offering. We are starting to see camel's milk baths and camel's milk you can consume, all of which is coming from the Middle East. Rasul is also something that used to be only seen in the Middle East and we are now starting to see it come west. These are all ancient traditions that we know are being prepared to come westward."

"Let's face it, Islamic countries have gotten a lot of bad press lately," Kyricos says. "This is an opportunity to showcase some of their healing traditions, much like India did with Ayurveda. "

Diamonds

Finally comes the latest facial at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.

Because of the partnership between the Beverly Wilshire and exclusive, luxurious Natura Bisse product line, many treatments from the skin care line are launched at the Beverly Wilshire before rollout to the rest of the country. 

The Beverly Wilshire is still the only location in the country offering the Diamond Rose Facial - as the name implies, a treatment based on damask rose and diamond dust. It costs a steep $395 but has been promoted by the skin care company as a treatment worthy of preparing celebrities for the red carpet, turning back time for a youthful glow.

The facial includes a number of Natura Bisse's exclusive formulations, such as a Diamond Experience Nectar (made to boost skin vitality and elasticity) and Diamond Experience Essence, a cream developed to restructure and restore firmness. 

While its price tag is steep, the Diamond Rose Facial is worth nearly every penny. Perhaps file it in the once-or-twice-a-year-splurge category, just to keep yourself picture perfect.

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