Comfort zones

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am

Holistic wellness didn't exist 10 years ago. Today, however, there's a mind-boggling array of new spa and associated treatments promising everything from reversal of the ageing process to delivery of that elusive state of Zen-like calm.

New buzz words such as nutraceuticals, genomic medicine and Tibetan singing bowl therapy are all the rage.

So, where to start?

Turning back the years

'Anti-ageing seems to be leading a lot of the new treatments and therapies as everyone is looking for the magic treatment to reverse ageing,' says spa consultant Melinda Yon of 360 Spa Solutions.

But which really deliver results? Well, the media is cooing about bio-hormone replacement therapy - hailed as the new Botox. The treatment uses 'bioidentical' hormones made from natural substances such as soya, wild yam and other plant extracts to replicate hormones that are similar to those made in our own bodies. These can be prescribed in capsules, injections, drops, creams and gels.

Yon says there's also a lot of interest in nutraceuticals, or 'functional foods'. These include processed foods made from food ingredients, or fortified with health-promoting additives such as 'vitamin-enriched' products, fresh vegetables foods such as broccoli (a cancer preventative) or clover (said to improve women's arterial health), and fermented foods with live cultures.

On the hi-tech side, there's the increasing use of stem cells to prevent ageing. Both Strivectin and ReVive from Dr Gregory Bays Brown have recently released products containing polypeptides and enzymes, which stimulate the body's epidermal stem cells to rejuvenate skin, giving one a more youthful look.

Also under this banner are new techniques such as body bio-impedence analysis, which uses body composition and cellular function to determine how well you're ageing, and genomic medicine which uses an individual's genetic information and family medical history in a bid to avoid or delay the onset of life-threatening diseases such as breast cancer.

In the world of beauty, spa experts are working hard to create ever more effective, cutting-edge, anti-ageing solutions. At the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Spa, the latest treatment is the vitamin infusion facial, which claims to recapture a radiant youthful complexion by producing dramatic visual changes in skin texture, tone and clarity. 'Using a blend of six vitamins A, C, E, D B3 and B5, the formula basically coats the vitamins to allow them to fully penetrate into the skin,' says Victoria Childs from the Mandarin.

At the Grand Hyatt, clients are queueing up for the new crystal bright facial, an advanced microdermabrasion treatment that exfoliates the skin surface with a constant flow of micro crystal, reducing blemishes, fine lines, sun damage and scarring.

Enhance your image

Who wouldn't gladly rid themselves of their dimpled thighs, without a stringent diet and exercise plan? Or erase those ugly acne scars on the face or back? Recent beauty breakthroughs provide solutions for such problems and more. Yon says the latest cellulite treatment - transcutaneous mesodermic therapy (TMT) - involves the use of painless electrical impulses, is non-invasive and fast, and 'apparently improves skin cell processes'.

For more dramatic results, TMT can be combined with traditional mesotherapy, where tiny needle pricks deliver fat and cellulite melting products directly into the skin. The new technology means there is less chance of bruising and swelling. Samantha Arnold, spa director at The Four Seasons, is just about to install the new Cellu M6 Keymodule machine at the Spa: 'Using motorised rollers and a suction chamber, the machine breaks down fat and increases collagen production,' Arnold says. 'You don't so much lose weight as ... it gets rid of the lumps and bumps'. Another new acne treatment, according to Yon, is photodynamic therapy that 'involves the use of a medication that is taken up by bacteria in the oil glands and converted into a light sensitive substance, which selectively absorbs the laser light, destroying the bacteria and ultimately improves acne without the side effects seen in systemic therapy'.

Elsewhere, physician Lauren Bramley has just installed the ClearLight Acne PhotoClearing System at her surgery in Central. Patients lie on a bed while a special blue light is applied to the affected area. The procedure is non-invasive and painless - the blue light simply destroys the bacteria that causes acne.

The latest stress busters

A whole industry has grown up around helping people to relax and unwind, but the new treatments aren't necessarily hi-tech. International spa guru Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder, has been predicting sleep is going to be big in spas. She quotes William Dement, founder and director of the Stanford University Research Centre, as saying: 'Healthy sleep has been empirically proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity, more influential than diet, exercise or heredity'.

A US company called MetroNaps has created a sleeping pod that offers clients a place for a quick power nap.

'As consumers are becoming increasingly more spa-savvy they are seeking new spa treatments to experience from around the world,' says Yon. 'These may include a traditional therapy passed down from generation to generation, or include local and authentic ingredients.'

Examples include energy treatment sekham, which has been practised since Eygptian times; manaka tapping, a Japanese variation on acupuncture that involves tiny needles and tapping on a wooden peg to the beat of a metronome; and lomi lomi, which is Hawaiian shamanic body work.

Yon also says there is an increasing interest in sound therapy, such as Tibetan singing bowl therapy, crystal bowl therapy, drum therapy, didgeridoo therapy and acutonics, which is a non-invasive treatment using tuning forks applied directly to acupressure points, pain trigger points and chakras to access and open energy pathways in the body.

Add to this colour therapy, where various coloured lights are rotated to provide a direct connection to your mental, physical and spiritual self. For water therapy enthusiasts, there are new treatments being developed, including aquacranial therapy, a new method that combines water with craniosacral therapy to increase mobility and facilitate release in the spine, and liquid sound from Germany, which combines sound, colour and flotation therapy.