by Tom Isler | September 01, 2005
Spa customerSpa treatments sporting impressively mellifluous names like the Aroma-Lymph Massage and the Mango Sugar Glo promise everything from everlasting youth and beauty to spiritual oneness. But in practice, do these exotic treatments actually enhance well-being?
    “I think that a lot of places promote [treatments] as overly medically beneficial,” says Reginald Wilcox, a physical therapist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.
    Take, for instance, the Glycolic Facial, which one California spa claims “accelerates the exfoliation process.” It’s true that glycolic acid aids exfoliation, says Dr. Norman Levine, professor of dermatology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “The more important question is, ‘So what?’ Exfoliation has little or nothing to do with skin health, and nothing to do with preventing aging.”
    And what about the Cellular Rejuvenation Facial, which uses a “cell-rejuvenating increase oxygen intake to the skin and improve collagen production, resulting in remarkably smooth, supple skin”? Levine calls this “junk science.” He adds, “And that’s being kind. There’s nothing that enhances collagen production that you can do from the surface.”
    The jury still might be out on whether aromatherapy can improve the immune system or a Craniosacral Therapy Massage can “nourish all tissues of the body,” as one Massachusetts spa claims. But spas generally do deliver as sanctuaries of calm, and spa-goers who want to be “indulged, amazed, nurtured and pampered,” as one promotional brochure describes, will likely get their wish, whether or not the treatments actually will peel back the years.