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
And what about the Cellular Rejuvenation Facial, which uses a
“cell-rejuvenating ampoule...to 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.