What are wraps?
Wraps are spa treatments designed to slim and tone the body, hydrate or firm the skin, or relax and soothe the muscles. Body wrap treatments come in varied and exciting packages, with one common factor: mummification.
OK, so it's not as scary as that. You should think of a body wrap as a nourishing cocoon to warm, cleanse and moisturise.
What are wraps good for?
Most spas seem to use a few core adjectives to describe their body wrap treatments: slimming, detoxifying, relaxing and revitalising are favourites. Depending on the wrap you choose, you might notice:
- temporary inch loss
- tighter, softer, firmer, hydrated or cleansed skin
- relaxed muscles.
Some wraps are also thought to relieve tired or heavy legs and aching joints, ease inflammation, and help to flush out toxins through sweating. And while it may not provide an instant weight-loss fix, the feel-good factor of a body wrap might help you jumpstart a diet or exercise regime.
Before you go
Wraps are not a magic solution for wobbly bits, so if your spa "guarantees" weight loss or cellulite-blitzing, beware. Weight loss after a wrap is generally due to water loss, so drink plenty before and afterwards to avoid dehydration.
Similarly, miraculous inch-loss "promises" might not be all they seem. Any buttock/thigh/waist shrinkage is unlikely to be permanent, so don't expect to walk out of the spa with supermodel-svelte legs. Unless you were lucky enough to walk in with a pair, of course.
Check with the spa about what you should wear; most will supply a pair of paper knickers. Not very chic, admittedly, but preferable to algae-encrusted bikini bottoms; some of the muddier preparations can be stubborn to wash out.
Some spas request that you avoid shaving up to 24 hours before a treatment. This is worth checking out with your therapist. Sunbathing might not be a good idea, either, and alcohol and heavy meals are not recommended.
Many treatments are unsuitable for pregnant women, so you must tell your therapist if you are - or think you might be - expecting. Always check with your doctor if you have doubts, but body wraps are generally not recommended for people with:
- high blood pressure
- heart conditions
If you're even slightly claustrophobic, it's worth chatting to a therapist before you book your treatment. While many people feel relaxed and pampered being wrapped up, others feel constricted or nervous. Some people prefer to have their arms left out of the blankets; this might be a good option for you, too.
What to expect from a wrap
You'll be able to undress or change into your paper knickers in privacy. Spa therapists are great at preserving their clients' modesty. Then you might be treated to a gentle exfoliation or scrub to slough away any dead skin cells. Sometimes body wraps work best when the skin is slightly damp, so your therapist may ask you to take a quick shower before she applies your treatment. If the spa is offering inch loss, you will be measured at various points around your body first, too.
After applying a therapeutic solution to your entire body, your therapist will swaddle you in heated bandages or a thermal blanket and leave you to rest. While you lie there sleeping - or worrying that she's abandoned you forever - the heat in the cloths will relax your muscles, open your pores and encourage sweating to flush out toxins. When you are finally un-embalmed and rinsed, she might rub lotion or moisturiser into your newly soft skin.
The solution first applied to your body depends on the treatment you have chosen. Mud, algae, seaweed, herbs, oils and paraffin are common, but honey, rose oil, aloe vera or cucumber are not unknown, either. Many spas have their own signature body wraps, from the exotic to the just plain edible. Could you spend an hour coated in chocolate or red wine without being tempted to lick...?
After she has coated you in mud, algae, chocolate or peanut butter, your therapist will wrap you in warm towels, or heated cotton bandages, or hot linens, while you lie on the treatment table. You will be wrapped again in a thermal blanket or warmed plastic sheets to trap the heat next to your skin and boost your circulation.
Body wrapping mimics the effects of a fever; it encourages the body to sweat out impurities. So to keep you comfortable, you might have a cold compress placed gently on your forehead.
Some treatment tables have a central section that can be lowered, leaving you suspended only in your blanket. This is what is known as "dry flotation", and some people find the sensation of weightlessness deeply relaxing.
Your therapist might then leave you to relax for 20 minutes to an hour, while you sleep, dream, plan... or worry about how on earth you'll escape if she's jumped in her car and gone home.
When you're finally freed from your cocoon, don't expect an immediate butterfly-like transformation. You might feel quite cold and soggy at first without your thermal blanket -- so the shower afterwards will be a welcome one. You will be able to scrub away any remaining algae, mud or lumps of strawberry jam before your therapist rubs cream, lotion or oil into your baby-soft skin.
Wraps may be combined with other treatments, such as scalp, head, foot and hand massage, skin brushing, Vichy showers, face masques, loofah or salt scrubs and facials.
You may feel slimmer, toned and firmer after your wrap treatment. Although any initial weight loss will sadly disappear once you have a drink, the wrap experience might just provide the motivation you need to start a healthier new diet or fitness programme.
Being all wrapped up in thermal blankets can feel very strange if you're unable to drift off to sleep. Take your iPod along with some relaxing tunes all set up and ready to play.
Different kinds of wraps
Algae mask or wrap: Warmed algae is applied to the entire body to help nourish and detoxify the skin. It comes in the form of a pungent thick paste and might feel funny or even itchy.
Chocolate is now recognised for its anti-ageing and toning properties. Slathered in real chocolate - and sometimes chocolate cream - sparks off your endorphins, softens your skin, plumps out wrinkles, tones the skin and brightens your day. Warmed, it's extra special!
Frigi thalgo wrap
A cold wrap treatment, designed to control excess fluid in the hip, leg and thigh areas. Frigi thalgo is thought to be good for attacking cellulite and fluid retention, and provides relief for tired legs. The coldness of the wrap stimulates circulatory changes and might be ideal for kick-starting a diet.
Thalasso or seaweed wrap
A concentration of seawater and seaweed is designed to hydrate and firm the skin. Before you start imagining yourself rolled up in a layer of sushi nori, it's worth noting that the seaweed treatment comes in the form of a thick paste, and doesn't always smell beautiful.
A layer of soothing mud is applied to the skin to detoxify, cleanse and firm. The anti-stress properties of the mud are thought to ease water retention and cleanse the pores by drawing out impurities. A mud wrap might help with arthritis, rheumatism and minor skin irritations.
Cellulite treatment wrap
Designed to boost circulation and flush out toxins -- cellulite-focused wraps target problem areas around the buttocks and thighs.
Specially selected for their nourishing properties, fresh or dried herbs are blended with oils and steeped in very hot water. Cloth sheets, often muslin, are soaked in the warm solution before being wrapped around the body. This wrap is usually designed to remove dead skin cells and nourish the skin.
Similar to a mud wrap, often mixed with aromatherapy oils.
A firming serum or mask is used around the bust area, aimed at toning and moisturising the skin. A treat for your décolletage, especially after weight loss or breastfeeding.
Warmed paraffin wax is brushed over your body, although some paraffin treatments focus just on the hands or feet. A paraffin wrap is thought to reduce muscle and joint aches and soothe symptoms of arthritis. It's a popular winter treatment and great for skin in need of intense moisturising.
"Fango" is the Italian word for mud. This treatment uses a warmed paraffin and mud mixture to create a mini-sauna affect, stimulating the lymphatic flow of the body and drawing out toxins.
Rich, nourishing aromatherapy oils are used to moisturise dry or dehydrated skin. Often these come in the form of an oil-based balm which, when heated, melts into the skin.
Courtesy of the Good Spa Guide
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