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What is thalassotherapy?

Thalassotherapy comes from the Greek word for "sea", and refers to a variety of treatments that use seawater and seaweed, each designed to tone, moisturise and revitalise the body and skin, and in many cases to improve circulation. Other marine and ocean derivatives feature in thalassotherapy, too, including algae, mud and sand. All are cleaned and purified before use - you won't emerge from your thalassotherapy treatment feeling a like a monster from the deep!

Thalassotherapy comes in a bewildering array of packages - mud baths, underwater showers, hydro-massage, aromatherapy, and seaweed, mud and algae wraps all exist to help restore your body to a state of serenity fit for a mermaid. Although most of these treatments are available in UK spas, many die-hard thalassotherapy fans opt for sunnier climes each year. Luxurious hotels in Greece, France and Spain offer residential stays devoted to the art of buffeting, pampering, embalming and blasting their guests with various aqua jets, seaweed concoctions and mud.

What is thalassotherapy good for?

Different forms of thalassotherapy have different effects, helping you:

  • relax
  • tone your muscles
  • cleanse your skin
  • reduce the appearance of cellulite
  • boost your immune system
  • improve sleep quality

Thalassotherapy is also thought to help people with:

  • circulatory problems (such as hypertension and arteriosclerosis)
  • respiratory conditions (such as asthma and bronchitis)
  • post-traumatic disorders (such as muscle atrophy)
  • chronic inflammations (such as rheumatic arthritis)

There is no scientific evidence for the efficacy of thalassotherapy, although many people give anecdotal evidence about how it has helped them. As with any complementary treatment, perhaps the emphasis should be on psychological wellbeing.

Before you go

Phone the spa to check what you should wear. Some treatments might require swimwear, others rather less. Any pre-thalassotherapy preparations depend entirely on your treatment, so speak to your therapist if you're unsure.

If you're having mud, clay or algae treatments, it's a good idea to tie or pin your hair back.

Precautions

Thalassotherapy is often prescribed, so your therapist might ask fairly detailed questions about your health and medical history. It is important to tell them if you are, or think you might be, pregnant, as these things will mean that some treatments are not suitable for you.

What to expect from thalassotherapy

If you've opted for a seaweed wrap, expect to be swathed for about an hour in seaweed and herb-soaked cloths. You will probably be wrapped up from your toes to your chest - arms are always optional - whilst lying on a thermal blanket to keep you warm. Before you start to feel like a dried old barnacle, your therapist will unravel you and massage your body to enhance circulation.

Alternatively, if a "walking pool" took your fancy, you may find yourself immersed in seawater, wading against a gentle current which is alternately warm and cool. This is designed to improve blood circulation in your legs.

Or perhaps you've chosen to try an aqua gym. Firm jets will target your various muscle groups while you gently work out in a pool, your body supported by the resistance of the water.

If you can't decide which form of thalassotherapy to sample, phone your chosen UK spa and ask them to recommend a treatment package. Or you could jump on a plane bound for the Mediterranean and check into a spa dedicated to seawater therap. Just watch out; one Good Spa Spy got more than she bargained for from thalossotherapy in Romania. She said it was similar to being hosed down by the police in a riot.

Hot tip!

Spritz your hair with leave-in conditioner just before your treatment. This will help to protect it from seawater and stop it from becoming tangled and matted.

Afterwards

You may have that just-stepped-off-the-beach feeling after thalassotherapy, complete with prune-like wrinkled fingers and sand between your toes. You'll probably feel very refreshed and relaxed. Or you might feel tired and achy after working out in the aqua gym and being sprayed with underwater jets. However you feel, treat yourself to a long, rejuvenating shower in fresh water and take some time out to enjoy the oceanic serenity.

Different kinds of thalassotherapy

Ionisation: a thalassotherapy where the seawater is ionised with negative ions and is inhaled or sprayed. Used to heal the upper respiratory tract

Hydromassage

Balneotherapy: underwater massage jets of water

Vinothérapie: a treatment combining thermal spring water and inigo-elements with wine and grape extracts to strength blood vessels and enhance circulation
Seaweed, mud or algae wrap

Balneotherapy: water-based therapies that use seawater or thermal spring water to improve your circulation

Courtesy of the Good Spa Guide

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