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12 of the most unusual spa treatments from around the world

If your beauty regime maxes out at moisturiser and sunscreen, then some of these might be out past the shark nets. But if you’re willing to let snails use your face as a race track, then your skin could be youthful forever. Maybe...

All over the world, tradition and science collide to create some of the most unusual spa treatments you’ll ever hear about. You could make one of these a high-point of your next holiday!

1 - Venik massage

Originating in Eastern Europe and popular in Russia, this massage may seem to be less therapeutic and more like punishment. After you’re smothered in oil, you lie naked on a timber bench in a sauna. Then, two enthusiastic therapists hit your back with birch or oak branches. Apparently, it boosts circulation to minimise skin ageing.

2 - Sound healing

This Balinese speciality is the opposite of a good Russian thrashing. Totally non-invasive, it involves using vocals or instruments produce vibrations that relax your mind and body, allowing you to embrace wellness. Tibetan monks have been using these therapies for centuries, so if you need the ultimate in relaxation and positive vibes, this could be for you.

3 - Chocolate wrap

This is a delicious experience without any added calories. After being slathered in a chocolate mixture, you’ll be wrapped in foil or towels, then left to rest (marinate?). While we don’t know where this practice originated, the Aztecs used chocolate in many ways, so perhaps they firmed their skin and reduced cellulite with a treatment like this.

4 - Ayurvedic treatments

India has used these treatments for thousands of years to treat everything from serious health concerns to minor ailments. For skin treatments, it involves a mix of food advice, application of herbs internally and externally, and emotional management. With any Indian treatment, if it doesn’t involve turmeric at some point, it’s probably not Indian.

5 - Snake massage

Imagine the benefits of increased circulation and nerve stimulation to encourage blood flow, the release of endorphins and oxytocin. This could be delivered in many ways, but application of boa constrictors to slither and slide all over your body seems to be the least relaxing option. If you want to try this, Israel is the place to go.

6 - Snail facial

To reduce the signs of aging and encourage youthful skin, this facial - found in places like Japan and Korea - is not for the weak of stomach. A snail therapist encourages snails to slide across your face, leaving their slimy footprint over your skin, which is reportedly full of antioxidants and helpful proteins. They also exfoliate the skin and moisturise the face while they’re sliding around.

7 - Vampire facial

Popularised by Kim Kardashian, this vampire facial uses your own blood to reduce scarring and minimise the signs of aging. The therapist extracts your blood, processes it into platelet-rich plasma, spreads it on your face and then uses micro-needling to encourage absorption into the skin. The twilight zone of beauty treatments.

8 - Bird poo ‘nightingale’ facial

The poo from the nightingale bird is collected, dried, sanitised and combined with rice bran, tea seed oil and adzuki red beans. It’s then gently massaged into your face to smooth and brighten your skin. The Japanese often have beautiful skin; maybe this is reason why.

9 - Crude oil bath

Originating in sixth century Azerbaijan, this treatment involves sitting in a bath of Naftalan oil (a form of crude oil, i.e. the stuff they use to make petrol). Then, a therapist scrapes your body free of the oil. It’s supposed to help with skin disorders and viruses, but its safety and efficacy are doubted.

10 - Wine bath/vinotherapy

If you’d prefer to soak in wine rather than crude oil, then vinotherapy will hit the spot. However it’s not as simple as soaking in a bath full of wine; it involves immersing in the ‘marc’, a leftover residue from the wine making process. It’s reputed to fight skin aging with resveratrol, an antioxidant that comes from grapes.

In Japan, there’s a 12-day period where you can actually bathe in wine though – beaujolais nouveau, to be precise. A large pool is filled with wine and while you’re soaking a sommelier stands pool-side, ready to top up your glass for an internal application as well.

11 - Hay bath

For true escapism, wrap yourself in layers of herbs, flowers and mountain grass. Then lie on a warm waterbed and let all your aches and pains be soothed away. It’s the treatment Heidi would have loved.

12 - Beer bath

In the Czech Republic, you can take a bath in beer - a mix of hop draft, herbs and active yeast - to stabilise your blood pressure, infuse your body with vitamin B and soften your skin.

Or give yourself a facial at home!

You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to experience relaxation, youthful skin and a calm mind. You can give yourself a relaxing facial at home using ingredients from your fridge and pantry.  

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