Treat yourself: six New East wellness trends you need to know

Treat yourself: six New East wellness trends you need to know

If you’re used to spa treatments like facials and salt scrubs, you might be in for a shock with some of the New East’s more bizarre beauty therapies. Whether it’s bathing in buckets of blood or crude oil, here are some unlikely ways of making you feel brand new

19 October 2016

Deer antler blood bath

Deer. Image: Paul Wordingham under a CC license

“No pain, no gain” has been common exercise parlance ever since Jane Fonda’s aerobic workout videos in the 1980s, but it’s also a fitting dictum for some of the beauty treatments found in the New East. With this particular treatment from Russia, however, the gain is had by the consumer, and the pain by animals. Originating from the Altai mountains, where the free-roaming Maral deer occasionally get their antlers sawn off by farmers thirsty for some supposedly healthy blood, these baths and treatments are said to be beneficial in many ways, from helping with arthritis and impotence to having anti-wrinkle and “age-reversing” properties. The bath itself is not pure blood but rather the water used to boil the antlers after they are cut off. Animal rights activists and charities protest against the practice, calling the sawing of the antlers barbaric, but the demand for the baths and blood products remains high. Practitioners advise going straight to Altai to one of the region’s many spas (they say that fresh blood is more effective), but some salons in bigger cities also offer the treatments.

Beer Spa
Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary beer spa. Image:

The next time someone spills beer on you in a pub, savour the moment — it’s actually good for you. Or so say the spa experts at Pivni Lazne, the beer salon in Prague that wants you to take a swim in a bathtub full of unpasteurised beer. It is supposed to cleanse and regenerate the skin and improve circulation, as well as revitalising your nervous system. The latter might also be achieved because the spa allows unlimited consumption of their brews for the duration of your visit. The beer you’ll be bathing in is specially brewed without barley to eliminate allergic reactions, and experts recommend not showering for 12 hours after the procedure to achieve “best results”.

Crude oil bathing

Naftalan health centre

You might have noticed that bathing in unexpected substances is a trend, and if the substances tap into delightful stereotypes, all the better. Azerbaijan has one of the oldest oil industries in the world, and bathing in crude oil baths is a long-recognised treatment: they have so much oil they can literally swim in it! Resorts in Naftalan, Azerbaijan, were popular back in Soviet times and are enjoying a revival now. Oil baths are said to treat joint pain, relieve several skin conditions and work other miracles, although experts classify naphtalene, the main ingredient in the oil, as a possible carcinogen. Nevertheless, spa workers say that a 10-minute bath is harmless and won’t give you cancer.

Thermal baths

Budapest’s multiple thermal springs need no advertisement: someone on your Instagram feed has probably already posted pictures that gave you extreme bath FOMO. Some of the bathhouses are celebrated as Art Nouveau masterpieces, others as the most effective hangover cure known to man (test the theory out after all the partying you’re sure to do in one of Europe’s trendiest cities). Apart from the countless benefits of mineral-rich thermal baths, most spas also offer massages and medical treatments.

Subterranean salt mine resort

The old salt mine that houses the resort in the town of Wieliczka, an hour away from Krakow, used to be one of the oldest working salt mines: it produced table salt from the 13th century until 2007. Now it serves as an art venue and a spa resort, if you’re not afraid to go beneath the earth. Experts praise the medicinal properties of the underground environment, saying that it’s good for those with asthma and other respiratory conditions, as well as allergies. Walking in the mines is also good for those in perfect health — the air here is free of pollution and rich in micronutrients.

Baltic amber treatment

What says luxury more than being rubbed with amber powder and dowsed in amber oil after enjoying some steam in an amber sauna? Perhaps doing all of the above with gold, but the Baltics have the world’s biggest amber deposits in the world, so naturally the gemstone stars in the region’s exclusive beauty treatments. A Lithuanian spa resort offers a whole range of amber-related procedures: from amber powder peelings to amber massage to an infrared amber room sessions. If you still didn’t have enough amber experiences, amber oil-based cosmetics are sold on the premises.

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