The common element in spa beauty these days is that beauty-seekers are pushing all known boundaries and taking it to the max.
Extremes are, of course, easy to spot when surveying the new technologies and scientific innovations appearing on the market with increasing regularity. Lash stimulators and extensions are not new, but are definitely gathering steam. We are now “beyond Botox,” the botulinum toxin (itself extreme) that fuelled the medi-spa industry when the FDA approved it in 2002. There are now all sorts of fillers and other injectables with ever increasing potency, each longer lasting than the one that preceded it. “Stem cell” is the latest lightening rod term being used, applied to everything from “stem cell facials” to stem cells in skincare products to “stem cell facelifts.” Plasma therapy for cosmetic uses is also a new buzz concept…yes, that’s where a person’s blood is drawn, their platelet-rich plasma is extracted, and then re-injected into their wrinkles.
Plus, let’s talk about extreme pain, which is something people seem to be tolerating more and more, as long as it delivers the goods. Facial injectables have always been somewhat painful — derma-rolling hurts, chemical peels can be uncomfortable and the zapping of lasers is no picnic. Facial massage, for example (long a popular component of all spa facials), is in some cases now being administered to the point of agony. One example is the Buccal Technique, an intense facial massage performed from inside the mouth…reported to be acutely painful, but still popular among the likes of Keira Knightley and Angelina Jolie.
Spa and wellness approaches where pain meets pleasure seem to be rising in popularity. Witness the upsurge in military-style boot camps, Rolfing, Bikram yoga, Thai massage and vigorous scrubs in Turkish hammams or Korean bathhouses. People are embracing things like alternating the searing heat of a Russian sauna with a dip in an icy pool because they find the results worth it.
Facials aren’t just for faces anymore; they’re now being extended to every “extremity”…and we do mean the whole body. Back, foot and hand facials have been around for a couple of years, but what about “booty” and “vagina” facials? The Smooth Synergy Day Spa in New York will pamper your “booty” — exfoliate it, use microcurrent therapy to help reduce the appearance of cellulite, and then even apply spray tan! Phit, another New York spa, focuses on pelvic health, and “encourages good muscle tone,” and “restores labial and vulvar contour to a plump firmness” with a process involving lasers.
Even organics and natural products are being taken to extremes, as evidenced by the extraordinary lengths many brands will go to assert their hardcore purity. “Internal beauty” is emphasized with increasing vigour. Raw cuisine is becoming popular during intense detox retreats: Fresh Start in Canada has a 14-day detox (no pain, no gain!) with a 100% raw food menu for the 50% of days guests are actually allowed to eat solid food. Dr. Howard Murad’s new book, The Water Secret, makes the radical, but convincing, claim that one doesn’t need to drink eight glasses of water a day. Instead, one should “eat one’s water” through fresh fruits and vegetables, providing our cells with a much more nutritious, effective water source. Phyto 5 products (Switzerland) have a unique approach, suggesting that “true beauty is health made visible,” with products that are really energy medicine. And now there’s the possibility of re-attaining “virgin hair,” according to innovative new hair colour products like INOA that eliminate damaging chemical developers.
And finally, what might be considered the most interesting extreme - more people’s comfort levels with simultaneously embracing both the "yin" of the natural and the "yang" of invasive, medical beauty procedures. It isn’t either/or anymore. In the end, people are increasingly demanding extreme results, and they're happy to pay the price for it. At a staggering $679 billion annually, the beauty and anti-aging sector represents by far the largest share of the estimated $1.9 trillion.