Body wraps are all the rage at spas these days -- you might have even seen billboards or TV commercials touting the miraculous slimming benefits of these treatments. Women arrive at the spa in the morning and leave an hour later, suddenly three dress sizes smaller and completely free of cellulite!
The "slimming" wrap treatment is only the tip of the body-wrap iceberg. They're offered to improve arthritis, skin ailments and cellulite. "Detox" wraps claim to draw toxins out of your body, and during a "power wrap," you work out on an elliptical machine while wrapped in ACE bandages soaked in an electrolyte solution (yes, that is for real).
For a garden-variety body wrap, you lie on a massage table and get rubbed down with an exfoliating scrub, in whatever variety you picked from the menu (most spas offer a few options). After you rinse off in a shower, the therapist applies the wrap ingredients (maybe seaweed, mud, clay or an herbal or fruit product) to your body, covering it with a layer of plastic wrap. When you're all wrapped up, you might be further covered with sheets, towels and thermal blankets. And then you'll be left alone to relax -- and sweat -- for about 30 minutes.
So, those are the facts -- but the unwrapping point is where fantasy (and advertisements) start to separate from reality. The spas want you to believe that you'll be emerging from your wrap as if from a cocoon -- a completely relaxed, moisturized, detoxified, cellulite-free and noticeably slimmer butterfly. But if you're familiar with the phrase "too good to be true" -- and we think you are -- you probably won't be surprised to learn that the results probably won't be so dramatic. Experts warn especially not to expect medical results for conditions like arthritis.
As long as you're not expecting to permanently lose 10 pounds and 3 inches off your waist, there are some benefits to body wraps. No one will argue that it feels pretty cozy to be wrapped up and left to relax in a dimly lit room for a half-hour or so. Your skin will most likely feel soft and supple after being slathered in moisturizers. And you could lose some water weight and see improvement in your cellulite -- but just be prepared for the results to diminish after a couple of days.
So, without further ado, here are five benefits of body wraps. Just be sure to take any spa claims with a grain of (sea) salt.
Many people who sign up for weight-loss or cellulite-elimination body wraps are trying to improve their appearance for a special occasion, like a wedding or a beach vacation. And they might be the perfect customers for these treatments: The wrap could very well make your skin look tighter or cause you to lose a few pounds of water weight, but you'll go back to your "old self" after the big event. Unfortunately, disappointment awaits those who are looking to get rid of cellulite forever or permanently shed pounds -- there are no shortcuts that'll beat good old diet and exercise.
If you select a body wrap treatment that includes a scrub before the wrap, guess what? Your skin is going to be exfoliated -- there's not much doubt about that. Whether the exfoliating agent is sea salt, pumice, sugar or some other natural ingredient, it will scrub away dead cells on the surface of your skin, which will set the stage for the next step in the wrap: moisturization.
No matter what kind of body wrap you get, your skin will end up nice and moisturized. Wrap solutions, regardless of their exact ingredients, are always super-moisturizing -- so wrapping them against your body and adding heat will only intensify those effects. Plus, the therapist will usually apply lotion after the solution is rinsed off. You might not end up 20 pounds lighter, but your skin will be soft as a baby's bottom.
This one is a little bit controversial. Many aestheticians claim that certain materials, when used in a body wrap (like clay, mud, seaweed and algae) will "pull" toxins out of your body. But while there's no scientific evidence to support the idea of a full-body detox, you could have some luck with skin purification and improvement of acne.
Relaxation is probably the one body-wrap benefit that anyone would be hard-pressed to dispute. Regardless of what might or might not be happening with your skin and cellulite, you're spending quality time alone, listening to calming music in a sweet-smelling, low-lit room. Of course, if you're totally claustrophobic it would definitely not be pleasant to be wrapped up like a mummy and left in a dark room for a half-hour.
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- Doheny, Kathleen. "Body Wraps for Weight Loss and Detox: Do They Work?" WebMD. (June 11, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/features/body-wraps-what-to-expect
- Seattle Times. "The Rap on Body Wraps." Jan. 2, 2008. (June 11, 2012) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2004101585_bodywraps020.html