Even experienced spa-goers don't always understand body wraps. Body wraps serve unique purposes, and it's important to understand the difference between detox, hydrating, and slimming wraps so you get the experience you want. First, body wraps always start with some kind of exfoliation. At the very least, there will be a dry body brushing. However, a dry body brushing is not nearly as effective as a body scrub. Because you want the product they put on your skin to be able to penetrate the skin as deeply as possible, make sure the body wrap includes a body scrub first.
Detox and Mineral Body Wraps
Detox wraps use a variety of products such as algae, seaweed, mud, clay, or gel to help rid the body of toxins. When the product is applied to the body, it's called a body mask. After the product is applied, you are wrapped in plastic and covered with a blanket for about 20 minutes. These products work by stimulating your circulation, drawing out impurities, and giving your body minerals it might be missing. Afterward, the body mask is washed off and the esthetician will apply lotion (though not through a massage).
Save the full body wrap for when you are really making changes in your diet and trying to reduce your toxic load. These clays, muds, and seaweeds may be natural, but they are effective—and expensive. Don't have a detox wrap and then go indulge in a T-bone steak and drink four martinis. It will make you feel worse rather than better, and you will have wasted your money.
Hydrating Body Wraps
Hydrating body wraps use creams and gels to soften, soothe, and hydrate the skin. Again, it's important to get a body scrub beforehand so the rich cream doesn't sit on the outermost dead skin cells. Usually, the spa will use a super-luxurious body cream from its line. Generally, with a hydrating wrap, the therapist just massages in the body cream. You don't want to wash it off.
Hydrating wraps are great for the middle of the winter when your skin is dry and flaky. It's time to exfoliate and hydrate. Aloe vera wraps (popular in the Caribbean) can also help your skin recover from too much time in the sun.
Slimming wraps are a labor-intensive specialty that isn't found everywhere. Suddenly Slimmer in Phoenix is one spa that specializes in them, hence the name. For a slimming wrap, each limb is tightly wrapped in Ace bandages that have been soaked in a high-concentration mineral solution to detoxify and remineralize the body. You look a little bit like a mummy once you're wrapped. You can walk around, exercise (Suddenly Slimmer recommends this), or spend some time in an infra-red spa. You are measured before and after so you can tell how many inches you lost. The effect is temporary, but it's good if you want to look fantastic for a wedding, for example. And if you get them once or twice a week, the effect is longer lasting.
What Happens During a Body Wrap?
A body wrap should begin with exfoliation, and a salt scrub or body polish is much superior to dry brushing. You lie down on whatever you will eventually be wrapped in—often plastic or mylar, but sometimes towels or sheets.
Watch Now: How Does a Body Wrap Work?
It's also best for a massage therapist to do the body wrap because they naturally incorporate massage techniques as they apply the product. But most spas give the stand-alone body treatments to the esthetician as well. You might have to get a signature treatment to be able to get a massage therapist. Once the product is on, you’re wrapped to stay warm, usually for 20 minutes. Oftentimes the therapist leaves the room, but sometimes they stay and give you a scalp massage.
When the time is up, you’re unwrapped and the body mask has to come off. This is why this process often takes place in wet rooms, equipped with a shower, wettable, or Vichy shower. You might either jump in a shower or the therapist will rinse you off with a handheld shower or a special Vichy shower that feels fabulous. Then you dry off, and there’s usually an application of lotion to moisturize your skin.
Things to Watch out for with a Body Wrap
Before you book a body wrap, make sure it's the best treatment for you.
- Don’t expect a body wrap to be a massage. You can get both treatments—body wrap and massage—or look for signature treatments that include scrub, body wrap, and massage.
- If you have claustrophobia, this may not be the right treatment for you.
- You might be left alone during the treatment. If that bothers you, ask before you book the service.
- Body wrap treatments are sometimes called a body cocoon or body mask. Body wraps often make an appearance in signature spa treatments, which might start with a scrub, move on to a wrap, and finish with a massage.