Lava Shell Massage is a relaxing massage that uses heat generated from inside four beautiful shells–either polished Tiger-Striped Clam shells from the Philippines or porcelain shells. The therapist simply inserts a sachet of minerals, dried sea kelp, and algae into the shell, adds sea-water and plugs it up again. The chemical interaction between the ingredients creates heat inside the shell that lasts one to two hours.
The therapist doesn't need to be near a source of electricity–great for outdoor massage. Lava Shells are also easier to master because they're smaller and the therapist just gently gliding them over your body. Some spas are offering only Lava Shell Massage because the preparation and clean-up is so much easier. With hot stone massage, dozens of basalt stones of various sizes have to be submerged in hot water–usually in large electric turkey roaster–before the treatment and carefully sanitized after the treatment.
While a Lava Shell massage has some similarities to hot stone massage, in particular the element of heat, it also has some important differences. It's primarily a relaxing massage that warming and soothing the muscles without a lot of pressure. If you want deeper work, hot stone is a better choice.
What Is a Lava Shell Massage Like?
When I got a lava shell massage, the therapist lightly massaged my body, using the long traditional strokes of Swedish massage while holding the shells.
What I liked was how the clam shell fit into the palm of her hand, so I could feel both the heat of the clam shell and the touch of her fingertips. They are also highly polished, so they glide easily over the skin and feel very nice. I also liked the fact that the Lava Shells held their heat longer than stone, so she didn't have to interrupt the massage to switch out the stones as often.
The Lava Shells were a little too hot when they first touched my skin, but cooled quickly. The shells get hot the more they sit, and cool off when they are used, and it can be a little tricky to control the temperature. As always, you should speak up if the shells are too warm, especially at the beginning. I'm also sensitive to noise and noticed a hissing sound that was slightly distracting and turned out to be the two Lava Shells waiting to be used.
The Lava Shell massage is very soothing and gentle, and is a good choice if you like heat and just want to relax. If you have specific muscle aches and pains that you want the therapist to address, it might be better to use a combination of deep tissue work and hot stones.
Most therapists use hot stones to warm up the muscles, then work more deeply with their hands. They also place the stones on your belly, in the palms of your hands, even between your toes. So get hot stone massage if you want more of a deep tissue massage. The quality of a hot stone massage, however, is highly dependent on the therapist's technique.