From color therapy and medi-pedis to frigid blizzard rooms and swankier eyebrow bars, fresh trends are surfacing around the world in the $60 billion spa industry, according to an annual forecast.
As destination resorts, day spas and beauty salons shake off economic worries, new luxury is playing out in all price ranges through more intimate pairings with healthy fine dining, glamour and child-welcome options, said Susie Ellis, president of the online spa portal SpaFinder.
Past trends such as wellness pampering and organic treatments haven't been replaced but are being joined by a broader range of foot healing, multisensory experiences and icy cold therapies, Ellis told reporters recently when she rolled out SpaFinder's 2012 trends report.
Look for more wow, fun and wellness, and for more spa options in Asia, which she said leads the world in industry growth.
Here in Charleston, the trend is the same.
Annette Sandford-Lopez, director of The Spa at Charleston Place, said customers -- 50 percent of whom are local -- increasingly are seeking spa treatments for stress relief, rather than just pure pampering.
"They (spa treatments) are no longer being considered an indulgence, but part of what people need to do to stay sane and to feel in control," said Sandford-Lopez, noting several new treatment options emphasizing individualized needs that she and the spa staff created in the past six months.
Among them is "Total Well Being" where a staff personal trainer and a client or two, such as two girlfriends, choose a workout such as yoga, Pilates, pool workout or bootcamp, and then choose a treatment, such as a facial or massage.
Another is the "Therapist-Choice Massage" which, based on the client's needs, may be a mix of massage specialties, such as
reflexology (specific to the feet) or hot stone massage, with another massage.
And speaking of reflexology, Sandford-Lopez also highlighted the spa's new "Top to Toe," which uses Morrocanoil's argan oil products for a 25-minute session of reflexology followed by a 25-minute scalp and neck massage.
Cost vs. empowerment
With more than 100,000 spas worldwide, making sense of often-pricey services can be difficult, along with tracking evidence that they work. A nearly year-old, industry-funded website, SpaEvidence.com, is a small but growing clearinghouse for clinical trials and published research on services ranging from yoga and music therapy to Ayurveda, the ancient holistic system of medicine from India, and thalassotherapy, the use of seaweed, algae and other materials from the sea.
"You are now moving from not only wellness but to wellness empowerment," said Dr. Daniel Friedland, an internist and consultant who worked on the site.
Helping spa-goers hunt down research is a game changer, especially now that more insurance companies and employers are willing to reimburse them for preventive care, Ellis said.
More from the SpaFinder report:
Cold and ice
With saunas, steam rooms, Whirlpool baths and rock massages, spas have traditionally used heat to de-stress and detoxify, but the industry is taking a cue from the Romans, who more than 2,000 years ago finished spa-like experiences with a trip to the "frigidarium."
Look for more ice therapies and cold rooms alternated with hot treatments to reduce pain and inflammation in muscles and joints, Ellis said.
In February, spa designer Thermarium will introduce touchscreen technology allowing users to choose between light, moderate or blizzard-like snowfalls in cold rooms, SpaFinder said.
Elite athletes first took up cryotherapy. It's earned mixed reviews from researchers for relieving pain and ailing muscles, but Mehmet Oz of "The Dr. Oz" show recently endorsed it. The first U.S. Cryotherapy Center, a 4,300-square foot facility in Roseville, Calif., opened in April.
Color, light, music, vibration
Incorporating them as ambient afterthoughts is nothing new for the spa industry. Now they're "becoming the main event," the report said.
One innovation is software that creates real-time music, tones, beats and other sounds like wind rustling and rivers to beats generated by a therapist's movements in tandem with the client's bodily responses during massages, SpaFinder said. The client leaves with a CD of the "wellbeing music-art" they helped create.
During Aura-Soma, a person chooses four bottles of dual-colored liquid containing oils, flower essences and the "energy" of crystals for a reading of spiritual and emotional wellbeing, complete with a rubdown.
"I think you'll see more of it," Ellis said. "It's quite an interesting new way of looking at and using color."
Chinese reflexology has been around for years. Now spas and wellness centers are targeting problems such as high-heel pain as part of menus for the feet.
Computer gait analysis and foot treatments in zero-gravity chairs are available at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub in Las Vegas.
New York City's Yamuna studio has stiletto classes, and the feet-only Stride in Palo Alto, Calif., includes foot Botox to reduce odor and a "Walking on Clouds" treatment of filler injected into the ball of the foot for padding and pain reduction.
While health and wellness have been a spa focus for several years, full-on Hollywood glamour and old European grooming are back at all price ranges.
In addition to affordable blowout bars for the hair, Blink bars for eyebrows have multiplied in the last year at London department stores -- along with Henri Bendel in New York City -- for eyebrow threading. Some offer brow tinting and false lashes. Choose from flirty, permed, colored or the extra-long Twiggy look.
The Blushington Makeup Beauty Lounge in Los Angeles charges $35 for full makeup from a set menu that includes "Pure & Simple" and "Simply Glowing."
"We're seeing a glam factor at both ends of the economic spectrum," Ellis said. "There are little touches everywhere, like glam nails and quick beauty fixes."
More spas are accommodating adults and kids together. "The new thing is that it's the family. People want to go with their children to spas. Not all of them, of course. Some want to go without," Ellis said. "We're seeing now the spas responding and very much making it more of a welcome place for kids."
Ellis predicts more will reconsider age restrictions. Kid-specific spas also are on the rise, Ellis said. Some are adding Dad to the mix.
At the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Maui, Hawaii, guests can book the "family spa suite" and treatments such as chocolate-coconut scrubs and massages for kids as young as 6. At Disney's new family resort and spa Aulani on Oahu, the Laniwai Spa offers family suites; babies are welcome and young children can have massages.
The Post and Courier's David Quick contributed to this report.