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Body Wraps: What to Expect

WebMD Feature

Some of the ingredients used in spa treatments -- rosemary, honey, butter, clay, chocolate, eucalyptus -- sound like they belong in a kitchen or garden rather than in a spa. But these ingredients are used in various types of body wraps, a popular spa treatment.

Getting a body wrap can feel good. Some spas promote body wraps as a relaxing, moisturizing treat. 

Others, though, tout specific body wraps as a way to detoxify, slim down, or deal with cellulite -- claims that may go too far. 

What Is a Body Wrap?

When body wraps were first offered decades ago, linen sheets were used, says Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder, Inc., an industry group based in New York. The wraps were then mostly called herbal wraps. "'Body wraps' is a term that came to mean more than herbal wraps," she says, adding that they became popular in the 1980s and '90s. Eventually, plastic or thermal blankets replaced the linen sheets.

Although the service varies from spa to spa, body wraps are often done in a darkened room with flickering candles, soft music, and a massage table, says Stephanie Carney, a massage therapist at rA Organic Spa in Burbank, CA.

Carney layers her massage table with a thermal blanket on the bottom. On top of that is plastic that is used to wrap the client, then towels. On the very top are sheets to keep the client warm.

"We start out with a scrub," Carney says. At her spa, that could be the mud scrub, pear and green apple scrub, or another option. You're then taken to the shower and rinsed before the wrap products are applied.

Carney smoothes on the wrap products in a thin layer, wrapping body parts as she goes.

When you're entirely wrapped with your arms at your sides, the electric thermal blanket is pulled up. The blanket's heat is typically hot enough to make you sweat throughout the course of your 30-minute downtime.

After that, "we cool down slowly,'' Carney says.

The final step is to rinse and apply lotion. "Your skin is going to feel really smooth," Carney tells her clients.  Most clients tell her the treatment is also relaxing.

Body Wrap Options

There are many body wraps, but Ellis says the main types are:

  • Moisturizing, which uses a variety of lotions and ingredients
  • Detox, which includes ingredients such as seaweed or mud that have more ''pulling'' action, according to Ellis
  • Slimming that use smaller strips of material wrapped tightly
  • Cellulite, which typically uses herbal remedies

Can a Body Wrap Detox?

The claim sounds good. But doctors say it's unsupported. "There's never been any real scientific evidence that body wraps pull out toxins or purify your body in any way," says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a Washington, D.C., dermatologist.

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