Back to Nature
Spas are taking cues from their environments to create one-of-a-kind experiences.
By Michelle Franzen Martin
Outdoor massages, volcanic mud baths, organic facial creams and oils that are applied amid the tranquil sounds of a waterfall—the latest spa treatments offer more than just pampering. They also take advantage of the healing effects of nature, which often are inspired by the venue’s surroundings.
“Modern men and women are the epitome of being out of touch with nature,” explains Janice Rosenthal, who for many years owned a spa before starting her present company, Garden of Essences, which sells organic essential oils and carrier oils. “Between our digital devices and office environment, many of us have forgotten the de-stressing power of simple things, such as the sound of a waterfall and the richness of the oxygenated air as it fills our lungs.”
Many wellness experts have noted the benefits of reconnecting with the environment, and as a result, more spas are leveraging nature’s rejuvenating qualities. For spa-goers, this can mean personally selecting the fresh ingredients that are used for a facial, or even enjoying a massage outside.
With today’s hectic, high-stress lifestyles, many spa-goers are putting less emphasis on beautification, and more importance on healthful and restorative experiences and environments.
For example, Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, offers a “clearing” ritual that is focused on detoxification—in simple terms, this means moving stagnant energy and bringing warmth while the mind is cleared and the heart is re-engaged.
“This treatment is about letting go physically or emotionally,” says Cindi Moreno, spa director at the resort. “A full-body massage is followed by a targeted, restorative application to the spine and lower back with hot stones. This treatment concludes with an anointing oil to overcome fear and to increase determination.”
Also at other Salamander Hotels & Resorts spas, guests can expect treatments that include therapeutic uses of sound and vibration; it might the hum of a Tibetan singing bowl when treatment begins or a calming mantra before a hot stone massage. And, for 2017, services begin with an intention ritual: a chance for guests to decide what they want to achieve that day, which sets the direction for the spa experiece (such as including bamboo for balance or orange blossom for courage).
As people become more conscious about what they are putting into their bodies, that same awareness applies to what they are putting on their bodies, too.
“Universally, people are learning more and more about preventative lifestyles; taking care of our health now so we don’t encounter issues in the future,” Moreno says. “It spans from the food industry to the spa industry. Spa guests want products that are cleaner, from companies that are environmentally conscious. The Salamander Spa core treatments focus on incorporating naturally derived essential oils that focus on every guest’s journey to wellness.”
One popular ingredient at many spas is volcanic mud, which was used for centuries by those native to the volcanic islands. It addresses a number of ailments including psoriasis, severe acne and chronic muscle pain.
“Because it is high in natural sulfur, the volcanic ash heals chronic skin dermatitis,” Rosenthal explains. “It is interesting to note that the FDA has approved sulfur as an acne treatment. On a beauty note, because volcanic mud is high in silica, which absorbs into the skin rapidly, it creates a youthful skin and is recommended to be used often in order to reduce wrinkles and fine lines of the face, neck and hands.”
Napa Valley, California-based Napa Organics is one company that is promoting the use of naturally derived ingredients in skin care. “We concentrate on traditional crops that were once grown in abundance in California but are now becoming harder to find,” says founder Hilary Glass, who grew up in a farming family in Napa Valley and learned about the benefits of natural skin products early on. “One of these crops is the California prune. … The prune—or dried plum—is a superfood and its seed is also incredibly nutritious. This edible oil has a delicate perfume of sweet cherry and almond, and is very rich in natural vitamin E, making it ideal for healthy skin.”
The Salamander Spa at The Henderson in Destin, Florida, also uses local herbs and plants to create some of its products and experiences. Soaking tubs are filled with mineral water, a sea salt scrub, magnesium, eucalyptus and thyme to help increase a sense of balance as well as cellular energy. It is part of Salamander Hotels & Resorts’ holistic focus on outer beauty and inner health, with its four cornerstones being proper nutrition, regular exercise, peace of mind and care of face and body.
With its tranquil location on the Gulf of Mexico, the resort also takes inspiration from its surroundings—from the to the sea salt scrub to the water features found in the spa. And come spring, the outdoors will be an even greater part of the experience, as some services will be done in the cabanas that surround the swimming pool.
Taking it Outdoors
In addition to pulling from the Earth’s organic elements, many spas are creating experiences in outdoor environments.
“Being close to nature calms the nervous system, balances the body’s energy and gives people a sense of well-being,” says Kim DeOrsey, spa director for The Henderson. The resort’s nature-centric spa experience begins the moment guests walk in the door, with water features that immerse them into the spa setting.
The 23,000-square-foot spa at Salamander Resort & Spa was also inspired by its locale, and includes private stone treatment terraces, aromatic steam rooms, sun-lit relaxation spaces and a secluded spa courtyard with a relaxation pool and cabanas.
Meanwhile, at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, a new spa terrace is available for services, classes, workshops and spa parties that allow guests to take in the resort’s 900 acres of picturesque surroundings. Upon entering Innisbrook, guests immediately feel as if they have stepped away from the hubbub of everyday life. The stunning greens of the Copperhead golf course and deep, rich foliage provide a serene backdrop to the spa and women’s lounge, allowing visitors to experience the feeling of nature’s nurture and its benefits.
Whether it’s a bath infused with eucalyptus to increase energy, a detoxifying massage aimed at releasing built-up anxiety or just meditative quiet time in a peaceful outdoor oasis, natural spa treatments put the focus where it should be—on your health and happiness.
Bring the spa back home with a variety of natural skin care products available at the spas at Salamander Hotels & Resorts.
ENERGY SYNERGY OIL from Lab of Flowers, $28, features a blend of certified organic essential oils like ginger, spearmint, rosemary, lemon and grapefruit. It is ideal for anyone who is suffering from jet lag, or just needs a pick-me-up. Available at Salamander Resort & Spa and, as of March 2017, Salamander Spa at The Henderson. (labofflowers.com)
FUB BALM by Kerstin Florian, $38, helps relieve muscle and joint tension while improving circulation and renewing energy. The nourishing balm incorporates skin-softening benefits thanks to its rich formulation of invigorating menthol, rosemary and pine. Available at Salamander Spa at The Henderson. (kerstinflorian.com)
C+C VITAMIN BODY CREAM by Natura Bissé, $99, is an antioxidant treatment featuring orange extract, rose hip oil and vitamin E to firm, repair and protect skin. The multipurpose cream also includes amino acids, which enhance skin’s elasticity, hydration and smoothness. Available at Salamander Resort & Spa. (naturabisse.com)
REHYDRATING NEROLI WATER by Kerstin Florian, $35, is created from the distillation process of the bitter orange blossom. This revitalizing aromatherapy water hydrates, soothes and oxygenates the skin, making it an ideal facial toner and moisturizer. Available at Salamander Spa at The Henderson. (kerstinflorian.com)
MINERAL WELLNESS SOAK by Kerstin Florian, $9 per sachet (travel-size only), is made from hand-harvested mineral salts sourced from the Atlantic Ocean that are rich in magnesium. This refreshing soak detoxifies and relieves muscle aches. Available at Salamander Spa at The Henderson. (kerstinflorian.com)