’Tis the Season
Spa treatments draw inspiration from changes in the natural environment to offer tailored experiences throughout the year.
By Michelle Franzen Martin
A hot stone massage warms the muscles and mind during the winter months. A stimulating scalp treatment awakens the senses in the spring. A hydrating cleanse restores damaged summer skin, and an autumn-inspired exfoliation three months later will leave you feeling refreshed and rebalanced.
As the seasons change, so do the needs of our bodies. Modern spas are not only drawing inspiration from the seasons, they are also tailoring their ingredients and their environments to address how nature’s cycles affect both physical and mental states.
“While the seasons change every three months, the body also experiences aspects of the seasons each and every day from the time we wake until the moment we go to sleep,” explains Cindi Moreno, spa director for Salamander Spa at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. “We experience a gentle awakening that transcends into energy that moves our body into activities where we must focus our minds, ground our bodies and then let go of the day before we retire for bed. Challenges can occur when we feel depleted in one area or more, and when we cannot accomplish what we need to achieve in a balanced way. This can often lead to frustration, exhaustion or sleep irregularity.”
Seasonally inspired spa treatments help counteract the challenges that each season brings. It’s a growing trend, with spas around the country offering experiences that include outdoor massages in the warm-weather months and exfoliating treatments that address dry, damaged skin during late fall and winter.
“Spas are often inspired by the changing temperatures to offer more than just relaxation and rejuvenation services,” says Denise R. Fuller, a licensed esthetician and co-founder of the Florida-based National Aesthetic Spa Network. “Seasonal treatments can tap into earthly elements, nature’s cycle and holiday traditions, but do know there is a science behind the service. Spa treatments are designed to help you adjust to climate changes and stay healthy all year long.”
Salamander Resort & Spa captures the beauty of its changing environment through artwork on each of the four floors that is named for a season
Salamander Resort & Spa captures the beauty of its changing environment through artwork on each of the four floors that is named for a season, and when developing the spa menu, the resort partnered with a local alchemist who worked closely to develop four seasonal services that are intended to energize and rebalance the mind and body during a particular time of year.
Each ritual includes a dry mitt exfoliation, facial cleanse, full body massage, use of an earth element during the massage and a scalp ritual. Treatments are primarily held indoors, although there are several treatment rooms with outdoor garden terraces. “The seasonal treatments are designed for anyone who needs to reconnect, recover, revitalize and restore,” Moreno says.
The spa’s 80-minute Winter Warming treatment includes a sensory skin brushing and detoxifying body mask while guests enjoy a three-step scalp experience, followed by a hot stone massage. The massage uses a blend of natural ingredients that provide warmth and improve circulation. “This revitalizing treatment focuses on reflection and restoring the body and mind with the sole purpose of recovery,” Moreno says.
Fuller says that massage is essential in the winter. Research shows that it reduces depression, increases neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety, and decreases heart rate and blood pressure. Massage can also aid in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a serious form of depression with symptoms that typically appear during late fall or early winter.
Although The Henderson in Destin, Florida, doesn’t experience extreme winters like many other areas in the country, the resort’s on-site Salamander Spa attracts guests from around the world who come to escape from—and counteract—the challenges that the coldest months can bring.
The spa’s 90-minute KUR Wellness treatments are recommended for winter. Balancing and rejuvenating, they draw upon natural resources—thermal mineral water, purifying algae, essential oils and herbs—to counteract winter stresses. The experience includes a relaxing wrap, therapeutic hydrotherapy soak and a muscle-relieving massage.
“It’s detoxifying,” says April Smith, spa director for the Salamander Spa at The Henderson. “In January, February and March, it’s the perfect reboot for spring.”
The experience also encourages relaxation and therefore better rest, which can be especially beneficial around the bustling holidays. “The massage makes you feel well,” Smith says. “You sleep better that night. It really relaxes you.”
Similar to the winter experience, the spring spa treatment at Middleburg incorporates eco-grade essential oils from local plant extracts and connects them to each season. “Spring focuses on the liver,” Moreno says. “The treatment is invigorating, energizing and improves vitality using oils with rose, chamomile, lavender and grapefruit.”
The spa’s Spring Awakening includes a stimulating exfoliation followed by a facial cleanse to hydrate and nourish the skin, then a scalp treatment awakens the mind. The treatment concludes with a bamboo massage that includes a combination of heat and pressure.
In Destin, the Salamander Spa’s Neroli Blossom sensory experiences—both the 60-minute and the enhanced 90-minute version—draw inspiration from spring. “Neroli is a flower,” Smith says. “It is one of our essential oils, a bitter orange, with a scent like Florida oranges. It’s a nice warmer for spring.”
The 60-minute treatment uses the signature aroma to invigorate the senses. The experience is both relaxing and uplifting, and includes an energy-balancing, eucalyptus-infused foot cleansing ritual with reflexology to help clear the mind. It concludes with a lymphatic dry brush technique followed by a neroli blossom therapeutic meditative massage. The 90-minute treatment also includes a neroli enhancer with acupressure and massage.
In the summer months, when sun and chlorine can wreak havoc on the skin, body scrubs are highly recommended. “For summer skin and winter skin, we always suggest a body scrub,” Smith says. “And particularly in summer, we recommend our Salt of the Sea Body Scrub experience. It’s reminiscent of a salty beach.”
Fuller says salt scrubs have myriad benefits. “A salt scrub will encourage the natural flow of circulation and bodily fluids within, and will exfoliate dead skin, paving the way for fresh new cells to regenerate,” Fuller says. “For those suffering from hay fever [or other allergies], salt therapy can make breathing easier, improve lung function, alleviate sneezing [and] coughing, clear mucus and strengthen the immune system.”
At the Salamander Spa in Destin, the Salt of the Sea Body Scrub experience starts with a cleansing loofah scrub using a thermal mineral shower/bath gel. The scrub is followed by exfoliation with mineral salts and aromatherapy.
But salt scrubs aren’t the only way to counteract the effects of summer. At the Salamander Spa in Middleburg, summer treatments focus on releasing stored heat in the body and increasing circulation using the earth element of fire (heat).
“The treatments [also] reduce muscle tension and balance digestion,” Moreno says. “They focus on the heart, using oils with bergamot, jasmine, spearmint and ginger.”
The spa’s Summer Sizzle spa package starts with a dry exfoliation and hydrating facial cleanse. A scalp treatment follows before a relaxing full-body massage that uses hot and cold stones. An aromatherapy blend of spruce, spearmint, lime, black pepper and eucalyptus rounds out the experience, leaving guests cleansed, energized and rejuvenated.
Autumn—a time of transition between the warm summer days and shorter, cooler winter ones—is the ideal season to seek a sense of feeling calm and grounded. Salamander Spa in Middleburg uses oils with eucalyptus, pine, patchouli and vanilla to achieve this.
“Fall focuses on calming and grounding the feet and opening the lungs using the earth element of metal using oils with eucalyptus, pine, patchouli and vanilla,” Moreno says. The Fall Rebalancing experience begins with a dry-skin exfoliation that increases circulation, while a facial cleanse and scalp treatment focuses on the mind. A full-body massage combines Swedish, deep tissue and ayurveda, which balances and revitalizes areas of the body.
In Destin, the 90-minute Henderson’s Dreams treatment includes a customized mineral salt scrub with eucalyptus and a full-body massage that incorporates warm mineral stones. Guests also enjoy a foot massage while feeling warmed in a relaxing cocoon wrap. The experience can be customized with a choice of lavender, ginger or neroli aromatherapy oil.
Any Season, Any Time
Although the seasonal treatments are recommended for a particular time of the year, they also can be customized to meet individual needs.
“The four seasonal treatments are recommended to be done during the appropriate time of year, but customization is made based on challenges you may be facing emotionally or physically that can be restored [by] taking aspects of another seasonal treatment,” Moreno says.
No matter what the season, lavender is a must-have. “Lavender alleviates stress,” Smith explains. “It’s something that is known to relax people instantly.” The Salamander Spa in Destin offers lavender treatments in a lavender steam room.
Moreno recommends taking home a bottle of the specialized oil that was used during a seasonal treatment. “It can be added to a bath, a foot soak or a small application to trigger points on the body,” she says. “It can be used that season, or all year round.”
Get a seasonal spa experience at home using these tried-and-true essential oils.
Clockwise from top left: Ginger reduces inflammation and aids digestion. Lavender encourages relaxation, improves mood and can treat a variety of skin issues. Eucalyptus, often used in steam rooms, helps with breathing and sinus problems and is believed to be an anti inflammatory. Rosemary stimulates the nervous system and can improve cognitive function. Lemon brightens skin, elevates mood and can help relieve pain. Frankincense, often thought of during the holidays, helps with anxiety.