Generally speaking, a trip to the spa plunges a traveler into the rich depths of beauty and relaxation. But when those treatments are as exotic as the locales they originate in, the experience may become more anecdotal than tranquil. The world’s strangest spa services, ranging from snake massages and snail facials to beer baths, tout dozens of hidden health benefits. While we’re fairly skeptical of these claims, we can guarantee they will give you plenty of fodder to share back home.
New York: Vampire Facial
How does Kim Kardashian rejuvenate her skin? She undergoes Vampire Facials at Prasad Cosmetic Surgery on the Upper East Side. The hour-long treatment involves extracting the client’s blood, spinning it into platelet-rich plasma, then spreading it over the areas that need plumping using a micro needle. Cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Amiya Prasad, claims the results include glowing skin and reduced appearance of acne scars, fine lines and skin damage.
Indonesia: Kerokan (Skin Scraping)
If you see someone with red welts down their back, they’ve probably just undergone a kerokan treatment. The traditional Javanese healing therapy, performed at spas and on the street, promises to cure the common cold by stimulating the immune system through increased blood flow. To get that blood pumping, therapists spread eucalyptus oil all over the upper back, then forcefully scrape a coin along the spine, neck, and upper arms. Some therapists may also drag ceramic spoons, jade stones or buffalo horns down the skin. Ouch.
Singapore: Bird-Poo Facial
The Geisha Organic Facial at Singapore’s Ikeda Spa uses the most unlikely of ingredients to beautify its clients: bird poop, specifically nightingale droppings. After combining the pricey poo with rice bran, tea seed oil, and adzuki red beans, estheticians apply the concoction to the face with a “Japanese meridian massage technique” to help smooth and brighten skin. Not ready to go full feces? They also offer the same experience sans stools.
Japan: Snail Facial
Live snails inching around your face sounds more like a “Fear Factor” production than a high-end beauty treatment, but Ci:z.Labo spa in Tokyo swears by the experience. The mucus from the snails, which come from a specialized breeder, exfoliates the dead skin, moisturizes the face and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and pores. It’s the central part of the “Celebrity Escargot Course,” an hour-long treatment, which also includes a massage and the use of electrical pulsations to ensure complete absorption of the snail's secretions.
Israel: Snake Massage
Guests at Ada Barak's Carnivorous Plant Farm in Israel will experience a slithering sensation when they settle in for their massage. But the feeling is not from a specialized technique, rather a half dozen or so snakes slithering up and down your back. If that doesn't give you the chills, the cold-blooded creatures actually warm up as they adjust to your body temperature. Barak rearranges them as necessary, weaving them through the toes, gently braiding them together so they stay in a single place for longer, and carefully moving them away from the mouth and eyes. Don’t worry: they’re nonvenomous.
Czech Republic: Beer Bath
Beer is a huge part of Czech culture, so much so, that you can even bathe in it. The Chodovar Brewery Spa invites guests in for 20-minute submersions in a sparkling, caramel-colored bath made of diluted “Bathing Beer,” a blend of active yeast, hop draft and crushed herbs. The treatment is intended to stabilize blood pressure, infuse the body with vitamin B and soften the skin. And yes, you can even imbimbe while you’re in the tub.
A treatment at Haikko Manor in Finland is so extreme, the spa bestows a diploma upon any client who completes it. The “Super Cold Treatment” involves resting in a cryogenic chamber for up to three minutes. What exactly does a brief stay in a -184°F environment get you? According to the spa, cryotherapy is used to ease swelling, reduce pain and treat sleep and stress disorders. If nothing else, the frigid air is sure to wake you up.