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Spa is a city in Belgium from which the modern meaning of the word originated. The Romans first discovered the benefits of the waters here and the name spa is said to come from the Latin words espa, meaning “fountain,” and spargere, “to bubble up.”
Today, spa no longer stands only for hydrotherapy or healing through water, but has become synonymous with wellness and relaxation. Even dental offices are being referred to as dental spas with the connotation that an aromatherapy candle and reflexology is offered while the dentist gets on with the painful work.
“The word spa takes some of the fear out of serious medical treatments, and hospitals are buying into this theme in a big way,” says Wendy Lewis, an independent beauty enhancement consultant. She observed that hospital-based spas and wellness centers are another trend that is increasing rapidly. Within the luxury- and business-oriented hotel industry, a spa facility on the premises has become a must if the property is to remain competitive.
This is good news for a beauty industry where spa has become a buzzword. “Most women hardly ever visit spas, but when they do, their primary purpose is to relax,” points out Anna Wang, researcher for Kline & Company. “Spa-type products attempt to bring a feeling of relaxation and pampering to consumers, not necessarily high performance.” Day spas are getting in on the action with their own retail range of spa-inspired products. One of the best known is Bliss New York Spa, whose Blisslabs line has generated demand for at-home spa products. Several U.K. spas have also put their name to retail beauty care ranges, including Champneys, The Sanctuary and Nirvana. These aspirational products are in fact mass-market, selling through supermarkets and Alliance Boots, the leading U.K. pharmacy chain.
In the prestige beauty market, Caudalie, which opened its first Vinotherapie Spa in Bordeaux in 1999, is probably the best known spa brand. Caudalie skin care products were the first to use the vine-based technology that has since been adopted by other skin care brands. The secret is grape seeds, which are rich in polyphenols and said to be 10,000 times more powerful than vitamin E in combating free radicals.