Detox Spa Treatments: Japanese Enzyme Bath

Wood shavings are a key ingredient in a Japanese enzyme bath

Photo by Dravir.B

This past weekend a girlfriend and I decided to try a Japanese enzyme bath at Willow Spa in Santa Monica. It sounded unusual, and was something new even for me (a beauty professional and self-professed spa junkie). I have experienced many different types of spa treatments all over the world, and some have been strange and usual, but nothing prepared me for this. The Japanese enzyme bath is a dry bath made up of wood shavings, rice bran, and fruit and vegetable enzymes. The combination of the ingredients generates a tremendous amount of heat so when you step in it’s very warm and toasty. As my therapist Yuki was burying me in a large pile of hot dirt and wood chips, I couldn’t help but call out to my friend “I’m having a very LA moment right now!” I mean, where else would people pay to be buried in what is basically a large, hot pile of compost?

All kidding aside, I was very curious to see what the whole experience was about. It is a detox spa treatment, and I am always game for a little detoxification. When we arrived at the spa we were treated to a warm foot bath with fresh rose petals and grapefruit slices and a pampering foot massage. They also gave us a shot of an Akatsuki Enzyme Drink (very thick and sweet tasting, but supposedly a good internal complement to the external enzyme treatment we were about to receive). The enzyme drink is made from fermented vegetable and fruit extracts and contains over 400 enzymes. Enzymes are essential for good health, but apparently many of us suffer from an enzyme deficiency. Learn more about how enzymes work here.

While our therapists massaged our feet they described what was going to happen next and warned us about the smell. As we approached the treatment room we quickly understood what they were talking about – it smelled like garbage. With our bathing suits on, we stepped into the dry bath mixture and they proceeded to cover us fully from the neck down (like when your big sister buried you in the sand at the beach). It starts off warm, but after a while you start to feel very hot. The therapists come in and check on you every 5 minutes and give you water to drink through a straw and blot your face with a cold compress to help keep you cool. The maximum time for a heat treatment like this is 20 minutes. We both stuck it out for the full time, but we had to pull our hands and feet out after a while because we were getting too hot.

I must admit, as strange as the experience was, there was something very comforting and relaxing about the way the treatment made me feel. After our 20 minutes were up we proceeded to take showers to wash off all of the dirt. This is no easy task, I assure you. After our very long showers we were taken to a massage treatment room and received lovely Thai massages. As we left we were instructed to drink lots of water to hydrate and to help the detoxification process. We were also told to eat lots of protein, (but not meat) and fresh fruits and vegetables. We took that as an opportunity to treat ourselves to sushi.

The Japanese enzyme bath treatment made my friend feel relaxed, but it made me feel more energized. I am in the process of moving which has left me in a constant state of exhaustion, and when I arrived at the spa I felt drained and tired. After the dry bath, I felt more awake and relaxed at the same time. I’m not sure if it actually detoxified my body (I’m not sure how I could know that), but it did have an instant effect on my energy level and feeling of well being afterwards. We both had a nice glow to our skin too.

If you are interested in getting this type of detox spa treatment, you may have to travel. According to Willow Spa, they are one of 2 spas in the United States that offer the treatment. There is also a location in Northern California called Osmosis. Otherwise you’ll have to visit Japan.

What’s the strangest spa experience you have had?

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