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Spa Trends

Increasingly spas are entering a grey area with "treatments" that are a little more invasive. Read more...



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IV drips

Spas and IV lounges tout the benefits of intravenous supplementation for various conditions including dehydration, hangovers, immune boost, beauty boost, and energy boost. The claims surrounding these infusions, safety with administration, and safety of the product itself can be challenging to navigate.

With regard to claims, IV hydration is a well-established method of managing fluid loss in hospitals and emergency rooms when diagnosed with a condition that warrants this treatment by a physician under medical supervision. Spas make claims with regards to the benefits of IV drips with very little supportive evidence.

For example, questionable claims made by spas with regard to IV drips include:

  • Treat hangovers

  • Boost the immune system

  • Offer beauty benefits

  • Provide energy beyond what oral supplementation of fluids could provide

To evaluate the safety associated with the administration of IV fluids the following need to be taken into consideration:

  • Speed of infusion

  • Cleanliness

  • Risk of air emboli

  • Risks of contamination

Added fluids in an otherwise healthy individual will likely be well tolerated, however, if not administered correctly there is a risk of fluid overload. Fluid overload can manifest as:

  • Headaches

  • Shortness of breath

  • Increased blood pressure

Laws vary from state to state on who is permitted to administer the IV whether it be an MD, Nurse practitioner (NP), physician assistant (PA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or licensed vocational nurse (LVN).

The steps involved in administering an IV, because this is considered a procedure, are:

  • An initial evaluation

  • Appropriate disinfection practices

  • Piercing the skin with a needle

  • Monitoring of vital signs

  • Following regulations involving blood-borne pathogens per OSHA regulations

  • Discharge of the client after stability is established

At any step along the way, the risk to the “customer” must be considered. If the IV is not administered correctly, there is a risk of:

  • Fluid and other ingredients infiltrating the soft tissue around the IV site

  • Hematoma formation

  • Inflammation of the blood vessel (phlebitis)

  • Accidental injection into an artery

The safety of the product administered is vital to take into account. There is a lot of trust placed in a spa or IV lounge to maintain the safety of the product, storage compliance, and risk of contamination of the product. Remember that even in hospital settings contamination is a risk of the product itself or external contamination from storage and management.

And, it’s not like these treatments are cheap. If you are truly in need of fluids from a health perspective, there is a good chance that insurance coverage may be available if performed in an appropriate setting.


Cryotherapy is a term applied broadly to treatments that involve cooling the skin rapidly often through the use of liquid nitrogen. In dermatology practices, we use localized forms of cryotherapy directly on the skin to treat precancerous spots and warts by inducing a localized frostbite type of reaction followed by slow thawing that results in tissue destruction. In spas cryosaunas or cryochambers may be used to rapidly cool the body temperature with claims to burn hundreds of calories and help with anti aging and weight loss. Remember the boiling point of liquid nitrogen is -195.8 degrees C (-320 degrees F - this is a common Board question, believe it or not, on the Dermatology Boards). When localized to specific spots on the skin in a dermatology office, there is local tissue damage.

There are a wide array of cryochambers and cryo saunas as well as protocols used by different facilities for these devices. In a cryo chamber, liquid nitrogen is used to cool the temperature and the body. The temperature in these chambers has been advertised to be as cold as -130 to 250 degrees F with body temperatures dropping by 30 to 50 degrees. For athletes, a protocol of -60 degrees F for 30 seconds followed by 2 minutes at -130 degrees F is often followed for muscle recovery There is some evidence that cryochambers used by athletes may help reduce inflammation. The science behind cryochambers for athletes is with regard to cold induced vasoconstriction to the extremities followed by vasodilation with reperfusion of the muscles. There are medical studies that demostrate some benefits noted with specific protocols. However the protocols used by spas may vary widely.

Infrared sauna

Saunas have been used for years in spas resting on the concept of using wood stoves or electric heaters to a temperature of usually about 80 to 90 degrees Celsius with added humidity to the air to induce hemodynamic changes and cardiovascular response in the body that may simulate physical exercise.

Most of the medical literature on infrared saunas covers Far Infrared Saunas (FIRS) for benefits. FIRS uses heating elements similar to neonatal resuscitation beds to apply heat directly to the skin at a cooler temperature than a traditional sauna. These blankets are around 60 degrees Celsius which makes them more comfortable and allows the heat to penetrate deeper and trigger a cardiovascular response that simulates moderate walking.

The practice performed in spas can vary widely and will often use the same name but not necessarily the same process making it difficult to say if the benefits are comparable.

Calorie-restriction, hardcore hiking, etc.

Calorie restriction in a spa setting has been a method to jumpstart weight loss programs with benefits potentially extending beyond for improving underlying metabolic states and cardiovascular disease. The key is safety as any calorie restriction program performed incorrectly carries a risk to an individual with underlying health conditions. Hardcore hiking and any strenuous physical activity has its benefits and risks to cardiovascular health that require careful consideration to each individual’s underlying health status and risk factors. :


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