Design for Leisure is always monitoring the latest trends in spa bathing. Here’s a look at some key trends happening in 2022 and beyond.
Cold is Very Hot, Especially Snow
With cryotherapy and hot/cold contrast therapy becoming more popular, we’re seeing more residential "wellness rooms" and commercial wellness centers embrace the benefits of cooling down. True hydrothermal bathing is a cycle of “heat-cold-rest” repeated 2-3 times. First one should use high heat areas (sauna, banya, steam room, etc.), followed by a cool down (cold shower, ice bath, snow room or plunge pool), then, importantly, a period of relaxation to stabilize body temperature.
So what makes snow the hot, new option? It's simple: advances in indoor snow technology have made natural, indoor snow a viable option. Walking into a snow-filled room gives users all the benefits of contrast therapy without the shocking, freezing wetness of a plunge pool (water conducts temperature more efficiently than air so 45°F water “feels” much colder than 45°F air). Snow rooms have an added benefit for respiratory health: inhaling the cold air deep into your lungs.
Touchless and Self-Service are Stand Outs
Hydrothermal bathing is the original and longest standing touchless and self-service treatment around. Both were in high demand throughout the pandemic, but it’s also a great way to deliver wellness benefits to the masses at accessible prices and with a strong ROI (no highly-trained therapists required). We are also seeing treatment rooms get more high-tech and offer touchless massage and other experiences that don’t require hands-on therapists.
Social Sauna-ing – More Experiential/Accessible Sweat Bathing
In London, for example, a set of Rooftop Saunas offer private sessions with views of the London skyline, giving guests “a way of connecting with themselves and the outdoors all year-round.” Entry is affordable and includes a bonus social experience: privileged entry to an adjacent, and popular, rooftop bar. Floating saunas have begun to pepper urban waterways, bringing locals and tourists together for a common wellness experience. “Floating saunas are a megatrend in north Europe with spas creating satellite wellness hubs designed to connect people with nature and as a way to offer private sauna experiences in delightfully unexpected places, often near a cold body of water for a natural cool down,” said Lasse Eriksen, President, Norwegian Sauna Association.
There’s also a rise in large, communal, event saunas that seat 40+ people enjoying performances and ceremonies, like Sauna Aufguss. Aufguss is a modern take on an old Finnish ritual where “sauna masters” waved towels to circulate heat, humidity and aromas. Today, Sauna Aufguss has evolved into performative storytelling, complete with costumes, singing, chanting and even laser and smoke shows. Aufguss is so popular in Europe, that there is an annual Aufguss World Championship, which will be hosted in the Netherlands in 2022. This trend has made its way to North America: a new event sauna recently opened at Awana Spa & Wellness at Resorts World in Las Vegas and another is expected to open in Brooklyn’s World Spa later this year.
Wellness-at-Home Goes BIG
For those who can afford it, 5-star spa bathing is being brought into the home. Previously, there might have been an appetite for a small sauna and maybe a steam shower, now homes are being outfitted as full-scale spas. There is a home in LA currently under construction which will feature a full-size sauna, hammam and snow room – something that would have been near impossible to imagine a couple of years ago.
Spa Bathing Leans into Mental Health and Sleep Benefits
“Mental wellness” and “sleep hygiene” have both become common concepts throughout the past few years as we collectively look for ways to stay positive and get enough ZZZs. Contrast therapy and hydrothermal bathing are self-care rituals that gently pamper and lull the body and mind into deep relaxation. Add a dash of nutrient-rich waters and the benefits are further magnified and can be targeted to treat various skin or health ailments. Throw in the communal act of sweating and detoxifying together brings a layer of connection and community to the act. All these attributes lead to reduced stress, increased feel-good hormones and even better sleep. Expect more studies and more focus on the less obvious benefits of hydrothermal bathing.
Social Wellness Clubs Cater to Holistic Wellness
We’re predicting a greater focus on holistic wellness in new and existing gyms and fitness centers. In a “post-pandemic" landscape, holistic wellness is arguably the biggest trend there is, and progressive gyms are evolving into new “social wellness clubs” that go beyond weightlifting and traditional exercise classes to include recovery stations and evidence-based communal bathing. The wellness benefits of regular sauna bathing, which, combined with cold therapy, is a great tool for reducing inflammation and muscle soreness, is something gyms across the world are in a unique position to capitalize on.