GET contorted into 20 different yoga positions, get exfoliated by fish or have a foot reflexology treatment with hot stones.
These are just a few of the new-fangled offerings that local spa salons have churned out recently, in an attempt to offer something new and surprising in a market that some say may be over-saturated.
According to research company Intelligent Spas, the number of spas has gone up by 63 per cent since 2003, hitting 173 last year, not including beauty salons and massage parlours.
But it seems that competition may be the mother of invention. Besides spas like Spa Sauvignon, which use wine elements in its treatments, others, like Spa Esprit, have long relied on innovative treatments to draw customers.
Now, there are those like Mr Kelvin Hong, founder of local massage-chain parlour Refresh Bodyworks, who are beginning to realise the importance of innovation.
Mr Hong, 33, rolled out his company's first creation - Volcanic Reflexology, a blend of hot stones therapy with foot reflexology - at two of his 11 outlets early this month.
He said: "You can find foot reflexology services at any corner in Singapore, so there's definitely a need to differentiate our product."
Like him, Mr Richard Sng, 31, founder of beauty services group Fabulous Studios, believes that innovations are the way to go.
He started what he calls Dr Fish Skin Exfoliation Studio early this year to complement his indoor self-tanning salon.
Customers soak themselves in a small pool full of Garra rufa - or doctor fish - for 30 minutes, while dead skin cells get nibbled off their entire body.
Mr Sng sees three to five customers for the full-body fish treatment at his Tan Quee Lan outlet daily, while 20 to 30 people walk in for the feet treatment at the Cathay Cineleisure Orchard branch.
The only other place known to offer full-body fish therapy is beauty salon Kampong Fish Therapy in Thomson Road, which opened in October last year. It was the first to offer the full-body treatment. Other spas have been known to offer the fish treatment, but only for feet.
Mr Sng will also introduce new equipment - such as a light therapy machine that treats acne and encourages collagen production in the skin - to his spa in coming months.
Mr Hong, who also founded spa and massage training institute Spa and Wellness Academy Pte Ltd, intends to experiment with and roll out as many innovations as he thinks is viable, but anticipates that only one out of three will really take off.
Mr Hong said: "We want to provide new value to the customer. I believe that will flow back into the business."
While it is still too early to tell how popular Volcanic Reflexology will be, 25 per cent of his customers have taken the hot stone add-on to their regular reflexology treatment.
But no one knows innovation better than the Spa Esprit beauty group. The hot stones treatment, for example, now a common offering, was brought in by the group in 1996.
A glance through the service menu supports its spokesman's statement that they are the "market leaders in quirky and innovative treatments". Its offerings include sweat-lodge treatments and using creative ingredients such as soya wax, pumpkin and honey in various treatments.
Its Kajogal massage, based on yoga positions and introduced in July last year, is one of its newest offerings. Twenty per cent of its customers ask for this massage every week, and "most customers are keen to experience new, fun and innovative treatments".
A regular spa-goer, Mrs May Wu, 30, who works in a bank, said that as a consumer, she can get tired of the tried-and-true offerings.
"It's always good to see something new," she said.
||THERMAL BODY THERAPY
|Where: Fabulous Studios, 9 Tan Quee Lan Street, #01-04 TQL Suites, tel: 6884-5455 (far left)
Price: $49 for 30 minutes
What it is: A skin-exfoliation fish spa with a tub full of toothless fish no longer than a finger each, which nibble off dead skin.
Oooh factor: After gradually lowering my body into the tub, the school of fish gathered around my body, particularly the feet and legs. At first, the fish nibbles felt like electric shocks.
It was especially ticklish when some fish "attacked" my armpits. Strangely the fish mostly left my upper body alone. I tried to keep still as the fish would quickly swim away if I moved.
Still, I emerged from the novel experience with softer, exfoliated skin.
- JOANNE LOW
|Where: The Tamarind Spa, 118 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Goh & Goh Building, tel: 6469-7618
Price: $250 for 120 minutes
What it is: The treatment starts with exfoliation and an oil rubdown. But the piece de resistance is the wrap, which comprises a blend of Japanese wasabi root, ginger and white tea. You are then put inside a thermal bag set at a temperature of 65 to 70 deg C for 30 minutes.
The wasabi root is said to be a traditional warming herb with anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Oooh factor: I drifted into a coma-like sleep shortly after the masseuse enveloped me inside the thermal wrap bag. The warming effects of the treatment lasted well into the next day.
- RACHEL CHAN
|Where: Spa Esprit at House, 8D Dempsey Rd, 2nd floor, tel: 6479-0070
Price: $120 for 60 minutes, $180 for 90 minutes
What it is: Developed by yoga guru Dr Kajal Pandit and House, it combines 20 Hatha yoga poses and Thai massage. You are gently manipulated into various poses, from Salambhasana (locust pose) to even Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon pose) while on a massage bed.
Oooh factor: I couldn't shake the feeling that I was cheating with someone moving my body into familiar yoga positions. Still, it was a good stretch that helped blood rush back to my limbs.
It loosened me up and made me feel ready for another treatment, like the sweat lodge or the hot-stone massage.
- JILL ALPHONSO
|Where: Refresh! Bodyworks, #02-25C Millenia Walk, tel: 6336-2428 and #04-11 White Sands, tel: 6582-0455
Price: Promo price of $18 (U.P. $28) on top of $29.90 for foot reflexology.
What it is: An add-on service to normal foot reflexology. The masseur lubricates heated basaltic stones with oil and applies them on key reflex points and leg muscles in smooth, firm strokes for 20 minutes.
He then performs a normal foot reflexology massage for 40 minutes.
Oooh factor: While the hot stone massage was not especially spine-tingling, it seemed to alleviate the pain in my foot caused by my wearing heels.
Perhaps the hot stones did achieve their intended effect of easing tension and opening up energy channels.
- RACHEL CHAN
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