Beauty Bound: Body wraps relax and renew

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, July 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Heidi Gerlach lay under a heated cocoon tent, her face painted with a calming mask, her body covered in chocolate.

“It is very relaxing, and the warmth makes you want to fall asleep,” she said. “I would definitely recommend this. It felt really cool going on, very hydrating.”

Gerlach of Fox Chapel was being treated to a body wrap at ESSpa Kozmetika in Aspinwall. It's a service that has been around a long time, but has recently gained popularity.

Body wraps date to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The therapies can detoxify, heal the body, remove excess fat and fluid from tissues, restore minerals, reduce joint pain, tighten and tone the skin and nourish and soften the skin, proponents say.

Many spa treatments begin with a scrub to remove dead skin. A wrap is applied, and the client is placed under a blanket or other cocoon-type cover. Sometimes, an infrared sauna blanket is added. Wraps are popular among women, but men also partake.

“My skin feels so soft,” Gerlach said after her shower. “My skin is as dry as the Sahara. This is the perfect treatment.”

There are many benefits to wraps from smooth skin to weight loss, spa owners say. With names such as cocoa, seaweed, lavender, bed of roses and citrus they sound delicious.

“Most people don't consider summer as a time to do wraps, but it is a perfect time to do it,” said Scott Kerschbaumer, whose wife, Eva, owns ESSpa Kozmetika ( “Your skin is your largest organ. ... Having a body wrap will really make a difference you can feel. You will see an immediate effect. You can get rid of dead skin and start with a clean template.”

Body wraps work in two stages: absorption and detox. In the absorption stage, you apply a substance directly onto the skin and then wrap to keep moist and warm for the pores to open. Elimination of the toxins will happen through sweating and urination.

Most spas have some form of a wrap on their list of services. Nemacolin Woodlands Spa in Farmington offers several as part of its bath and body rituals menu. Spa director Lori Shubert agrees with Kerschbaumer that summer is a great time for a wrap, especially if someone has been out in the sun a lot.

“We have different options they can choose from based on the result they want,” Shubert said. “We have wraps that detox to help get rid of extra water weight, while others help with dead and dry skin.”

Wraps are very hydrating and moisturize the skin, Shubert says. They are another way to relax and de-stress in a world where we have many stresses with trying to balance work, family and social lives, she says.

“Taking time for yourself at a spa is so important,” Shubert said. “It can benefit you physically and psychologically.”

It really can, agreed Janet Conyette from Greensburg. She was having a volcanic clay wrap at Beauty Body Beyond in Greensburg ( It is made of volcanic ash and has high levels of minerals with hundreds of health benefits for the skin, says Beauty Body Beyond owner Angela Jana.

“It is very relaxing, and I can definitely see and feel a difference,” Conyette said.

To show the results, measurements can be taken before and after. The bigger you are, the more you will lose, says Jana, who has been offering wraps for 11 years.

Some wraps are rubbed in, while others are put on top of the skin. Jana wraps each part of the body separately.

An infrared sauna blanket, which is 125 to 145 degrees, can result in a loss of 1 to 5 pounds of water weight and burn 600 to 800 calories, on average, she says.

Spa owners recommend several wraps per year for maintenance. Prices at Jana's salon start at $50. A lot of spas offer package deals for multiple services.

“These wraps aren't replacements for eating well and exercising,” Jana said. “They will help, but you still have to do other things to keep the weight off.”

Body wraps, which have been popular for decades, are a great (and natural) way to improve the look and feel of your skin or even to just relax at your favorite spa, since most spa menus feature a body wrap of some kind. You hear so much about them in the summer because everyone's looking to get beach ready and not everyone is into two-a-day sessions at the gym, says Jackie Burns Brisman, editor, SpaFinder Wellness, Inc., which has a website ( to find the correct wrap at a spa near you.

“Certain body wraps can temporarily help your body rid itself of excess water weight, smooth the skin's surface, and essentially make you appear slimmer and help with the look of cellulite,” Burns Brisman says. “This is not to say they all do this or that they work for every person.”

Body wraps have a short-term life as far as weight loss and are popular with people who want a result right away, says Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition for UPMC.

“I call it the girdle effect,” Bonci said. “You will notice a difference, but once you put the fluid back in your body you will notice that, too. Constricting the body you will see fluid loss, but it won't last and there is a bigger issue. … I never encourage dehydration for weight loss. It's not a permanent thing. You have to work at weight loss.”

How wraps work

Just below the skin, there are three layers of fat, says Angela Jana, owner of Beauty Body Beyond, Greensburg. Within each layer of fat, there are individual fat cells that are surrounded by interstitial fluid.

Fluid can accumulate within and between the cells because of a lack of exercise, aging, diets high in salt and sugar and a build-up of toxins. Toxins are chemicals and preservatives that enter the body through the air we breathe, foods we eat, liquids we drink and are absorbed through the pores in our skin from our hair and skin products. Our bodies are designed to flush these toxins out through the liver and kidneys. But excess toxins end up being stored.

Body wraps contain ingredients designed to draw out these excess fluids and toxins while restoring nutrients.

Types of wraps

Three types of body wraps emphasize moisturizing, healing and conditioning the skin. The function of each is different.

Pampering wraps (fondly referred to as “foo-foo” wraps): They are a glorified massage where some sort of mud, cream or oil is applied to the body. You are then wrapped in a warm blanket and relax in a darkened room while listening to soft music. This wrap moisturizes the skin and helps to de-stress. Some contain caffeine and work on cellulite appearance.

Dehydration wraps (heat): This type of wrap creates a minor amount of inch loss and weight loss that lasts 2 or 3 days. (1 to 2 pounds primarily through water elimination. These water elimination wraps are very useful for women who tend to retain fluid and feel bloated. Most body wraps are the dehydration type.

Hydration wraps: This body wrap creates inch loss in two ways. The first is by aiding the lymphatic system in the removal of stored toxins. These wraps stimulate a process called lymphatic drainage where toxins and fatty acids from your cells are released into the capillaries and eliminated along with the body's waste. Clients are advised to drink large quantities of water (64 ounces per day) after to help flush the toxins.

Excess fluids and toxins are also drawn out through the pores of the skin. The result is an immediate and noticeable inch loss in the areas of the body where there is a large accumulation of fat; the hips, thighs, stomach and rear. This is where your “inch loss guarantee” comes into play. An effective body wrap will offer total body inch loss of up to 20 inches, but only in a larger body.

This type of body wrap makes no claims about weight loss. The product used is actually absorbed into the body to nourish and hydrate the body. Because most of us do not drink enough water and our bodies are constantly dehydrated, this type of body wrap helps clients to feel rejuvenated and energized.

Source: Angela Jana, owner of Beauty Body Beyond, Greensburg

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