The Rise Of Biohacking Spa Treatments
With biohacking having its roots in Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise California remains a leader in the latest innovations in the field. Over the past decade, do-it-yourself biology has gone mainstream, transforming from a small experimental initiative to a worldwide movement. And while many of its practices, like intermittent fasting, remain disputable, biohacking continues to appeal to those seeking to streamline their health and add efficiency to their wellness routines. With the pandemic altering our relationship to touch, the latest biohacking inventions look like touchless technology—machines that claim to deliver benefits without the intervention of another human.
This past February, the Fairmont Spa Century Plaza set in the newly renovated Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, launched their first biohacking program. “After 40 years in the wellness industry studying and sharing the benefits of biohacking, I’m excited to introduce this new innovation at the Fairmont Spa Century Plaza,” says Dr. Oz Garcia, the biohacker who created the program with Magdaleena Nikolov, the general manager of spa, wellness and retail for Fairmont Century Plaza. “By combining ancient modalities with light therapy, sound therapy and new technology, Magdalena and I are pleased to offer guests and locals a solution for better sleep, relieving stress and regaining mindfulness.”
Each biohacking treatment is experienced in the Oakworks Curva Lounger, an anti-gravity chair featuring a NASA-inspired curve that is said to help the guest slip into a meditative state. Meditation is also encouraged via a neuro-acoustic headset, NuCalm, which plays meditations and relaxing music throughout the treatment. A PEMF mat is placed over the body, promoting relaxation through its infrared technology, while Normatec by Hyperice compression boots increase circulation and reduce inflammation. The space-like get-up is completed with a LED Face Visor placed over the face, which claims to boost collagen and improve cellular turnover through its combination of red, blue and amber light. Experiential rain showers, aromatherapy steam rooms, a Himalayan salt room and hammam complete the experience.
But this 14,000-square-foot spa is not the first hotel to offer biohacking in Los Angeles, The Beverly Hilton opened one of the world’s first biohacking facilities—Upgrade Labs—four years ago. Located on the lower level of the hotel across the iconic pool where Angelina Jolie famously took a dip following her Golden Globe win in 1999, Upgrade Labs attracts locals and visitors alike for its wide variety of biohacking technologies.
Created by Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey and Upgrade Labs CEO Martin Tobias, the technologies here are said to “help members reach their highest level of physical, cognitive and cellular performance” by lowering levels of inflammation, optimizing hormone levels and quickening muscle growth. The lab applications are divided into two sections: “Performance”— workouts that claim to deliver results in a fraction of the time of a normal workout with machines like the Cheat Machine (think, a stationary bike that uses artificial intelligence) and “Recovery—anti-inflammatory therapies like the Infrared Sauna (a sauna that uses infrared light) and Cryotherapy (a cold plunge chamber). The treatments have been so popular, they’ve added a Canadian location in Victoria to their flagship Santa Monica lab, and are planning to expand further.
While leaders in the field are found in California, it’s no surprise Equinox Hotel—the first hotel offering from the luxury fitness club brand—is leading the charge on the East Coast. Three of the five “circuits” available at the spa—a series of treatments designed for specific needs—involve touchless technology. The “Temperature Therapy Circuit” combines a short session in the cold chamber with a 30- or 60-minute session in the infrared sauna, to reduce inflammation and stimulate quick recovery. The “Inner Body Circuit” takes a non-invasive scan of the body’s carotenoid levels to assess the amount of free radicals in the body, followed by an IV drip of antioxidants and a selection of adaptogenic drinks and eats. Finally, the “Sleep Circuit” includes a 30-minute session on the Wave Table, which is said to provide the equivalent of three hours of sleep.
But hotels aren’t the only places you’ll find the latest in touchless spa treatments, Vibe Health Lounge—San Luis Obispo’s newest day spa—is also leading the charge. While founder Christina Webster has over 15 years working with her hands as a certified massage therapist and licensed esthetician, she decided to incorporate non-invasive technologies into her spa offerings because of the pandemic. “I wanted to use technologies that are accessible to people who might be scared of COVID,” the founder tells Forbes. “Non-invasive technologies can work for people who want healing but want to stay safe.”
The non-invasive technologies Webster is referring to? The Lucia N°03, a tool that flashes wide spectrum, LED lights at a multitude of frequencies in various colors, creating a kaleidoscope effect that takes the guest on a visual journey. During the experience, the brain shifts from a beta state (alert and concentrated) to an alpha state (relaxed and meditative), resulting in lower stress and increased creativity. Vibe Health Lounge also offers a Vibroacoustic Crystal Healing Ritual which combines an ergonomic massage bed with a relaxing musical soundtrack and a pulsating light that incorporates crystals targeting the seven chakras of the body.
While these technologies are geared towards people who might not want human contact involved in their treatment, Webster says they are best experienced as an add-on, to help the guest ease into or out of another treatment that involves touch. The Lucia N°03, for example, can help relax the body prior to a massage, so the muscles are more open to receive treatment, while the Vibroacoustic Crystal Healing Ritual might spur creativity following a massage, when the mind and body is at its peak relaxation.
“These new healing modalities are outside the conventional offerings of a day spa as we wish to provide our guests with the most expansive experience possible,” says Webster. And while the jury is still out on whether any of these biohacking and touchless technologies work on their own, there is no harm in expanding our arsenal of wellness therapies. As Webster says, “healing and relaxation comes in many shapes and forms.”
Some interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.