8 of the Strangest Spa Treatments

Couple receiving a spa treatment
Photo: Unique Hotels [CC by SA-2.0]/Flickr

It's a cruel world out there — sometimes you need a way to relieve stress and retain your youthful glow. How about an exfoliation in which tiny fish nibble dead skin off your feet? Or a luxurious hair treatment made from bull semen? If those aren't to your liking, there's always a cactus massage or a hay bath. Spa treatments are getting wackier by the day — and the hipper, the better.

"The sky is the limit as to what spa-goers will pay for a trendy treatment," said Pam Price, a spa consultant and co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World," in an interview with msnbc.com. Check out some of the weirdest ways that you can unwind.

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A hay bath to remember

Telegraph video screenshot.

The next time anyone asks for a roll in the hay, you should remember that it's considered a therapeutic spa treatment in several inns in South Tyrol, an autonomous province in northern Italy. In a hay bath, the body is wrapped in soaked hay, which is cut early in the morning or in the evening. According to one source, this is "when the grass still contains all the ethereal oils, the grass is cut and dried afterward. However, the hay also contains different plants like lady's mantle, mountain arnica, gentian and thimble among the cut grass." (But according to one reporter, it's also really itchy.)

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Black pepper body scrub


Feeling a little bland? Prepare to shake things up with a spicy body treatment that will get your skin tingling and your blood moving. The Thai black pepper body scrub retails for $135 at the Pho Tree Thai Spa in New York City. The treatment begins with a green tea moisturizer, followed by a full body rub with black pepper to create a "tingling" sensation. Next, the body is slathered with the soothing extracts of live silk worms. Andrew Unger is the co-founder of Lifebooker.com and tells the New York Daily News, "the point is to make you hot and sweaty, which detoxifies your body and makes you lose water weight."

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A facial of fecal proportions

Arkansas Shutterbug/Flickr.

Want to look as lovely as the ethereal Japanese geisha? The secret may be to smear bird excrement on your face. The geisha facial involves treating the face with uguisu no fun, or powdered nightingale droppings — a secret ingredient of traditional kabuki actors and the geisha. The nightingale droppings are said to "brighten, heal and retexturize the skin due to their natural enzymes and guanine, which imparts a pearly luster to the skin." The treatment is offered for $180 at the Shizuka Day Spa in New York City for an hour-long session. And not to worry — as the Shizuka Day Spa reports, the droppings are sanitized by ultraviolet light before application.

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A fishy exfoliation

emilio labrador/Flickr.

The next time you're scrubbing away dry, flaky skin, consider this option from Asia. At the Sampuoton Spa in Selangor, Malaysia, guests are treated to a vigorous exfoliation by fish. As Msnbc.com reports, "a unique breed [of fish] finds supreme succor nibbling on the dead skin of spa-goers who submerge themselves in their tanks. Ailments like psoriasis and flaky skin on fingers and feet are put under pain-free attack by these ravenous skin-savers." The fish, known as garra rufa, are small members of the carp family that feed on dead skin cells. As you soak in a heated pool for an hour, the fish remove your dead skin cells while emitting an enzyme that is thought to soothe the skin. (But we're not sure the process will soothe your nerves. Guess it depends on how you feel about having swarms of fish all over your body.)

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Bull semen hair treatment


Looking for a deep conditioner? At London's Hari's spa, visitors can receive an organic bull sperm treatment fresh from an Aberdeen-Angus bull on a Cheshire farm. Those who have received the hair treatment claim that it "penetrates deeply into each follicle leaving hair supremely moisturized, nourished, shiny, thick, yet light, and vivacious." Called "Viagra for hair," the $138 treatment also includes the protein-rich plant Katera. As salon owner Hari Salem explains, "The semen is refrigerated before use and doesn't smell. It leaves your hair looking wonderfully soft and thick."

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Kiln sauna

Courtesy seoulstyle.com.

If you're the type to enjoy a good sweat, then consider a Korean kiln sauna. The kiln sauna, also known as the han jeung mak, is a Korean tradition dating back to the 15th century. Burning pine tree wood sets the stage inside a stone structure with a low opening. Users are given jute blankets to protect themselves from the intense heat. How hot is the kiln? According to the New York Times, temperatures can reach nearly 400 degrees F. If you wore synthetic clothing in there, it would melt. Lim Hyun-o, who works at a kiln sauna in South Korea, told Times, "Some arthritis and cancer patients rent rooms around here and patronize the kilns for months. We believe that the heat in the kilns sweats the toxins out of our bodies."

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Cactus massage


Have a love for the desert? The Hakali massage at the Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, Mexico, uses the nopal paddies of a cactus plant to knead your tired muscles. But don't worry, the paddies are de-needled. For $245, a warm meringue made of cactus, tuna (the blossom of the cactus) and pulque is blended with tequila to hydrate the skin. As the Four Season explains, "It will help to remove toxins and re-hydrate your skin, leaving you feeling completely rejuvenated."

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Chocolate facial


Dark chocolate is known for its age-fighting antioxidants. Some beauty experts have taken this concept to the next level. The Aquapura Douro Valley Resort and Spa in Portugal offers a 40-minute chocolate facial, in which the face is slathered with creamy, melted, oxygen-infused Swiss chocolate. The spa claims that the facial "helps deliver the chocolate's vitamins and antioxidants deep into the skin to better fight aging, promote healing and accelerate cellular rejuvenation." This could be one of the sweetest spa treatments around.