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By Sarah Kajonborrirak
Posted: August 22, 2007, from the September 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Indonesia has a long history and tradition of being the cradle of many spa treatments popular throughout the world. Its tropical climate, lush vegetation and the pursuit of well-being by its people has led to the creation of many skin and body treatments. Its banana leaf body wraps and famous frangipani and hibiscus floral baths are available in spas the world over and have become synonymous with the tropical spa experience everyone dreams of having. So it is no surprise Indonesia is still one of the world leaders in spa treatment trends.
Indonesia is a nation composed of thousands of various-sized islands, making up the world’s largest archipelago. In the spa world, the country’s stellar island is Bali, a largely Hindu island, which is quite unique considering that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Bali has a reputation of being one of the most important global spa centers. In fact, some of the most stunning and awarded spas call the beautiful island home. However, unlike many spas in the region, Bali spas have long served as labs where new treatments are created. Though not the sort of high-tech laboratories where sophisticated devices and chemicals are used, they are labs in which nature plays a leading role.
Also of utmost importance in the spa world are the legendary Spice Islands, which belong to the Indonesian territory as well. These islands played a key role during the colonial times of Southeast Asia because of the extraordinary quality of their clove, nutmeg and mace. These spices have reached stratospheric prices in the past and are currently used in the production of some of the most acclaimed essential oils on the market.
Due to its geographic location and the extraordinary natural diversity of each of its islands, some of the most innovative spa treatments have been created in Indonesia and then exported throughout the world. The origins of many popular spa treatments can trace their roots back here, as, after all, it is the birthplace of numerous fabulous health and beauty secrets.
It is important to know the origins of many current spa trends in Indonesia are actually centuries old and are focused on going back to the basics. Some of the country’s spas are so into this trend that they no longer carry manufactured products; fresh ingredients that will be used in each of the treatments on their menus are actually displayed.
This trend is happening all over Indonesia, including at spas in the huge urban centers of Jakarta and Surabaya. It seems that many Indonesian spa managers agree there is little excuse for not using natural products in their spas, and they have decided to explore the fascinating natural resources of their country in order to produce spa treatment concoctions. In these times when all things natural are praised and sought after, pure ingredients used in treatments are a key selling point.
Jamu, or traditional herbal medicines and cosmetics, is one of Indonesia’s greatest gifts to the spa industry. Jamu is a creation of the local people in which they make their own spa treatments using all-natural ingredients. They then pass the secrets of the treatment down from generation to generation. Several companies have started to sell Jamu products designed to enhance health and beauty overseas, but it’s said the best products are those made by the individual, not those mass-produced.
Most Jamu components can be found in the bustling marketplaces of Indonesia, where people buy ingredients in order to create these folk ointments and powders. Candlenut, parsley, galangal, cassia, nutmeg and cinnamon are just a few of the key ingredients used for the creation of Jamu treatments, whose exoticism has become popular in the spas of the Western world.
Also following the natural ingredient trend, all branches of the Mandara Spa, which has locations across Indonesia, have begun offering a wonderful Coconut Body Glow for Sensitive Skin treatment. The mixture of 100% natural ingredients, including turmeric, carrots, coconut and gelatin, has an excellent effect on sensitive skin. It is one of the favorite treatments of people who come to Bali from colder climates, as the lower temperatures usually have a negative impact on skin, making it dull and sensitive. The coconut treatment leaves the skin glowing and healthy-looking.
The Balinese people have also been responsible for the creation of a variety of fantastic treatments first used in the home and later adopted and improved by spas. Because of the warm weather and sunny days the islands experience on a regular basis, Indonesians created several remedies for sunburned skin, particularly popular among tourists, that later became spa treatments. Most spas in Bali, as in other popular spots in Indonesia, have their own unique treatments for sunburned skin, with many of them involving cucumber.
The Spa at the Bali Hyatt has one of the most innovative of these treatments, a cucumber wrap that is fast becoming the trademark of the spa. Mixed with lavender, tea tree and chamomile oil, the cucumbers provide a cooling effect that freshens the skin. Its soothing effects also relieve burned skin and give a sense of well-being that the products available in pharmacies can’t provide.
The latest in cellulite treatments are also cropping up in Indonesian spas. One, which comes from the Spa at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa in Bali, is the Volcanic Clay Body Scrub that has proven to be effective in reducing the orange peel, cellulite look that affects many women and men. And even though there is no quick fix for this dimpling, the mineral-rich clays of Bali can help in breaking down fat accumulations underneath the skin. The popular treatment, besides being effective, is much more enjoyable than aggressive cosmetic procedures used to treat cellulite.
And when it comes to slimming treatments, few things beat the Java Wrap, which has become a regional phenomenon due to its amazing slimming effects, particularly on women after pregnancy. This ritual, which originated on Java, the biggest island in the Indonesian archipelago, started as a secret handed down from woman to woman through generations. Even though it takes 40 days to achieve results, spas in Indonesia are starting to offer the treatment on their menus as a program. The paste used in the wrap is rich in minerals, and the power of its betel leaves and lime juice help flush toxins out of the body.
Java has also become a synonym for premium coffee, and so it is no surprise the island that bears the name produces some of the best coffee in the world. The Indonesians use some of these coffee beans for the Kopi Scrub, which is offered in several spas and is particularly famous at the branches of the Mandara Spa. Men love this scrub because of its blissful smell, as well as because it is rougher than most other natural scrubs and suitable for men’s skin. The main ingredients are ground coffee beans, kaolin clay and ground pumice stone. Once rubbed on the body, it leaves the skin shining and smelling refreshed.