Spa and Wellness Trends: What's Old is New Again – Universal Companies
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Making sense of trends and how to offer their holistic benefits in your spa is an ongoing and seemingly never-ending battle for business owners of all sizes. One thing you may not realize is that many of these trends have ancient origins, and thanks to modern technology, new spa equipment incorporates these perma-trends into your spa and spa treatments.

Let’s take a closer look at the origins of three booming trends: hydrotherapy, float therapy, and Himalayan crystal salt. Knowing the history behind these trends and their modern advancements will help us understand why they continue to stick around.


Hydrotherapy has remained a trend and taken many forms throughout natural history. Though they weren’t the first to see the therapeutic potential of water, the Romans are most often attributed to laying the groundwork for the spa as we know it today. Sanitas per aqua or “health from water,” a phrase attributed to Emperor Nero, is part of the origin of hydrotherapy.

The Roman thermae, or thermal baths, consisted of mineral rich water with graduating stages of temperature, starting with the tepidarium, a warm water area and followed by the caldarium, which was a combination of a sauna and hot bath. The final stage was the frigidarium, which as you might guess, served as their archaic version of cryotherapy.

Hydrotherapy has taken on entirely new forms in the modern spa world. Though saunas and the original forms of temperature-controlled waters still play a huge role, how the therapy is delivered has evolved quickly since the 20th century. For example, the Sybaritic® RelaxWell Oceanpod™ encompasses all of these treatment possibilities in one piece of equipment. It incorporates aromatherapy, infuses the water with vitamins and minerals, and uses the principles of chromotherapy (color therapy), to provide client customized treatments.

Sensory Deprivation Tanks and REST Therapy

For centuries, travelers have stopped to float in the salt-rich waters of the Dead Sea. Because of its high salt content, the water has more mass, which allows the body to float much easier than in typical freshwater. This feeling of weightlessness is therapeutic and has led to some interesting research on the human brain.

The modern form of float tank we know today was developed by Dr. John C. Lilly in the 1950s. A neuroscientist, Lilly was trying to study the origin of consciousness. He theorized that we could turn our brains “off” if all external stimuli were removed. Lilly filled the first sensory deprivation tank, one of his own design, with about two feet of water, and added Epsom salts – giving his two feet of water the same effect as the Dead Sea.

In trying to find where the body stops and consciousness begins, Lilly laid the groundwork for what’s known today as Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy, or REST, which is studied extensively by neuropsychologist Dr. Justin Feinstein at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research. This high density saltwater is what frees a floater from trying to stay above water and allows their mind to free and REST to take hold.

The first commercial tank that was released in the early 1970s was bare bones compared to the tech current float pod companies offer today. The Float Pod, for instance, incorporates multiple therapy disciplines, like music therapy and chromotherapy, with REST for another fully customizable client experience.

Himalayan Salt

We’ve all seen the lamps, table toppers, and massage stones, but how was this mineral-rich variant of sodium chloride discovered? It’s kind of a funny story; though found by Alexander the Great’s army, it wasn’t his men that made the discovery initially. It was their horses! Puzzled by their cavalry licking rocks in India, they found on closer inspection that those “stones” were in fact crystalized salt.

That salt was consumed and traded throughout history, but it wasn’t until 1872 when India was colonized by Great Britain that truly efficient mining began. With a technique that kept the mines themselves intact, the Khewra mine became a wellness and spiritual tourist attraction that hosts 250,000 visitors each year.

This wellness trend has also been incorporated into equipment, and in many different ways. Some research suggests negative ions balance the spirit. Because this form of crystal salt is may emit negative ions, the thought is that pink salt will carry over these benefits. Additionally, because salt is hygroscopic (it draws moisture) by nature, this Himalayan salt can reduce the air’s moisture content to make breathing a little easier. It’s incorporated in equipment on a sliding scale from big to small. Most of the time this special salt comes in the form of a lamp for ambience, but it can also have a practical, aesthetic focus in the form of a salt block frames or treatment focus in the form of a sanitizable salt block table.


These trends may have formed throughout history, but their practical applications and therapeutic benefits have made them live on in the modern spa world. We’ve come a long way from the original Roman baths, and thanks to technology, you can offer these timeless treatments in your spa.

Interested in equipment? Fill out our personalized form or feel free to contact our equipment experts at 800.558.5571 or by email at  and they’ll be glad to help!

Universal Companies is proud to have a team of experienced spa advisors on staff and welcomes you to consult with our professionals about spa products and supplies, including ingredients, equipment, and retail. Dedicated to the success of spa professionals everywhere, we're grateful to be recognized with the American Spa Magazine Professional's Choice Award, Favorite Distributor of the Year for many consecutive years. (Thank you!)

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