Facebook Video is a baffling rabbit hole to navigate. From advertisements for fake tongues allowing you to "groom" your cat like its mother, to videos of drunk people which invite you to "tag a mate who's as extra as this", it's a confusing source of visual stimulation.
The other day, however, I saw something that looked really incredible. It was a video of a mock Japanese onsen (a naturally occurring hot spring spa) where, instead of water, customers were bathing in red wine. Yeah. How good is that? "I'm going to go as SOON as I go to Japan," I thought, the second I realised what I was looking at.
Sadly, my reckless approach to everyday budgeting means that a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun is not on my horizon any time soon. Luckily for me, there is now a red wine bath in London. So I decided to go and see for myself just how much impact vinotherapy (its actual, real name), could really have on my wellness.
Vinotherapy is not something I've just made up. It was developed in 1995 by Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas, a French couple who eventually went on to launch Caudalie – a skincare brand you've all heard of but may not have realised has its basis in grape-derived products. There are wine spas all around the world, from the cheesy novelty of Yunessun, the Japanese place I saw in the video (giant red wine bottles fill the pool), to the five-star Cavas Wine Lodge in Argentina's famous wine-producing region of Mendoza. Ella Di Rocco in Fulham, though, is the first wine bath to exist in the UK.
So what are the wellness benefits of a red wine bath? How is the bacchanalian pursuit even remotely related to making you look and feel better? Supposedly it's all to do with the antioxidants in red wine. These antioxidants have been hailed for doing everything from slowing down your skin's ageing process and "detoxifying" the skin from smog and pollution, to helping to ward off stress-related diseases. As for the wine bath itself, it has been claimed it can help improve circulation (although to be fair, warm baths of any liquid will do this).
What was the actual wine therapy like? Well, unsurprisingly, it was a delightful experience. The setting at Ella Di Rocco is great (I considered asking for the name of the paint used on the rich green walls in the underground lair). And after a scrub (with red vine leaves and wine grapes – there's a strong theme at play here), it's onto the actual bath.
Before you get too excited, let me just warn you; you're not actually bathing in just red wine – it's a combination of things like grape protein, table wine solution, virgin grape juice and two bottles of organic red wine and hot water. My therapist swiftly shut down my half-hopeful query as to whether I'd get drunk from "the wine seeping through my skin" (science). Absolutely not, she said, although she did offer me a glass of organic wine which, considering I forgot to have breakfast, did a marvellous job of getting me halfway there. Who's the real winner here?
As disappointed as I may have been to find out I wasn't bathing in 25 bottles of pure merlot, I realise later that this probably would have had a terrible dehydrating effect on my skin (you know how your lips feel dry sometimes when you're drinking wine?). As it is, sitting in the red wine bath is a pretty delightful experience. The smell is good, the winey bathwater feels velvety against my skin. There's even a helpful notice reminding me not to drink the water in the bath. I comply.
Afterwards, there's a massage, with white wine oils (of course). Massages are also known for helping with blood circulation so this, plus the bath, must mean my red blood cells are now flowing around my body with more determination than Hermione on her first day at Hogwarts. I am so relaxed, I actually fall asleep, and sleeping in a public place is not something that comes easily to me. So yeah, tick to the de-stressing factor.
At the end of the treatment, my skin is nice. It's soft and smooth and the weird patches of rough skin I had under my chin and behind my armpit (sexy) are gone. The red wine scent doesn't cling, sadly, but the nice skin noticeably lasts for a few days.
Research since has led me to a few scientists who are sceptical. The American Chemical Society, for instance, says that the antioxidants in red wine don't permeate the skin all that well, and scientific writer Becca Yeamans says, in response to NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire’s claims about his wine baths, that the wine "probably doesn’t have enough contact (or at high enough concentrations) with the body in order to be solely responsible for the alleged outcome of improved circulation".
Either way, it's a jolly nice experience. And it does wonders for your skin. So if you're after something different from your average spa treatment (and something wildly Instagrammable), go and check it out. Just don't drink the bathwater.
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