Facebook Video is a baffling rabbit hole to navigate — something I quickly learned after seeing an advertisement for fake tongues that allow you to "groom" your cat like its mother. The other day, however, I saw something that actually looked incredible. It was a video of a mock Japanese onsen (a naturally occurring hot spring spa) but, instead of water, customers were bathing in red wine. How good is that, right? I'm going to go as soon as I go to Japan, I thought.
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. Lucky for me, there is now a red wine bath in London, so I decided to go and see just how much of an impact vinotherapy (its actual name) could really have on my overall wellness.
Vinotherapy is not new. 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 realized 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 London, though, is the first wine bath to exist in the UK.
So what are the supposed wellness benefits of a red wine bath? And how is the bacchanalian pursuit even remotely related to making you look and feel better? Supposedly, it all has to do with the antioxidants in red wine. These antioxidants have been associated with everything from slowing down your skin's aging process and fighting off free radicals, to helping ward off stress-related diseases. As for the wine bath itself, it has been claimed that it can help improve circulation (although, to be fair, warm baths of any liquid will do this).
So, what was the actual wine therapy like? 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, two bottles of organic red wine, and hot water. My wine therapist swiftly shut down my half-hopeful query as to whether I'd get drunk from "the wine seeping through my skin." Absolutely not, she said, although she did offer me a glass of organic wine which, considering I forgot to have breakfast, did a solid 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 realized later that this probably would have had a terribly dehydrating effect on my skin. Sitting in the red wine bath, on the other hand, is a pretty delightful experience. The smell is good, the 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 even determination than before. I am so relaxed, I actually fall asleep, and sleeping in a public place is not something that comes easily to me. So yeah, major points for 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 noticeably nice skin lasts for a few days.
Research since has led me to a few scientists who are skeptical. 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 really 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.