It's one of the most indulgent and therapeutic treatments you can enjoy at a spa or salon. But what is hot stone massage – and is it right for you? We asked Noella Gabriel, director of product treatment and development at Elemis to explain…
Why use hot stones?
"Because they harness heat. And when you include heat in a massage, it enables you to get deep into the 'belly' of the muscle without resistance or trauma. If there's particular soreness or tightness, it melts away with heat. Men love this treatment because they seem to prefer greater pressure from a massage, which you get with the stones. It also bridges the gap for people who need a relaxation treatment that helps soothe knotty muscles, but perhaps don't like the intimacy of a traditional hand massage or who feel uncomfortable being touched directly."
What kind of stones are used?
"They're generally made from basalt, which retains heat, and there are six different shapes and sizes: a flat, round stone for the sweeping movements of the massage and to get deep into the muscle; a slightly more 'pointed' stone to get into the 'nooks and crannies', such as between shoulder blades; a small pebble for the face and scalp; a tiny stone for between toes; the smallest stone of all, which is used for the 'third eye' between the brows – a lot of tension is stored in the frown muscles around here and you can see the whole face soften when this area is treated; and large, heavy stones which are the 'pegs' of the treatment, to be placed on the chakra, or energy, points of the body at the belly and around the heart and also on the palms."
How are the stones heated?
"In hot water. They release the heat in contact with the body so will need reheating through the treatment, which is usually about an hour to an-hour-and-a-quarter long. Some salons will finish off with cold stones – but it's a matter of personal preference."
Is anything else used in conjunction with the stones?
"Some therapists will combine the stones with their hands for the massage – particularly over the face or scalp, if the client's skin feels sensitive to the warmth or the hardness of the stones. It's a particularly intuitive treatment because of the three-way interaction between the stones, the therapist's hands and the client because he or she needs to be highly skilled to feel the response back through the stones. Warm oil is used to ease the stones' passage across the skin, which aids the soothing, relaxation part of the process and helps nourish and soften skin, too."
The Elemis hot stone treatment is called Aroma Stone, with prices starting from £60 for 75 minutes. Call 01278 727830 for salons and spas.