Wellness and self-care aren't just the buzzwords taking over the captions in your Instagram feed — they're also incredibly useful marketing and branding concepts. With CVS re-positioning itself as a comprehensive, one-stop shop for every wellness need, the rise of trendy, millennial-bait vitamin brands and the increasing ubiquity of ritualistic practices like crystal healing and palo santo smudging, self-care has gone mainstream, and the health, beauty and spa industries aren't hesitating to capitalize on and monetize it.
Keeping that in mind, trend forecasting firm WGSN released a new report identifying the key emerging trends in the wellness and spa space, from the aforementioned crystals to the more off-kilter concept of "hay bathing." Never one to shy away from a weird new spa services or gimmicky wellness trend, I reached out to WGSN beauty editor and trend expert Theresa Yee to find out more about the practices, rituals and treatments we're bound to see more of in the near future.
"We're living in an age of anxiety, with political and economic uncertainties around the world driving anxious consumers to find ways to escape and de-stress from their everyday hectic and demanding lifestyles," says Yee, speaking words that ring so true to me I'm convinced she somehow caught a glimpse at my credit card statement. "There is an obsession with wellness right now as consumers look to better themselves, mentally, physically and spiritually. We're seeing a rise in self-improvement and self-care, with a focus on improving the overall mental and physical wellbeing with products that empower individuals to look and feel great. The wellness industry is booming, and we will only continue to see this grow even bigger in the future."
The first up-and-coming trend WGSN cites in its report is energetic healing, which focuses on using the earth's natural energy sources, paired with traditional healing practices to improve circulation, relieve aches and pains, remove "energy blockages" and ease muscle tension. It's also one that strikes Yee as particularly interesting. "Spas are using scent and sounds, such as singing bowls, to enhance feelings of relaxation, promote wellness and create different moods and atmospheres. Vibrational therapy or sound bath is also very interesting, with spas incorporating techniques into body treatments to help relax the muscles and release energy blockages, as well as creating a trancelike state to calm the mind."
Mindfulness and intention are underlying priorities of many of the trends called out in the report, notes Yee. Cannabis, and specifically the CBD derived from it — an ingredient we've discussed quite a bit as it pertains to the beauty realm — is only going to increase in popularity, according to WGSN. "Marijuana massages are emerging on the mainstream spa scene as cannabis becomes a hot ingredient in the beauty arena," says Yee.
Hot saunas, salt or halotherapy, sleep-focused wellness treatments and products are also going to continue to boom, according to WGSN. While you've likely heard of most of those before, a less-known treatment called "hay bathing" is a bit more unexpected. And yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: "An ancient tradition in Austria dating back more than 200 years, hay bathing came to light as locals noticed the benefit of hay as a source of pain relief and energizer for the body, as experienced by farmers who slept in it," explains the WGSN report. "Treatments use fermented alpine hay, combined with healing herbs such as arnica, heather and thyme, which are full of essential oils." It also describes a specific treatment offered at the Hotel Heubad Spa in northern Italy, in which spa-goers are wrapped in steaming hot "fatty" alpine hay made from 40 different types of grasses and flowers for 20 minutes. This treatment is said to rejuvenate the immune system, ease muscle pains and improve circulation in the body.
When asked why she thinks so many of the trends included in the report aren't new innovations — but rather, traditional and even ancient holistic practices — Yee attributes it to the increasing demand for natural remedies and focus on tried and true methodology. "Ancient rituals are celebrated more than ever — the benefits are well-known and have been around for thousands of years, so there is a greater element of trust," she explains.
In terms of how beauty, fitness and wellness brands put the findings of this report to use, Yee specifically suggests "incorporating yoga, sound baths and meditation programs to offer consumers education and also interactive activities providing tips on how to improve their overall health and wellbeing." Don't underestimate the power of social sharing, either. Like any true trend, these rising wellness practices, at least in part, owe their increasing popularity to their photogenic, aesthetic-building properties. "Think about partnering with wellness and beauty influencers to host holistic in-store workshops that tap into all areas of beauty, health and wellbeing," suggests Yee. After all, influencers are key when it comes to turning buzzy Instagram gimmicks into cold, hard conversions.