For the past decade, the buzzword in many health and beauty related regimes has been “detox.” Walk into a supermarket, pharmacy or spa anywhere in the world and soon enough you’ll find products promising to rid skin, hair and the body of toxins that have accumulated through negative eating habits, too much alcohol consumption and exposure to pollution and what generally comes from living a busy urban life. Many beauty professionals have noticed an upswing of clients looking to them for detoxing treatments, programmes and products, and there is a huge variety on offer. But, while it might seem that the concept of detoxing is a relatively new phenomenon, cleansing the body from the inside out is in fact an ancient practice maintained by many cultures around the world.
Ayurvedic healers in India have been prescribing a five-step seasonal detox ritual for more than 2,500 years. They believe the root cause of almost all disease is the accumulation of toxins that linger in our bodies when we have improper digestion. Their theory is that by cleaning these toxins from the body, ailments and diseases linked to poor immunity, inflammatory disease and even cardiovascular disease and cancer can be treated. The five steps include restricting the diet to just rice, beans, lean protein and steamed vegetables, taking steam baths, sesame oil massage, nasal irrigation, herbal enemas and nourishing herbal remedies. The ancient Aztecs of South America extolled the virtues of bathing in Bentonite clay which is said to absorb impurities from the skin. Likewise, Native Americans and Scandinavians use the heat from saunas and sweat lodges to draw toxins out. Many religions too extol the virtues of fasting in order to cleanse. Ramadan, Lent and Yom Kippur all use regimens around food to help purify not only the body but also the spirit.
So if the notion of detoxing has been around for centuries, why has it had such a huge resurgence in popular culture over the last decade?
The answer lies in the combination of celebrity power and the rise of social media. Almost every time the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz or Kim Kardashian embark on a new cleansing diet or series of detoxing skin and body treatments, the world finds out almost instantaneously thanks to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Their positive results are there for all to see and are enough to inspire those living in the real world to follow suit.
At this time of the year, just after the long lazy days of summer when almost everyone is tempted to overindulge, many beauty professionals are faced with clients who believe it’s time to reassess their lifestyles and improve their skin, hair and body condition. But is detoxing for everybody? These simple guidelines below are a good starting point for determining if clients may need to detox and can be used to help target treatment programmes.
If your client’s bowel movements have slowed to less than once every two days then this could be a sign of sluggish bowel. Bloating, excessive wind and heartburn indicate that the system might have a problem digesting food and that a change of diet could be beneficial. Adding more fibre and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables while eschewing sugar, dairy and overly-processed food may well make a difference and is often the easiest way in which to start a detox.
A foggy brain
Having trouble with decision-making, focusing and feeling vague can indicate that your client may be in need of some mental cleansing along with an improved sleep routine and an increase in water intake.
While many headaches are caused by stress and excessive noise, regular headaches that occur for no specific reason might be a signal that it’s time to take a good look at what is going into the body and evaluate detoxing options.
Low energy levels
If a client is waking up after a good night’s sleep only to feel like they can’t get out of bed or even think about how they are going to start the day, it could be a sign that their lymphatic system is clogged and in need of cleansing through a good massage.
People suffering with depression can sometimes become more negatively affected by the food choices they make. Depression can trigger cravings for heavy dairy foods, chocolate and lots of sugar which in turn can make the sufferer feel more depressed thus perpetuating a downward spiral.
The skin is the body’s largest organ and rashes, itchiness and breakouts may all indicate that a detox is needed, especially if topical treatments have not helped. Unfortunately one of the side effects of detoxing is that as toxins are released – often through the skin – this can temporarily cause skin problems which will subside by the time the process has finished.
As well as being painful and sore, puffy eyes can sometimes be a sign that a person is having trouble detoxing efficiently through the liver and kidneys.
Mood swings are another sign that a client may need to detox. If they are experiencing greater levels of anxiety than usual and are having frequent low moods then this could be caused by what they have been eating and drinking.
Unexplained weight gain for those who maintain a healthy diet and exercise regime can indicate a hormonal imbalance that may be helped by undertaking a detox programme.
When embarking on a detox regimen the obvious first place to start is to assess consumption: the types of food being eaten, the amount of alcohol units drunk per week and water intake. While nutritional advice might fall outside of the scope of what beauty industry professionals generally offer their clients, beginning a conversation with them about their general health and well being can help them think about the best therapeutic treatment options for them going forward.
Different methods of detox include:
Juicing has taken the world by storm during the past decade. What used to be a niche food group for fitness fanatics – juice bars offering fresh wheat grass shots were often found at gyms and health studios – juicing has now become completely mainstream with juice bars opening in shopping malls and main streets all across New Zealand.
While chain store juice bars offer freshly-juiced fruit and vegetable beverages, several boutique businesses specialise in creating multi-day juice cleanse diets.
These focus on supplying customers with up to six juices per day for anywhere from one to seven days which have been formulated to provide nutrition while cleansing the body. Because customers only consume the juice provided it not only aids detoxification but can also help to kick start a weight loss programme. The best juices are cold pressed which means they are crushed in a hydraulic press which uses thousands of kilos of pressure to gently extract vitamins, minerals, and enzymes with minimal oxidation and without any heat, creating clean, smooth juice.
While some might think this is crazy – not to mention unhealthy – others swear by the lemon detox diet. Essentially this consists of drinking a combination of lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup and consuming nothing else for between three and seven days up to four times a year. The theory is that this drink will completely clear and refresh the system and stimulate energy levels. It is also used as a weight loss enhancer.
The theory behind colonic irrigation is that the bowel can become clogged and congested over time with accumulated waste, gas and parasites and the best way to remedy this is to flush it out with water introduced into the rectum. Specially trained consultants administer the treatment which can also sometimes be delivered with an abdominal massage to help achieve the best results. The practice of colonic irrigation has been seen as controversial by some in the medical profession because of the risk of bowel perforation.
As mentioned above, Bentonite clay has been used for centuries as a means of detoxification. Recently Westerners have begun to adopt this as a tool to cleanse the body inside and out. Used externally as a mask, poultice or wrap, Bentonite clay is believed to have the ability to produce an “electrical charge” when hydrated. Upon contact with fluid, its electrical components change, giving it the ability to absorb toxins by drawing them out. The clay can also be ingested in small amounts to aid and stimulate digestion.
Regular dry body brushing using a loofah or natural fibre body brush will help to increase circulation which in turns boosts skin detoxification. Dry dead skin cells are eliminated from the surface of the skin and the massaging effect can help to stimulate the lymphatic system which will drain toxins more efficiently and promote cell regeneration.
Body wraps are one of the most popular professional beauty treatment services, especially when it comes to detoxing. Most use a clay base to which herbs, seaweed, sea salt, aloe vera and sometimes ground coffee beans are added. Toxins are drawn out from the skin and in some cases the wraps will temporarily relieve water retention.
In fact body wraps are becoming so popular as quick fix detox solutions that some therapists are seeing the same clients return for multiple visits per week.
Kavita Dewan, a therapist at Auckland’s Interactive Healing Therapies facility, says they regularly see repeat clients for detox wrap therapy.
They use an infrared silicon body wrap system that raises the skin temperature to meet the core body temperature – making it approximately ten degrees warmer. This stimulates the sweat glands and increases blood circulation causing toxins to leech through the skin.
“Some of customers come in three times a week several times a year to give themselves a good detox and help with weight loss and others come regularly every week. After Christmas is generally a busy time because people are aware that they might have overindulged and they want to get their systems cleaned out,” says Dewan.
Clients are provided with a questionnaire before treatment to assess their suitability and whether or not there would be any medical contraindications before they proceed.
Dewan says some clients like to come in for a treatment prior to an important event such as a wedding because the wrap helps to relieve boating and water retention and can leave them feeling a dress size or so smaller.
“Clients can burn up to 1,200 calories with a treatment so it’s important that afterwards they make sure they keep their fluids up and drink a lot of water so they don’t become dehydrated.”
A good proportion of clients come in-post surgery and use either the wrap or the lymphatic drainage massage treatments as a means to help eliminate the pharmaceutical medicine s from their system.
“We also have clients who come in for wraps as a part of their overall detox programme as they will be detoxing through their diet as well.”
While detoxing the body has become fairly mainstream, detoxing the mind is a trend that is well and truly on the rise. Just as people overindulge with rich food and alcohol, they can also build up “toxic” levels of stress in their minds. Clinics specialising in mental detoxification have been springing up overseas and these focus on distressing, alleviating negative thoughts and training the brain to focus positive and be organised when thinking.
One of the best ways to clear the mind is through deep breathing. Yoga practitioners spend years learning how to focus their breath to allow as much oxygen to enter their system as possible which not only helps with circulation, but helps calm and focus the mind too.
By starting the day with up to 10 minutes of good long deep breathing, preferably while sitting in a quiet space, one can set off with a less-stressed mind and a more organised one.
Writing daily to-do lists helps to focus the brain on what the important tasks are to complete rather than all of the other little niggling distractions that might be causing stress. Ensuring these lists get checked off helps to provide a sense of satisfaction and promotes positive thinking. Likewise, ensuring one has enough sleep every night and gets regular exercise helps alleviate stress and creates a feeling of physical well-being which promotes mental health.
One of the largest predicted trends in the professional therapies for 2015 is the digital detox. With technology becoming so pervasive in people’s lives it’s now hard to imagine modern urban living without smartphones, laptops, iPads and computers; almost every aspect of what we do is controlled by the touch of a screen and it is hard not to be contactable. Therapists are setting up digital detox retreats that provide customers with an opportunity to break away from the temptations and distractions of their digital devices and take stock of what is really important in their lives. Many of these retreats incorporate other therapies including professional beauty treatments like revitalising facials and massages and they are often conducted in rural settings. In order to garner the most benefit from a digital detox it is recommended that people set aside between 24 and 72 hours for a technology-free holiday. Other recommendations include stocking up on magazines and books, planning some outdoor activities, signing up to learn a new class or skill and enlisting the support of friends and family.
Top ten best foods for detox
Beetroot is full of nutrients and is a great source of vitamins B3, B6 and C, plus beta-carotene, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron. Beetroot assists the liver and gall bladder when breaking down toxins and because it is a very fibrous vegetable it also aids digestion.
The enzymes in lemons helps to boost the digestion system and the vitamin C helps to convert toxins into a water-soluble form that can be easily eliminated from the body. Lemons also help stimulate the liver and purify the blood.
The soluble fibre in apples, pectin, is helpful in removing heavy metals and food additives from our bodies.
Green vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cucumbers, celery, sprouts and spinach are filled with chlorophyll which helps to rid the body of environmental toxins, heavy metals, herbicide and pesticides.
Raw garlic has powerful antiviral, antiseptic and antibiotic properties. Garlic helps stimulate the liver into producing detoxification enzymes that help filter toxins from the digestive system. Garlic has been used for thousands of years as a natural medicine by many different cultures to help stave off colds and flues.
Kelp, seaweed and other sea vegetables like sea cucumber are a mainstay in many Asian diets and for good reason. They have very high antioxidant properties which help to alkalise the blood and strengthen the digestive tract. They are also filled with minerals.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory food which also helps to ease nausea, improve digestion and promote detoxification by speeding the movement of food through the intestines. While some nutritionists advise chewing on a ginger root, it is best grated or chopped and added to hot water to make a ginger tea.
Broccoli sprouts contain important phytochemicals that aid in the detox process at rates much higher than fully grown broccoli heads. Phytochemicals stimulate detoxification enzymes in the digestive tract and are also extremely high in antioxidants.
Green tea is loaded with anti oxidants and nutrients that help to detox the body. The most prevalent antioxidants in green tea are catechins which can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. Green tea has also been shown to improve brain function and promote weight loss.
Artichokes increase bile production and both purify and protect the liver. They also have a mild diuretic effect on the kidneys which aids in toxin removal once the liver breaks them down. Some studies have shown that artichokes may actually regenerate liver tissues.
It’s clear that treatments with a detoxification component are becoming increasingly popular with professional beauty industry clients and that they can be a major drawcard for customers visiting a spa for the first time.
The most popular treatments include, detox wraps, specialist scrubs like the Kona Coffee and Sugar scrub, clay facials to unclog and detox the skin, dry body brushing, aromatherapy steams and lymphatic massage. Evidence shows that customers are more likely to want to embark on a detox programme at the beginning of the year to tie in with health-led New Year’s resolutions and to counter any overindulging over the Christmas period. Beauty professionals could look at this time as a good opportunity to introduce detox treatments onto their treatment menus – as long as they are sufficiently trained and expert enough to perform them – and offer enticement plans such as such a group detox day over a weekend or two-for-one deals.
Joining forces with a juicing company, yoga studio or a digital detox provider to offer a cross promotion could be a good way of providing a wraparound service for your client and assist them to make positive changes across their lives.
Add on products that aid in detoxification such as dry body brushes, specialist green tea and take-home body scrubs could join existing product lines, and as a goodwill gesture clients could be given recipes for detox smoothies or juices and these could even be loaded onto a salon’s Facebook page or website.
Having a time-out space where clients can go after a treatment to drink a quiet cup of green tea will also add to the overall experience and will help maintain customer loyalty.