EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 22, 2008

New spa treatment promises a jolt of rejuvenation

By Emily Young

You would never peg him for it, but Salem, N.H., resident Phil Consentino is cutting-edge when it comes to spa treatments.

He decided to try the ionithermie body-shaping treatment as soon as nearby Visage Skin Care and Day Spa started offering it in February, hoping to reduce his slightly protruding abdominal area.

"When you get older, your body changes with you. It's hard to accept," Consentino, 48, said. "I'd tried all different weight loss methods. I wasn't looking for a miracle, but this really is a technological breakthrough."

A French biochemist invented ionithermie roughly 25 years ago, but it's just now catching on in the United States. Positive and negative electrodes pass low levels of electrical stimuli through a conductive clay and algae mask applied to the target area, penetrating the upper layers of skin. Tackling cellulite head on, the treatment also aims to trim body mass inches, release trapped toxins, boost circulation and tone underlying muscles.

"It's not just a look-good treatment, it's a feel-good treatment," said Sandra Broussard, owner of Inner Essence Massage and Body Treatments in Londonderry, N.H. "My clients say they feel light and relaxed and healthier."

The promised results — lose up to 8 inches in overall body mass per treatment — can seem lofty to skeptics. Esthetician Lisa Sheehan said the results are real but completely based upon the individual's diet, exercise level and weight loss needs.

"We call it a wellness program because it goes hand-and-hand with what you eat, your fluid intake, workout routine," said Sheehan, who offers the treatment at Ioni Firm in Middleton and Skyy Salon and Spa in Salisbury. "The product detoxes the skin so it looks smoother and firmer."

It took Consentino six treatments to lose a total of 10 inches from his overall body mass — his waist going from 38 to 35 inches.

"I feel good about myself in general," Consentino said. "Overall, I feel healthier, rejuvenated. I find it to be beneficial to the body with no negative side effects."

The treatment doesn't come cheap, as it typically costs more than $100 per session and you'll most likely need several sessions. And ionithermie isn't for everybody — like folks with metal in their body, those on blood thinners, people who have diabetes and women who are pregnant.

The handful of spas and massage therapists in the Merrimack Valley that offer ionithermie have no shortage of clients. About 40 have tried the treatment at Inner Essence Massage and Body Treatments since Broussard started offering them in September.

"Me, I'm addicted to it," said Cindy Cabral, owner of Visage Skin Care and Day Spa in Salem, N.H., who learned about the treatment on a Caribbean cruise in 2006. She did three, 30-minute sessions on that cruise, followed by another three on a cruise in 2007. And that was it.

"I really got healthy again and it kick-started inch loss," Cabral said. "Finally I said, 'I have to get this for the spa.' "

Sheehan believes she was the first to offer the treatment in the region three years ago this month. She, too, learned about it on a cruise and was hooked.

"When you first feel a little prickle, that's the current pushing the product deeper into your skin," Sheehan explained. "It feels so cool. I work out all the time, but I really can feel it lifting different muscles. Even after that first treatment, my butt looked so perky and my legs look so tight — like I was 25 again."