How Virtual Reality is Making Its Way Into Spas, Salons, and Even Therapy

From massages to manicures, virtual reality is making its way into spas, salons, and even therapy due to its positive effects on mental and physical health.
Photos courtesy of Bellacures, Esqapes, Lifehood, and Therapy Lab

Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create a simulated three-dimensional environment that participants are able to interact with. In addition to visual effects, VR simulates multiple senses like hearing, touch and smell for a more immersive experience. In the past, VR was mostly associated with gaming and entertainment, but recently it has crossed over into the beauty and wellness space, where it is showing promise to decrease stress, improve relaxation, and more.

Esqapes Immersive Relaxation in Los Angeles is the world’s first virtual reality massage center founded by Micah Jackson in July 2019. Each session is 30 minutes long and transports guests to a place of relaxation via environments such as an oceanfront resort and a Moroccan paradise, which have been specifically designed to help people de-stress.

“What makes Esqapes even more unique is that each environment has been paired with extra sensory components such as fans to give the sensation of wind or breeze, infrared heating lamps to mimic the sun or a fireplace, and aromatherapy scents,” Jackson says. “All of these inputs are synced together and the brain believes that you’re in the environment. It really does transport you to another place.”

Photos courtesy of Bellacures, Esqapes, Lifehood, and Therapy Lab

Lifehood is a new massage concept in Culver City that opened in January 2020 and offers a VR add-on service to go along with its chair massages. The experiences feature 360-degree views of four different California-based environments, ranging from Laguna Beach at sunset to a forest in Mammoth, which are paired with audio for an additional layer of immersion.

“Spending time in nature is healing and meditative, and can induce a state of physiologic relaxation,” says Amy Krofchick, founder of Lifehood. “We decided to offer VR as part of our experience so that our clients could take themselves away from the stress of everyday life and experience the meditative healing that nature brings.”

At Bellacures in Beverly Hills, customers are transported to destinations in Hawaii, New York and Iceland during an hour-long immersive Virtual Reality Mani Pedi experience. The VR headset and headphones are paired with personalized treatments that incorporate corresponding themed scents and textured products, such as coffee scrubs and coconut-scented lotion, to bring each destination to life.

“We really think that virtual reality is an incredible and futuristic way to transform the salon experience,” says Gerard Quiroga, owner of Bellacures. “A majority of our clients come to Bellacures to unplug and escape the day, and this service really enhances that. It’s almost like a mini vacation for them!”

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VR is being used in therapy to help people overcome various phobias. At Therapy Lab, which provides science-based therapy in Los Angeles, Face Your Fear with VR is a unique form of exposure therapy that delivers the latest clinical application of VR for fears such as claustrophobia and public speaking.

“When you see the ‘scary’ thing through VR, the visual cues create all the panic symptoms like sweating, shallow breathing and shakiness,” explains Dr. Chandler Chang, founder and clinical director of Therapy Lab. “When exposed to that for about 20 minutes in session, that response gradually subsides and you feel fine. We can then heighten the intensity of the VR content in the next session. Once you view the VR content without a panic response, then you’re ready to head out and experience the stimulus in real life. VR can be incorporated into treatment for just about any fear or phobia you can think of!”

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