Originally posted: May 2009, updated March 2023
I had a wonderful—and surprising—spa treat on a cold, rainy day near Sligo, Ireland: a warm seaweed bath at Celtic Seaweed Baths (now Voya Seaweed Baths). In the past, I’ve had what American spas call “kelp baths” before, and they usually consist of a tub filled with water turned greenish from dried kelp powder.
However, a seaweed bath in Ireland is a completely indigenous experience, which involves getting into a tub of warm water with three- to four-foot strands of fresh-harvested kelp right off the Atlantic coast. Bathing with olive-brown chunks of underwater plants is a cross between a mermaid experience and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” No matter how you consider it, though, your skin and hair feel marvelously silky afterward.
My 50-minute treatment started with a 15-minute steam to open my pores. Then I gingerly climbed into the tub where the seaweed (Fucus serratus) was floating. The water and tub are extremely slippery from the seaweed, so I clung to the grip rails. Thankfully, there was a rubber, “no-skid” mat on the bottom of the tub.
Once I’d navigated the slippery tub, the experience of steeping in the rusty, tea-colored water and bobbing about with my seaweed felt divinely relaxing. I massaged my tired traveler’s feet, did a few stretches, and submerged my head a few times so that my hair benefited from the kelp treatment, which is rich in minerals and vitamins.
After about 30 minutes in the bath, I hoisted myself out (remember: slippery!), showered, and dried off. I felt as limp and drifty as, well, seaweed! My skin felt soft and supple all over, and I was considerably more relaxed and warmed as well (the weather was harsh: cold, wind-driven rain).
You can find Ireland’s only indigenous spa therapy at Voya Spa (formerly Celtic Seaweed Baths) in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. A single-person 50-minute bath costs €35. Voya Spa also offers massages and other treatments.
Health Benefits of Seaweed Baths:
- Relaxes the muscles
- Infuses the skin with vital minerals (especially iodine) and antioxidants
- Acts as a moisturizer by forming a protective, gel-like layer on the skin
- Supports skin regeneration with some anti-aging properties
- Detoxifies the body
- Moisturizes hair and decreases static charge
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor
For information on visiting Ireland, browse Discover Ireland.