I had a wonderful—and surprising—spa treat on a cold, rainy day near Sligo, Ireland: a hot Celtic seaweed bath. I’ve had what Americans call “kelp baths” before, and they usually consist of a tub filled with water turned greenish from powdered made from dried kelp.

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, your skin and hair feel silky afterward.

Whole strands of fresh-harvested seaweed from the Irish sea turns bath water a rusty color, but the effects are great for the skin.

Strands of fresh seaweed from the Atlantic turn bath water a rusty color, but the effects are great for the skin.

My 50-minute treatment started with a 15-minute steam treatment 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 was done navigating 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 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—feeling as limp and drifty as, well, seaweed! And my skin felt soft and supple. And I was considerably more relaxed and warmed as well.

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  €30. 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, check Discover Ireland.

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