This ancient Indian medicine has been around for more than 3,000 years. We check out the best local spas
The Udvarthanam slimming massage
4/5 What’s it like? As you enter the Breath and Health spa on Al Wasl Road, you’re greeted with wooden floors and a relaxing environment. An appointment begins with a comprehensive ayurvedic doctor’s consultation – ours covered everything from diet to our bowel movements, plus a spine assessment showing which vertebrae were under strain. Then comes the slimming massage, which is intense (no pain, no gain). The masseuse scrubs every inch of your skin with a herbal treatment to disrupt fatty deposits, then applies what smells like eucalyptus oil. The scrubbing is full-on, but is guaranteed to leave skin smooth. Our visit ended with an amazing massage – the doctor had told the therapist about our back problems, and she focused on our sore spots – followed by a visit to the steam room.
Does it work? Our skin felt incredibly smooth for days afterwards.The cellulite-busting treatment’s not for everyone, but this is a genuine ayurveda clinic that goes the extra mile. Also, the 10-minute massage at the end was one of the best we’ve had. Breath and Health, Villa 1080, Al Wasl Road (04 348 9940). Dhs500 for 90 minutes
The ayurvedic facial
4/5 What’s it like? The Kempinski’s spa is a contemporary space that specialises in ayurvedic massages and facials. There’s no consultation beforehand (suggesting this is an off-the-shelf facial) but it’s still pretty comprehensive: apparently it’s great for deep cleansing. It kicks off with a gentle cleanse and facial massage to ensure skin is squeaky-clean, followed by a rose-water spritz to tone and rejuvenate. Skin is then smeared with an orange-peel lotion, which smells divine and gives skin a vitamin C boost, before a rather painful extraction (it does the job, but boy does it sting!) A face mask containing gold particles is then applied. The therapist explains that gold is great for anti-ageing – it’s recommended for women over the age of 30 – and helps to banish impurities. Finally, you’re given a soothing hand massage.
Does it work? As facials go, this was pretty relaxing and our skin felt super-clean, if a little raw from the extraction. We’re not sure how closely it adhered to ayurvedic principles (a pre-treatment consultation would have reassured us), but the natural products were a definite plus point. Softouch Spa, Kempinski Mall of the Emirates (04 409 5909). Dhs600 for 60 minutes
The Kizhi hot bundle massage
3/5 What’s it like? Nestled in the heart of Jumeirah, the Rochester Wellness Centre feels more like a clinic than a luxury spa, but if you have aches and pains then the Kizhi massage is meant to be particularly effective for treating arthritis, swelling, sports injuries and joint pain. Treatments take place in a hut out the back, which has a rustic feel that’s different to most Dubai spas. The massage therapist focuses on your most vulnerable areas and starts by massaging medicated hot oils into the skin, then rubbing cotton bags filled with herbs and spices over your joints and muscles – this is no typical massage. The lack of towels and undergarments could be a little disconcerting for some, and it will take a couple of showers to get rid of the smell of the herbs used.
Does it work? We admit that the clinic isn’t the most relaxing we’ve visited, but after the massage you’ll feel as though each muscle has received the care and attention it needed (we certainly ached the following day). Rochester Wellness Centre, Villa 54, Al Wasl Road (04 394 2257). Dhs350 for 50 minutes
The Shirodhara head treatment
4/5 What’s it like? Once you eventually locate Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre in Oud Metha’s sandlands (tip: print off the map), you’ll find a slightly run-down complex. But press on, for the Shirodhara treatment is both timeless and tremendously soothing. It involves lying down on a massage table and having your eyes covered by a towel, while a cocktail of oils (sesame seed for stress) are poured across your forehead for half an hour. It sounds strange, and for the first few minutes it is: you’ll feel tingles down your neck and spine as you struggle to resist the urge to wipe the oil away. But once you’re in the zone, you’ll relax so much you may nod off (we did).
Does it work? We entered the centre with a terrible headache and nausea. We left with a clear head and silky-smooth hair. Bonus! Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, Oud Metha (04 335 1200). Dhs750 for three hour-long sessions