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NEW YORK — As the $20 billion dollar spa and medical spa industries continue to grow, the blur between medical and more traditional spa treatments is increasing, and nowhere was that more apparent than last weekend’s Spa & Resort and Medical Spa Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

With more than 4,000 attendees over the course of three days, the fourth annual show has tripled in size since its inception in 2002, according to Eileen Baird, industry vice president of Reed Exhibitions, the organizer of the show. “The aging Baby Boomers are becoming a lot more educated about health and wellness,” said Baird. “We’re at a point where disposable income levels are relatively high, and it’s becoming more of a priority to take care of ourselves.”

And whether consumers are looking to simply take care of themselves or delve deeper into more serious, innovative treatments, there were plenty of new options available, from a massage table featuring a robotic arm to clothing infused with amino acids.

Meilus Muscular Robotics featured a method called Meilus Muscular Therapy, which employs a robotic arm to loosen muscles and treat soreness and damage, similar to the effect of a deep-tissue massage, according to Mike Lamontanaro, president of the company. Patients lie on what looks like a massage table, and the robotic arm descends from above to work the muscles. “There’s a computerized sensor in the robotic arm that sends a message to determine the resistance,” he said. “As the muscle gives, it will go deeper.”

Another treatment featured at the show was CosmeticTrichoGenesis, a technology that is said to improve the appearance of thinning hair. Featuring a lounge chair-like couch, the contraption generates a pulsed electrostatic field via a hood that is placed over the client’s head. One 15-minute session in the chair per week for three months will produce visible results, according to the company. “It’s an approach to various topics of hair loss — from men and women to people undergoing chemotherapy,” said Dr. Morris Westfried, a medical consultant to the Current Technology Corp., which manufactures the chair. Dr. Westfried is also the director of the New York Hair Loss Center and a board certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. And while Dr. Westfried said the treatment stops hair loss in “96 percent” of patients, he admits it’s not a miracle cure. “It will get some hair back, but not everything,” he said.

This story first appeared in the May 27, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Wullstone Fire Far Infrared Energy is a form of massage therapy that uses infrared energy to improve circulation, relieve discomfort and pain and increase metabolism, according to the company. The Wullstone Custom Care System features several pad-like apparatuses that release heat. They can be used to massage different areas of the body, including the face, feet and shoulders. “It delivers the same energy that comes from the sun, without UVA or UVB rays,” said Carolyn Sajdecki, director of education for the company.

“The biggest thing for the event has been the proliferation of really higher-end skin care lines,” said Baird. One skin brand, Neocutis, sounds like it could be inspired by stem-cell research, featuring products made with the contents of human cells. Mark Lemko, senior vice president of the brand and also a biochemist, said that Neocutis sells mainly through medical spas and doctor’s offices. “There are really good active materials in the body of a cell,” said Lemko. “We actually grow human cells, and the contents of those cells are in the cream.” The company’s Bio-restorative Skin Cream features an ingredient called PSP, which contains fetal skin cells that include cytokines, growth factors and antioxidants, which have wound-healing properties, according to the company.

Other notables included Piscotta Cashmere, which offered wares — from

T-shirts to dresses — made from organic cow’s milk. Dolores Piscotta, designer and owner of the company, said that the fabric used in making the clothing was created via a process in which milk is dehydrated and spun into a fiber. “The fiber is made up of 32 percent amino acids,” said Piscotta. “While you’re wearing it, it’s absorbed into the skin, so it’s healthy.” And costly as well: Wholesale prices start at $55 for a T-shirt.

Future plans for the ever-expanding show include a Dallas education program, tentatively titled the Medical Spa Symposium, according to Baird. She said that one of the show’s chief purposes moving forward is to help establish standards for the industry, especially in terms of medical spas. “We’re now partnering with the Medical Spa Society,” she said. “We want to educate both [the spa and medical spa] industries, because they are evolving and there’s a great need for education as well as having to establish industry standards.”

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