Game for 'prata' massage?

While some therapists use aromatherapy essential oils for their massages, Ms Yvette Chiang prefers roti prata dough.

Ms Chiang, 41, founder of Rustic Nirvana, now known as RN Spa, believes that rice flour dough is effective in expelling toxins from our bodies.

And it's not a marketing gimmick, she maintained.

Ms Chiang, who has been in the spa business for over a decade, feels that it's necessary to come up with new therapies to survive.

She said: "Technology is always improving and new products are constantly being launched in the industry.

"Consumers are always looking at new ways to enhance their beauty. Therefore, we need to do our research and travel overseas to search for new beauty treatments."

Ms Chiang believes that she was the first to use dough for massage.

"The therapist will use a green aventurine quartz (a type of mineral rock) to press the pressure points of your shoulders, upper and lower back, before placing the dough on these points and spreading them out flat like a prata," she said.

"Placing the dough on the stressed points on the back reduces oxygen flow, which in turn increases the expulsion of toxins in those areas."

She has been offering the treatment for several years and it has proven popular with her clients. It even won her an award from Women's Weekly magazine in 2008.

RN Spa also offers a "bah kut teh" hot bath.

Its general manager, Miss Shirley Tan, 30, said the bath is associated with the Chinese soup dish because of its colour and the smell of the herbs used.



The bath is said to enhance women's wellness, such as relieving menstrual cramps and improving sexual well-being.

These unusual therapies can help spas build a brand name and differentiate them from the rest, industry players said.

This is crucial as many consumers are wary of spas after the spate of sudden closures in 2010.

Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) executive director Seah Seng Choon noted that the rash of spa closures left consumers stranded with unused credit in prepaid packages they had bought.

Case reported recently that 1,565 complaints were lodged against beauty salons last year.

Though this is almost a 50 per cent drop from the 3,111 cases in 2010, the beauty sector still received the most complaints, compared to other sectors like renovation, telecommunications, travel and maid agencies.

Mr Seah said the complaints were still mainly about salons' hard-selling tactics and their failure to honour their prepaid services. To protect consumers and help the beauty industry, Case setup the Case Trust accreditation scheme for the spa and wellness industry in June 2009.

Last July, it was made compulsory for CaseTrust accredited spas to have insurance for their customers, so that the latter can get refunds should the spas close down.

Ikeda Spa is one of 189 accredited spa and wellness businesses with Case. Its director Eric Tan, 34, also believes in creating unusual therapies to stand out from the crowd.

Indeed, its Geisha Organic Facial won an award at the Singapore's Women Weekly Spa Awards 2011.

Its key ingredient? Nightingale droppings, which is a beauty secret among geishas in Japan, said Mr Tan.


Best-selling treatment

'Best-selling treatment'

While he declined to give figures, he said the 90-minute facial - powered by nightingale droppings and which promises a fairer skin tone and radiant glow - is one of his best-selling facial treatments.

Fashion designer and pop icon Victoria Beckham is reportedly a fan of this ancient Japanese beauty secret.

But not everyone can stomach the idea of having bird poop spread on their faces, said sales director Velline Atmaja.

The 32-year-old Singapore permanent resident said: "It sounds disgusting... They do not entice me (even if they're scientifically proven) and I will definitely not pay for them. "I am all for traditional massages which have been proven to be effective.

"I will consider paying for treatments that are supported by technological advances, like laser therapy.

"I have heard of yoghurt and chocolate wraps, which I can accept, but I can't imagine having bird poop spread on my face."

But sales executive Sabrina Chew, 32, who is always on the lookout for new therapies, said: "It's interesting and unusual to use prata for massage.

"Before I tried it, I imagined the prata would be warm and it'd be a comfortable experience. And the massage lived up to my expectations."

Watch RazorTV's video on the Weirdest Spas in Singapore: