Every year, come Valentine’s Day, the love-struck masses spend more than $1 billion on chocolate products. The rich, creamy treat is more than just a token of affection, however. While chocolate has long been considered an indulgence by many cultures, more recently, scientists have found that cocoa products contain high levels of catechins and other powerful antioxidants that help fight aging and prevent disease. Additionally, the chemical phenylethylamine in chocolate has been linked to feelings of excitement, attraction, and pleasure. “Chocolate has a sweet and comforting scent and a creamy texture that’s great for spa treatments,” says Stephanie Baresh, director of marketing for Éminence Organic Skin Care. “Using chocolate makes a treatment feel like a real indulgence while doing good for the skin. Cocoa is high in flavonoids—those good-for-you phytonutrients that offer incredible antioxidant and protective benefits. It’s great for anti-aging and softens the skin.”
And unlike their edible counterparts that come wrapped in heart-shaped boxes, chocolate spa treatments won’t go straight to the thighs—unless they’re in the form of a calorie-free body wrap like the Heavenly Meltdown ($125, 50 minutes) body treatment at The Spa at Estancia at Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa (CA). The winter warm-up, which features FarmHouse Fresh products, includes a steaming butter brulee whole milk and chicory root body wrap followed by a sweet cream sea salt scrub exfoliation, a hot chocolate body wrap, and a sweet cream body milk lotion application. “Aside from chocolate’s ability to conjure up warm and delicious memories, the pure cocoa powder has a number of positive effects on the skin,” says Shannon McLinden, president of FarmHouse Fresh. “It has softening properties due to the large amount of antioxidant flavonoids that help fight and diffuse damage caused to skin by free radical damage that causes wrinkles, sagging, and dryness. Cocoa also contains epicatechin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.”
These properties make chocolate great for the face and body, and skincare educators say it does especially well as an ingredient for hydrating and protective treatments. At The Spa At The Hotel Hershey (PA), visitors smell the aroma of chocolate throughout the facilities, and spa operations manager Holly Wydra sings the praises of all chocolate treatments. “There are so many options,” she says. “You can use cocoa beans to exfoliate, cocoa butter to hydrate, and chocolate for its antioxidants. We offer manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, and body treatments.”
The menu’s popular new addition is the Cocoa Facial Experience (starting at $165, 75 minutes), which uses cocoa butter to fight free radicals and the signs of aging on delicate facial skin. Also, the cocoa butter that is used in Bernard Cassiere products moisturizes and hydrates, giving skin a needed boost in cold winter months.
It’s easy to market chocolate treatments, because who can resist dessert? Serve complimentary hot chocolate, salted caramels, or cookies alongside chocolate therapies. Lavish Salon & Day Spa (Riverside, CA) greets Éminence Chocolate Mint Facial ($90, 60 minutes) customers with a peppermint hot chocolate when they arrive and gives them a chocolate dipped candy cane upon departure. Wydra suggests incorporating seasonal food and beverage options into treatments and says many of the spa’s treatments conclude with a piece of Hershey’s chocolate or a Hershey’s Kiss. “Also, the entire month of February, called Chocolate-Covered February, is devoted to chocolate at Hershey, and we feature packages and discounted treatments on our chocolate menu,” she says. “This year, we are featuring the Chocolate Decadence Package, which includes our signature Chocolate Martini. Discounted treatments include our Cocoa Facial Experience and Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry and Chocolate Immersion treatments.”
McLinden says FarmHouse Fresh encourages clients to use large visuals to promote their chocolate services. “Nothing is more enticing than a large photo of steamed or melted chocolate,” she says. “It’s relatable, and guests know exactly the extraordinary experience they’ll enjoy—they can almost taste the treatment with just one visual.”
Pair chocolate treatments with Champagne or strawberries for a romantic spa escape in February and year round, Baresh suggests. Spirit Spa (Halifax, Nova Scotia) combines Éminence Mimosa Champagne Sugar Scrub and Chocolate Truffle Body Wrap in the Chocolate and Champagne Body Bliss ($149, 90 minutes) and the Chocolate and Champagne Pedicure ($79, 90 minutes). “As an ingredient for spa services, chocolate should be a treat for the senses,” says Baresh. No matter the time of year, chocolate-inspired services are sure to be a satisfying treat for all.