Spa Treatments That Went Nightmarishly Wrong
Spas are meant to be places of relaxation, where the stress, strain, and something else starting with 'S' in your life just disappears in a cloud of incense. Meant to be, because as these stories show, spa treatments have the potential to leave you off way worse than you were before you walked through the door ...
Two People That Contracted HIV, Got "Vampire Facials" At The Same Spa
In recent years, a new beauty trend has taken off among celebrities, influencers, and lifestyle websites like Goop called a 'vampire facial' -- in which a patient's blood is smeared across their face to benefit from some mystical age rejuvenation properties. It sounds insane, but would Goop support something like this if it was bullshit? Yes, a thousand times, yes.
As you can probably figure, science doesn't have a place in this process or the technique. But it should at least be involved in the clean-up, right?
In 2019, the New Mexico Department of Health announced that two people who received vampire facials at the VIP Spa in Albuquerque tested positive for the same strain of HIV. Unless they were involved in the same unprotected three-way, that means the spa was more than likely the origin site of their infection.
According to the DOH, the issues with this spa -- which has since closed -- were first raised after it failed a health inspection and was found to be putting clients at risk of contracting bloodborne infections including HIV, Hep B, and Hep C.. The two cases of HIV were discovered after a sweep of the spa's client list by the DOH; during which time they tested the blood of 100+ people that received a treatment. Free counseling was offered to anyone afflicted -- even though the only thing that could really prevent this from happening in the future is deleting Instagram off of everyone's phones.
A Woman Lost Her Toenails After Getting a Fish Pedicure
On the face of it, dunking your toes into a vat full of fish with the express intention of having them eat your skin is a bad idea. We've seen that horror movie, and there's no way it doesn't end with losing a leg. However, in reality ... uh, yeah, actually, that's a fair assessment.
According to a 2018 case report published in JAMA Dermatology, a twenty-something woman lost all her toenails after a 'fish pedicure' -- albeit not in the way you'd suspect.
A few months after having her Finding Tarantino treatment, her toenails stopped growing -- and shortly after, starting falling out. Her doctor lay the blame at the feet of the pedicure. It isn't known precisely how the fish did this because this is the first reported case of fish causing toenailfallout-itis (which in proper science words, is known as 'onychomadesis'). It's possible the pedicure was so traumatizing to the nails that they responded by falling out. Which to be fair, what else were they supposed to do? Shut off their phones and spend all day shitposting on Twitter? That's the brain's strategy for coping with trauma, not toenails.
The thing is, even before this happened, fish pedicures weren't exactly the safest form of spa treatments. They've been linked to many fungal and bacterial infections caused by unclean water or fish with mouthfuls of dead skin, then being used to munch on someone else's. It also isn't uncommon for fish pedicure spas to accidentally stock their tanks not with a small, toothless variety of guppy, but a similar-looking species that can grow teeth and draw blood.
We're not your mom, we're not going to tell you how to live your life, but if you're desperate to have an animal gnaw your skin off, smother your feet in raw meat and dangle them in front of a raccoon. At least they're honest about how badly they'll fuck you up.
A Spa Worker Froze to Death Trying Out Cryotherapy
Back in ye olden days (the 1990s), cryogenics was touted as a way for obscenely-rich celebrities to survive into the future. Now it's the 2020's, and things are dumber than ever, so cryogenics is back as a spa treatment. Which makes sense because anyone that takes a cryogenic dip today isn't going to survive the apocalypse, so much as melt like an ice cube in the bouillabaisse that is our molten, sunken planet.
This spa version of cryogenics is called cryotherapy. If you're interested in cosplaying as Mr. Freeze's genitals, it involves stripping off and locking yourself in a chamber cooled to -240 degrees Fahrenheit. If that sounds incredibly dangerous and/or scientifically dubious, congratulations, you're not the target audience for cryotherapy. And if you don't think it sounds incredibly dangerous and/or scientifically dubious, you might want to carry on reading and see if we can't change your mind a little.
In October 2015, Las Vegas Police Dept. were called to a spa specializing in cryotherapy one morning after an employee opening up stumbled across the frozen body of their co-worker, Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, inside one of the spa's cryotherapy machines. According to police reports, Ake-Salvacion had decided to indulge in a little after-hours cryotherapy while closing up alone the previous night and wound up trapped inside the chamber, where, with no-one to help her, she died.
What makes Ake-Salvacion's death even stranger is that, according to the (now-closed) spa's website, each of their cryotherapy chambers was equipped with a safety feature that would've allowed her to escape the chamber at any point during her session. However, as she didn't trip this, it appears that Ake-Salvacion entered the chamber and was immediately overwhelmed.
NYC's "Spa Castle" is a Spa Nightmare
Between the subway, the cost of living expenses, and rats lying in wait to steal your pizza, New York City is a stressful place to live. So when in 2014, an all-inclusive spa, 'Spa Castle' opened in Queens (aka Spider-Man Country), there was briefly hope that everyone in the city could be chilled the eff out before the stress caused them to drop dead.
Except, it didn't work out that way because visiting Spa Castle is a recipe for a stress-related embolism. In 2016, a six-year-old girl nearly drowned in the pool after her hair became trapped in an underwater vent that, according to reports, had modified to draw "excessive suction." In the aftermath, Spa Castle closed its pools pending an investigation, which is just as well considering that a month later, two locals sued Spa Castle alleging that a prior visit to the venue's hot tubs had left them with third and second-degree burns.
That's not the only problem with the water, either. In the same month, the New York Post revealed that the place has a huge problem with people having sex in the pools. "We open at 6 am, and lots of strippers come here after work to unwind," an employee said. "There's lots of skinny dipping, and the girls are making out with each other and partying. It looks like the set of a porn movie. Practically every day, couples are caught having sex in the indoor and outdoor pools. They think they are being sly about it, but they're not. When you see somebody on someone's lap bouncing up and down, and the jets aren't turned on, you know what's happening."
Though nothing is going to beat the horror scene which greeted one spa-goer when while in the outdoor hot tub, she felt something brush past her foot ... and on investigating, found the body of an elderly man. According to medical examiners, he had suffered an undescribed medical emergency before slipping peacefully beneath the waves -- although we're not going to lie, the tagline "So relaxing you might die!" would certainly get us through the door.
A New Zealand Woman's Lung Was Punctured By an Acupuncture Needle
In March 2019, a woman in New Zealand decided to pay a visit to her local acupuncture clinic, in the hope of alleviating a severe pain in her shoulders. To this end, the acupuncturist inserted two needles into an area at the top of her shoulders -- an area known in Chinese medicine as the Jian Jing pressure point. Only, when the needles were inserted, it wasn't so much therapeutic as extremely painful and, according to the patient, felt "extremely deep."
She still completed the half-hour treatment but was struck by "right-sided chest pain and shortness of breath" after the acupuncturist removed the needles. Chalking this up to the evil spirits leaving her body, she left for home -- where shortly afterward, she was admitted to the emergency room with a bad case of lung collapse. As it turns out when the acupuncturist had acupunctured her shoulder, the needle had pierced her right lung. Then, when the needles were removed, gas was released into her chest cavity, which had caused her left lung to collapse as well.
The terrifying thing? This isn't an uncommon injury when it comes to acupuncture. According to a study by the World Health Organisation, this particular treatment at the Jian Jing pressure point accounts for a staggering number of acupuncture-related lung collapses. This isn't surprising considering that at this point on the body, the lung is less than half an inch below the surface of the skin, meaning that any form of acupuncture at this spot runs a high risk of being incredibly dangerous. The acupuncturist was later disciplined for not informing the patient of these well-known dangers. Though, if your thing is having needles plunged into your body, a health warning isn't exactly going to dissuade you.
Top Image: Studio72/Shutterstock