In the Midst of a Spa Boom

Mexico is rumoured to have more spas than any other country, from hole-in-the-walls to the most exclusive resort spas imaginable. You can experience it all in Mexico.

By Madeline Milne
Originally published in Mexi-Go! Magazine

Every day more travelers leave behind their routines to soak up the warm Mexican sun and escape the stress of big city life. Outpacing this growth are the number of spas opening their doors to meet the demands of visitors seeking alternative solutions to looking and feeling their best. Often voted in the top ten for best spas and resorts in the world, Mexico offers travelers and residents alike a wealth of options, but it is pertinent to remember that not all spas are created equal.
“Due to unprecedented demand for spa treatments of all kinds, we find ourselves in the midst of a spa bubble. North Americans have recently caught on to what other countries have been doing for years, indulging in a two-week vacation to pamper themselves and heal from inside out,” said Paulene McNair, a registered nurse and Toronto native.
But how does one decide on the right spa? And what is the difference between the several types of spas there are to choose from, ranging from a day spa to the medical spa? Spas in Mexico not only offer the typical services of face masks, massages and manicures but also New Age and folklore remedies including aromatherapy and herbal baths, used by the Mayans, as well as advanced medical services such as bio-cell treatments.
“Health spa is an outdated term. In response to growing demand, there are now destination spas, resort spas, day spas, holistic spas, wellness spas, medi-spas, and medical spas,” said Sharon Sedgwick, long time spa consultant and current owner of Spa Itza in Playa del Carmen. “Medi-spas and Medical Spas have licensed physicians to undertake procedures whereas a wellness spa is in the German tradition of spas,” she explained.
There is a very thin line separating the various spas and types of services offered. “They all offer unique services and receive clients who swear by the treatments. But this is simply to pinpoint a potentially dangerous trend with demands for quality spa treatments – is there a parallel supply of qualified, experienced practitioners to provide these therapies?” McNair inquired.
Needless to say, spa hunters must know about the treatments in which they are interested and recognize who are licensed practitioners capable of providing the correct services. The other possibility is being duped out of your money or worse, receiving a potentially harmful treatment from an unqualified practitioner.
Spa consumers should take more precautions when receiving medical and experimental treatments at spas. Services like botox, intravenous vitamins and bio-cell treatments are more frequently offered in medi-spas or medical spas but could be provided in any type of spa adopting a new and catchy title. The jargon describing the different types of treatment can be confusing yet denote different levels of care. For example, a cosmetology refers to the use of creams and products such as a hydrating mask to enhance the exterior beauty of skin. A cosmeceutical, on the other hand, are medicines that contain active pharmaceutical ingredients (API’s) that should be prescribed by licensed physicians. While the former primarily involves the outer layers of skin, the latter impacts the deeper layers.
There are many therapies and medicines available in Mexico that either have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or are not practiced on a widespread basis. One such treatment offered at Mexican spas (for a much cheaper price than in the United States) is mesotherapy. This involves micro injections of conventional or homeopathic medicines into the middle layers of the skin to treat a variety of conditions. Some caveats when undertaking this treatment are to ensure that the physician inform you of all the drugs and medical technology which have been approved by the FDA. Also the practitioner should have proper accreditation. Lastly, you should choose a physician that you feel you can trust.
Dr. Carlos Baldwin, who practices mesotherapy and bio-cell techniques, explained the new paradigm in patient-physician relations that he practices: “The patient has to commit to you, the doctor, to be a partner in a life-long project.” Baldwin, who is a general practitioner, and member of the Mexican Society of Aesthetic Medicine and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, stresses the shift in mentality from fix-it to preventative medicine.
Travelers to Mexico can come to relax for a few weeks and enjoy economical spa treatments or even start off a new health trajectory. The important thing is to understand the treatments offered and to trust those offering them.


  1. I feel privileged to be responding to an article written by the newspaper editor, and writer of an article that was written as the editor of a travel magazine, for that magazine – both related to Mexico.

    Not being sure who the young lady is in the accompanying picture, I will be careful with my thoughts here. What I have noticed in the past several years in Puerto Vallarta, as stores selling Mexican products have closed, they are being replaced with spas and ladies providing massages . Around my timeshare resort, and along the Malecon , most shops have young ladies sitting outside the shop asking if you want a massage.

    My wife Loretta has always looked forward to having a massage during our annual vacations in PV. In the early years, at the tennis facilities at the Canto Del Sol Timeshare Hotel, when the tennis facilities was a franchise of the Australian world class player John Newcomb , their masseuse came by a small boat from Yelapa upon appointment.

    As a former tennis professional, I understand the benefits of the sauna and hot tub, and after a day of teaching and playing at the resorts where I was the pro, the heat did much to relieve the tension and muscle stiffness and soreness. My policy was no aerobic or stretching exercises on the court, or massages off the court. I knew of the problems of these exercises on the body, and of the various skin issues of many people. Warm ups consisted of court movement and balancing exercises .

    Wellness depends upon what you put into ones body, in the form of pure water and foods.

    Actually these issues also relate to body piercing like in vaccinations, and surgery , which I had always avoided.

    So one could understand my surprise when the evening prior to a tennis tournament, feeling flu like symptoms coming on, I stopped by a spa to rent their hot tub for an hour to help sweat a fever off. A young woman approached me in the lobby and asked which woman I wanted ? I replied that I was not interested in having a woman, but only use of their hot tub.

    To that I was told that there was already a couple in the hot tub, but the sauna was available, but first I had to have a massage. I do not arouse around woman besides my wife, and the lady soon saw that it was futile , and directed me to the sauna.

    To the surprise of all, the next day my fever was gone , and the tennis tournament and play was a success even though Loretta had not attended due to a performance with her band that had been scheduled on the same weekend. The life of the tennis pro is not always what most people would believe.

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