Ionithermie Spa Treatment: We Try It on Norwegian Jewel

Two bowls of green spa treatment mixture

When someone tells me I can lose four to eight inches off my thighs and all I have to do is lay there, well, I'm all ears. So when I first began hearing about Ionithermie cellulite reduction treatments on cruise lines a couple of years ago, I couldn't help but pay attention.

It took a few cruises (and some extra pounds) before I was willing to take the plunge during a Norwegian Jewel cruise through Alaska. Why not? At a promotional price of $159 for the first treatment, it wasn't crazy pricey. If it actually worked, it would be a downright bargain. And if it didn't, my curiosity would at least be satisfied.

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What It Is

According to spa claims, Ionithermie, which was created in 1978, detoxifies the body at a cellular level, which results in healthier, smoother, more toned-looking skin. The treatment works by using algae, combined with conductive thermal clay and electrical stimuli. Algae contain mineral extracts and essential oils that are naturally detoxifying when applied to the human body. The combination of the heated clay with the electric stimuli push the detoxifying elements contained in the algae deep into the participant's layers of skin and stimulate their lymphatic circulation (our natural cellular waste disposal system), which can result in a temporary reduction of cellulite and muscle bloat. For more permanent results, up to 10 Ionithermie cellulite reduction treatments are usually recommended.

A detail image of the feet wrapped in during a sea mud full body wrap at a luxury spa.

Our Experience

The treatment began with a skinny 20-something spa therapist explaining the Ionithermie process to me. First I would be measured, then slathered with the special algae and clay, wrapped in plastic with electrodes stuck to me, and left to bake. At the end of this, I could expect to lose an inch off each thigh, maybe. The four to eight inches that's touted in the brochure? That only comes after a minimum of three sessions, she said.

An inch isn't so bad, I thought. I'll gladly take an inch of my thighs without doing 200 squats!

Measurement time: I am not a thin woman. I can barely stand to undress in the privacy of my bedroom all alone, so standing spread eagled while the specialist took my measurements wasn't entirely comfortable…to put it mildly. She was sweet, though, and treated the whole thing in a matter-of-fact manner -- no judgment.

Nonetheless, I was glad when it was algae time. After my thighs were covered in the green goop, I hopped up on the table where four electrodes were applied to my legs (two each). Plastic was then wrapped around my legs and the specialist left the room for some 30 minutes.

Now, I've had electric stimulation at the chiropractor's office but this felt nothing like that. Instead of a constant, pleasant buzz, the electrodes intermittently activated, causing my leg muscles to clench. It feels like you are tensing your muscles, and yet you're not doing anything. It's not painful or uncomfortable; it's just weird and not at all relaxing.

Thirty minutes later, my Ionithermie therapist returned, removed the electrodes and rinsed down my legs. Then she measured me again. What had I lost from each leg?

A half inch.

I guess I have to believe her, but my pants didn't feel any looser when I put them on and my thighs definitely didn't look any more toned.

Grey cosmetic clay in a bowl

Worth a Try?

I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity, but I won't be doing it again. Perhaps, if I'd been willing to pony up the $200 per treatment for the five or so more treatments they recommended, I would have seen a more significant difference.

What I really walked away with was not a magic cure-all but the reinforced knowledge that a daily 30 minutes in the gym would do me a lot more good than 30 minutes slathered with goopy algae.

Things to Note

Most cruisers who give Ionithermie a try will walk away with no side effects, though some might experience mild redness or irritation in the areas that were covered with the algae mixture. However, cruisers with an allergy to iodine should skip Ionithermie, as the algae used typically contain iodine.

It is worth repeating: Do not expect miraculous results after just one treatment. If you want to see a loss of four to eight inches you'll need to do up to 10 treatments -- and even then, there are no guarantees.

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