Does salt therapy help one feel better? Or is it a mere placebo? We try to find the answer to the above questions at Pablo Blau
Does halotherapy (salt therapy) actually work? I’m highly skeptical. Science has yet to prove its benefits, there are no evidence-based studies, and hospitals aren’t recommending patients to sit in a room and inhale salt particles to cure sinus or asthma. So why are luxury spas and facials, such as Pablo Blau, continuing to cite it as a health benefit?
Pablo Blau claims to replicate the environment of salt mines and caves in Europe, noting that salt miners “displayed younger and clearer skin”, and “seemed to be cleared of respiratory issues”. Of course, comparisons were made against those in coal and metal mining industries, instead of city dwellers who sat in cushy offices.
Just to be clear, inhaling solid salt particles are vastly different from doing a saltwater or saline rinse when one has a sinus infection. The latter breaks down excess mucus in the nose, and is an actual treatment prescribed by doctors.
While I’m not sure of where Pablo Blau originates (I’m told that it isn’t a Singaporean brand, and didn’t receive a response when I asked), it isn’t the first in Singapore to sell the benefits of sitting in a salt room. Ten years ago, Verita Advanced Wellness opened ‘Singapore’s first salt cave’, and lasted till 2014. In 2017, Breathya, which claimed to be Singapore’s ‘first halotherapy centre’ opened, then shuttered a year later. Elsewhere, luxury spas and gyms (such as Virgin Active) also offer salt rooms for relaxation.
Located at Raffles City Shopping Centre, Pablo Blau offers 14 different treatments, including specialised ones for the eyes, neck and décolletage, and back. There’s even a lunchtime peel that promises zero downtime. Each treatment takes between 30 to 90 minutes to complete, and will be further tailored to cater to your different skin type and condition.
For the purpose of my review, I’m having my facial done in one of the salt rooms. The rooms are located in a salt cave, which is fitted with two single loungers for customers to rest and relax. Outside, there’s a small changing area.
Treatment prices don’t differ, regardless of whether you choose to have it in a standard or salt room. All treatments are also carried out in the same manner. “We don’t offer special salt treatments, the benefits of lying in a salt room are enough,” I’m told. Customers in the standard room are also welcome to lounge in the salt cave before and after their treatment. Of course, most end up opting for the salt room to reap full benefits, which is why Pablo Blau is making plans to fill the rest of its rooms with salt too.
I don a pair of disposable booties and my therapist, Eyan, leads me into the salt cave. The floors and walls are covered in coarse salt, and my feet dig in eagerly. Each step I take is followed by a delightful crunch; I experience ASMR and am treated to a mild foot reflexology. This probably isn’t the purpose of a salt cave, but I’m enjoying it already. A generator sits at the side, grinding sea salt into smaller particles.
“Do you feel the difference,” Eyan asks as I sink into the lounger.
“No,” I reply. “I mean, I’ve been in here for barely five seconds.”
“But most people can feel a noticeable difference,” she insists. “It heals inflammation, sinus and acne.”
So that’s why I feel nothing – I suffer from none of these. I try to relax on the lounger, but am soon told to head to the treatment room for my session.
The salt in the treatment room is a lot finer than the one in the cave, which I’m told allows for much easier absorption. I’m not sure which treatment would best suit my skin type, and Eyan takes me through a skin assessment.
“When was your last facial,” she asks.
I don’t have an answer to that, and I’m wondering why I hadn’t paid a visit sooner. Facials are a delight. You’re forced to lie back and relax, and you always leave with better skin.
“Your skin is not hydrated. That’s why it’s oily. See these spots? You need to get them lasered now, you should have gone for facials, now you need to go to a clinic to get them removed. See your eye circles here? Your right cheek is also prone to sagging,” Eyan rattles on as she prods various parts of my face and neck, pointing out flaws I’d never noticed. She then attributes my clogged pores to the wearing of too much makeup and poor makeup removal habits.
Ah, that’s why I avoid facials. I’m always slapped with a reality check that I’ve never asked for. I’m happy to call a spade what it is, but I’m never keen on places that bring me down just so that they can claim to be my saviour.
She recommends the 60-minute Detox Skin Refined. It’s suitable for all skin types, and works best for dull, aging and uneven skin, which I apparently have. Key benefits include boosting hydration and regenerating balance. Consider me sold – what else do I have to lose, right?
The next hour or so is nothing short of blissful. Eyan cleanses my face, employing soothing, circular motions to help improve blood circulation. In between moisturising my face and using a steamer mist to open my pores, she performs a lymphatic drainage massage, then removes my dead skin cells. Both are equally relaxing, and lull me to a slumber. I don’t even flinch when she begins the extraction process.
Pampering makes up the final part of my session. Eyan liberally slathers collagen gel on my face, and while waiting for it to be absorbed, treats me to a hand massage. She then rubs a cooling detox gel onto my face and neck, massages it in, then uses a roller to further aid absorption. During the facial, she also massages my neck, shoulders, and at one point, even my cheeks.
I’ve to say, I’ve had treatments by numerous therapists, but Eyan’s hands are one of the softest and plumpest I’ve come across. I do my best to maintain my composure each time her fingers glide across my face. It’s a mixture of emotions; her technique is absolutely delightful, yet I’m embarrassed that she has to subject her hands to my dry, uneven skin.
Time flies by all too quickly and I take a look in the mirror. My face is soft and glowing, with my skin tone being brighter than when I first entered. I enquire about the products used, with the intention to leave with some, but am told that the products are only available for treatments, and Pablo Blau has no intention to sell them over the counter. I doubt this stance will remain though.
I sit up and place my bootie-covered feet on the ground, and remember that I’m in a salt room. Is it bad that I’ve taken no notice of my surroundings, which is meant to be the main selling point of the centre? For the rest of the afternoon, my skin maintains its matte sheen. What about the effects of sitting in a salt room? I still don’t believe that it works. That being said, salt room or not, it’s worth revisiting Pablo Blau for regular treatments.
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: +65 6261 6885