Detoxing is a sexy word in 2019. It’s tossed around casually as a marketing tactic, slapped on everything from chia bars to dry shampoos. While this makes us all a little more wellness conscious, it can also be confusing. The dilution of the word has resulted in a widespread misuse of it.
So what does detoxing really mean? By definition, according to Merriam-Webster®, detoxing is “a regimen or treatment intended to remove toxins and impurities from the body.” This can also apply to your skincare routine: you might get a detoxifying facial or try a detox mask.
That said, when it comes to health, “Everyone thinks detoxing is dieting,” notes Christina Gogniat Droz, a dietician at Clinique La Prairiesm. “When everyone says they want to detox, they mean they want to lose weight, because the word has become trendy. But ‘detox’ comes from the word ‘toxin.’ So to detoxify means to eliminate toxins that have accumulated in the body.”
When done correctly, through a medley of diet, fitness, and beauty changes, it can be an effective way to feel healthier, gain energy, and have radiant skin. But it’s not a lifestyle — it’s something that should be done for a specific amount of time, often under the supervision of professional care. Clinique La Prairie, a famous luxury spa in Clarens, Switzerland, is one such place where the elite hide out to authentically detox for a week. The hotel is a bucket-list experience (trust me, I was there), thanks to breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, cutting-edge spa technology, and a host of doctors, estheticians, dieticians, and fitness trainers who offer guests personalized care throughout their stay. The Master Detoxsm is one of the signature programs, which includes six nights at the hotel, all meals, and eight spa treatments (for approximately $15,102 per attendee).
If that’s within your price range, you’re a blessed soul. But if not, don’t feel discouraged. After visiting the spa, I met with a bevy of onsite professionals and took copious notes. Below, I’m sharing many of the secrets from this renowned detox program. Keep reading for the detox-driven advice you probably haven’t heard.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment or supplement.]
Try a Body Peel and Body Wrap Treatment
“People often forget about the body because it’s hidden with clothes,” says esthetician Isabel Alves. “But when you do a detox, it should include the body — not just the face.” While there are many detoxifying body treatments available at spas or on beauty retailers’ shelves, the combination of a peel and wrap seems to be the ideal recipe for success. “It’s a good kickoff treatment when starting a detox, because it releases toxins,” she adds. “If you start a detox program and toxins are still inside, you won’t have as good results.”
Step one is a full-body peel, which removes dead skin from the surface. “This makes skin ready to receive whatever you do next, like a wrap,” Alves explains. “If you have dry skin on your elbows and heels, it means your skin is stuck or dead and needs to be released. Releasing it lets the skin breathe.” The Clinique La Prairie spa exclusively features products from the locally made, high-end skincare line Swiss Perfection®, so the Cellular Body Exfoliator ($140) is what’s used in this treatment. (Those looking for a less-pricey option can try the Paula's Choice® Resist™ Skin Revealing Body Lotion ($28).)
The body wrap (part two!) is when you’ll physically sweat out and eliminate those toxins. Can you just do a wrap? Sure. But it won’t be as effective without the peel, notes Alves. “If you don’t do a peel, then the mud wrap (which is seaweed mixed with water from Clinique La Prairie) won’t get inside and go as deep,” she explains. “[When you do it right], you can really release the toxins. You absorb minerals and benefits of the mud, so you have this ‘aha’ release feeling. It’s like a day after the beach and going into the sea. People say they feel one kilo lighter.”
During the treatment, a bed is warmed, seaweed mud is applied, and you’re cocooned in a plastic wrap. This makes you sweat off and dissolve more of that dead skin. Another benefit is that your skin will immediately feel softer with even texture, making this the perfect service to try before a big event or vacation.
“At home, you can do a body peel with a product, but the detox mud would be hard to find,” Alves says. She recommends doing it at a spa. “If someone does it to you, you will have better results because you can’t reach every area. The specialists will rub and move the skin in particular ways to help the product be penetrated deeper.”
Clean Up Your Diet
While many people think of Clinique La Prairie for the spa, it is equally celebrated for its outstanding restaurant. Meals prepped by Chef Filippo Tawil are included as part of your stay, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner feeling like events in their own right. Vegan ravioli is deconstructed to look like a Jackson Pollock piece d'art — seemingly every vegetable is turned into a creative form of carpaccio — and comfort favorites are guilt-free (like ramen!). When you sign up for the Master Detox, you’re put on a weeklong elimination diet that won’t feel as restrictive as it sounds.
The plan begins with four days of veganism, then fish, lean proteins, and eggs are added in for the rest of the week. Healthy, gluten-free carbohydrates, such as brown rice and quinoa, are offered throughout the week. Alcohol, coffee, red meat, dairy, animal fats, and processed sugar are out. Fruit is allowed, but limited to one portion per meal. Special “detox teas” are essential to this process (but more on this later!). Supplements are also advised, but do not take any without consulting with a doctor.
“This formula works because when you cut out the main things that complicate the work of the liver (such as alcohol, caffeine, red meat, and sugar), then the liver and kidneys are put at rest and can eliminate the toxins that have accumulated,” explains dietician Gogniat Droz. Everything on the menu is meant to be easily digested.
The meal plan is also not about counting calories or pounds on the scale. “We don’t do diets under 1,300 calories, because you can’t give your body enough protein, vitamins, and minerals, which are helpful for detoxing,” says Gogniat Droz. “Again, a lot of people think detox means losing weight — but it’s not. Because the food is light, you may lose weight (like one pound), but that’s not the point. It’s about bringing your body nutrients while detoxing the liver and kidneys.”
She also advises to eat slower. Many of us Americans are guilty of scarfing down breakfast over the kitchen counter or a salad hunched over our desks. In Europe, most people take lunch breaks — often sitting down at home or at a restaurant with coworkers — to enjoy eating meals. “It takes at least 20 minutes for the brain to know you’re full and control your portion, because the brain gets a signal when you’re satisfied,” Gogniat Droz adds. “This is called mindful eating.”
Even if you can’t hire a private chef à la the spa, you can try a similar elimination diet. But note that it’s meant to be done once or twice a year, with the specific goal of detoxing in mind, not year round. And before you change up your eating plan, chat with your doctor to make sure it’s a fit for your lifestyle and nutritional needs.
Drink Special Detox Teas
The meal plan is one part of the internal detox method at Clinique La Prairie. Additionally, guests who are on it will be encouraged to drink “potent teas.”
“In addition to foods that detox, there are also plants that detox,” Gogniat Droz says. These special plants are used in teas, custom created by an herbalist at Clinique La Prairie. “Teas help you eliminate toxins by going to the bathroom. While you can do this with water, these teas have the right mix to stimulate the elimination process of the liver and kidney.”
There are two teas offered at Clinique La Prairie — one is called the “kidney tea” and it’s meant for the morning. “This is so you urinate more in the first part of the day and don’t have to get up at night to go,” notes Gogniat Droz. This tea contains a blend of rosemary, birch, nettle, horsetail plant, solidago, lemongrass, and raspberry.
The “liver tea” is your after-lunch drink, and it’s pretty self-explanatory for what it helps to stimulate. “This makes [detoxing] more comfortable for the person,” Gogniat Droz says. If you plan to try this at home, look for teas with dandelion leaf, thistle, balm, marjoram, lavender, and elderberry.
Like the meal plan, the teas are only supposed to be consumed for a few weeks a couple of times a year when you’re detoxing. “The detox teas are meant to be boosters that help you along the way,” explains Gogniat Droz. “They can give you energy if you’re cutting out something like caffeine.”
It is recommended to consult with your doctor before trying detox teas. That said, regular herbal teas are a fantastic way to curb cravings, add antioxidants into your diet, and increase your water intake all year long.
Focus on Low-Stress Workouts
If you’re planning on hitting the gym hard during your detox week, you might want to slow down — literally. “When you’re detoxing you don’t want to burn too many calories, so you want to do something that’s relaxing (instead of cardio training),” explains Evelyne Frugier, a top-tier trainer at Clinique La Prairie. “Do exercises to stretch your body, muscles, and fascia, and relax the mind.
Breathing is also an important aspect of exercising while detoxing. “Focus on it,” Frugier advises. “When you follow the breath, you follow a rhythm and it helps you relax — like meditation.”
You may be wondering, how does feeling zen help you detox? Frugier breaks it down: “When you detox, you want to release heavy metals and lower stress. When you’re stressed, your cortisol goes up and visceral stomach fat goes up. When cortisol is lower, you have less fat and stomach bloat. [You want to] lower your cortisol, but still get endorphins.”
Frugier’s favorite workout to achieve these benefits is one that will make you feel like you’re floating. “The best exercise for detox is aerial yoga, because it relaxes you and you can focus on breathing,” she says. “Aerial yoga is done on a hammock with grips. You use the hammock to relax, stretch, and do yoga positions — but you’re supported. It’s more relaxing than doing yoga on the floor with equipment.”
If you can’t do aerial yoga, she recommends low-impact workouts, such as Nordic walking, Pilates, and regular yoga.
It’s not only about what you do, but also where you do it. “Workout outside if you can,” she advises. “Outdoor exercise is good because you get fresh air, which is also better for breathing.”
And when you do it counts, too! “Try to work out before breakfast, because you’re not digesting anything while you’re working out,” Frugier explains. “It’s not to burn calories — the goal is still breathing, stretching, and relaxing.” I personally wake up starving, so I inquired about people like me. “Always keep some dried fruits on hand in case you get hungry,” she says. “If you need to eat something, try dried dates and figs for a bit of fiber and natural sugar.” That said, you should always consult with your doctor first and do what’s best for you and your blood sugar.
Invest in a Purifying Facial
You didn’t think we’d forget about your face, right? Likely after eating clean and drinking more water, your skin will naturally start to have more radiance. But if you want to amplify it, treat yourself to a purifying facial.
“When looking for a detoxifying facial, look for one that really cleanses the skin,” explains Alessandra Trento, an esthetician at Clinique La Prairie. “The skin is connected with hormones and your liver, and the skin can tell a lot about what’s going on inside of your body.”
There are key steps and ingredients to consider when booking these types of facials. The first one is an old-school technique that continues to deliver results — steam. The theory behind this is simple: steam makes you sweat, which gets the toxins out. It physically starts the process of opening up the pores.
“It’s important to open the pores and clean them deep inside,” Trento says. “When this happens . . . the skin can better absorb the products we apply later.” She also explains that steaming the skin speeds up its metabolism (remember, your skin is an organ). This is helpful for keeping skin looking youthful, since cells can regenerate faster.
Once the skin is ready to absorb products, what you apply matters more than ever. At Clinique La Prairie, the focus is on pumping the skin with products that offer anti-aging benefits. Trento advises to look for formulas contains a blue flower called iris germanica. “It’s a regenerating flower,” she explains, and it’s also a hero ingredient in the Swiss Perfection® skincare line. “When the flower dies, a bulb grows again, and it comes back.” It has a similar effect on skin, offering anti-aging benefits.
She’s also a fan of applying collagen to the skin during this type of facial. “When you apply collagen to the skin, it stimulates fibroblasts which stimulates more collagen,” Trento notes. “After you detox, the skin is cleaner, so you absorb the collagen better. And collagen is key for anti-aging.”
For an at-home version, try the Pixi by Petra® Collagen Plumpkin™ Face Mask ($22), which you can leave on your skin overnight.
Book a Body Massage
Among your eight spa treatments during the Master Detox, three of those will be massages. The body-rubbing technique can have incredible detox benefits when done one of these three ways.
Visceral Body Massage
Often referred to as visceral manipulation, this medical massage focuses on stimulating your organs. Scary as it might sound, the process is actually quite relaxing: a therapist gently massages your belly, focusing on your organs — such as the big intestine, liver, kidney, pancreas, and gallbladder. This all stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps with (you guessed it) detoxing.
“The massage is soft and relaxing,” Trento says. “Sometimes people fall asleep. You can feel the pressure of hands but not discomfort.”
That’s not the end of the journey. “After, you might have a reaction, especially in the big intestine (it depends on the person), and it will make you go to the bathroom,” she adds. “When you go to the bathroom, you physically detox.”
The massage is especially effective when paired with those aforementioned detox teas. “They works in tandem,” Trendo notes.
Reflexology Foot Massage
Don’t expect the same treatment you get during your monthly pedicure. When reflexology is done correctly on the foot, it actually works the organs that help you to detox.
“There are parts of the foot connected to your big intestine, liver, and other vital spots,” Trento explains. “During a reflexology massage, we push hard on the points with pressure, which stimulates the nervous system.”
And once again, it can also help you go to the bathroom. “It also helps the nervous system, lymphatic system, and immune system work better,” Trento says. Who knew this could all happen by pressing on a couple of specific points?
And finally, there’s the good ol’ signature massage (a.k.a. the traditional massage you’re probably familiar with). What might be news to you is how much this relaxing rub can also help with detoxing.
“A signature massage [at Clinique La Prairie] cares for muscles and joints, and it [acts as] lymphatic drainage of the entire body,” Trento says. “When your body drains, you detox, because the lymphatic system is connected with immunity and hormones.”
OK, but that’s not all — it has even more benefits. “It helps get drugs and alcohol out of the body,” she continues. “Or if people are stressed and overeat, this can be a good cure, as it helps the body clean out a bit. Plus, it helps the body relax. When the body is more relaxed, it is cleaner because the lymphatic system is more relaxed.” (Think back to how relaxing exercises have a similar mind-body-detox effect.)
When done in synergy, these steps — the massages, wraps, peels, teas, clean eating, low-impact workouts, etc. — can truly help your body release toxins. Plus, you’ll have earned the right to say you’ve detoxed in the true sense of the word!
With any treatment or program, always consult with your doctor to make sure it’s right for you.
Complimentary treatments were provided to the author for the purpose of writing this article.