Are Booze Baths Another Fad?

After a long day, there’s almost nothing more satisfying than cracking open a bottle of beer or wine, sitting down, and putting your feet up. This ritual is the practice of many, and is largely considered a harmless way to de-stress from long days of work. But some take this procedure a step further and extol the benefits of the “booze bath”–which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

While bathing in alcoholic beverages seems luxurious at the very least, many are skeptical as to whether or not it offers any real health benefits. Red wine is a well-known antioxidant, perhaps pushed further into popular knowledge by what is known as the “French paradox.” French people–despite having a traditional diet that’s rich in saturated and animal fats–experience lower rates of coronary heart disease than much of the world. Numerous interpreters have equated the perceived phenomenon with red wine, but as it turns out, the relationship may be more of a correlation than a causation–with studies citing that it would take drinking 52 bottles of red wine a day in order to garner the ass-kicking-metabolism benefits of the beverage.

The active ingredient in red wine that makes it so healthy is called resveratrol, and it’s known to boost metabolism, heart rate, plus the general health of the cardiovascular system. Resveratrol is now sold in bottles along multi-vitamin aisles, although critics warn not to “buy the hype.”

Resveratrol is marketed as a superdrug, however, studies that suggest its benefits may actually be falsified. In 2012, a prominent researcher, Dipak K. Das, Ph.D., a leading researcher on Resveratrol, was found guilty of “145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data.” While it wasn’t clear if this ruling specifically involved his case studies on the antioxidant, over 20 of his reports have since been redacted from academic journals.

Indeed, the original study that showed a connection between the “French paradox” and the drinking of red wine has been criticized as an extreme generalization. Two studies by Richard Sinclair, one in 2006 and another in 2013, held promising results for those looking to fight cancer, aging, etc. It should be noted though that the studies only took place on non-human models: mice. The successes of findings have not transferred to humans.

Regardless of the science (or lack thereof), there are lots of vocal proponents of the lavish booze-bath treatment. That said, the red wine bath is a luxury; AIRE, an upscale spa in Manhattan, offers the service for around $500. The spa could not be reached for comment, but their website does a great job at explaining the extensive treatment. AIRE has five locations, only one of which is in the United States, and the Tempranillo grapes they use are imported from a winery in Spain.

The treatment is all-inclusive: a lovely, sumptuous private bath is followed with an hour and a half so-called “four-handed body experience” with more grape-seed oils and exfoliants, as well as a grape seed body wrap. The cherry on top is another hour and a half “thermal session,” where the patron relaxes in a bath of varying temperatures before moving to the “Steam Room” for more pampering.

Booze baths aren’t only limited to red wine, however. European spas (namely, in the Czech Republic, where individuals consume more beer per capita than anywhere in the world) provide beer baths. Although I spent a few months in Prague, I somehow never made it to a dip in a beer tub, although many of my peers did. As Paul Pastore, 22, of New York explains, “It was like bathing in a frat house.” That doesn’t sound very luxurious, but Chodovar, one of the Czech Republic’s most famous breweries, boasts the benefits of such an experience.

There are some restrictions on the beer bath: for “health reasons” (my guess is the yeast) the bather cannot soak for longer than 20 minutes. Still, the beer bath is claimed to be ultra-good for the skin. The yeast “provides the skin with a wide range of vitamins B, proteins and saccharides.” While I couldn’t find any studies on the effectiveness of a beer soak, countless articles online profess the many ways individuals can enjoy beer without drinking it. They claim that beer helps with eczema, gout, and poor circulation. Some say that the liquid can help replace oral sedatives, because its effect is so relaxing.

Although the red-wine bath appears to be for the super-rich, grapeseed oil extracts are found in various beauty stores. In addition it appears that the red wine bath has caught on enough that DIY-ers are claiming the treatment for their own, with red wine masks and soaks done at home. We even found a DIY recipe for a beer scrub.

While the benefits of booze baths may be exaggerated, for those who feel intrigued, why not treat yourself? Though, skip the $500 spa visit or trip to Europe and take a trip to your bathroom, bottle of booze in hand.

Featured photo courtesy of Oyvind Holmstad.