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What used to be a service relegated to hospitals is now part of a beauty routine: intravenous (aka IV) therapy has been popping up in specialty spas all around the country. These businesses, often referred to as medspas, offer techniques adopted from the medical community to help customers with jet lag, vitamin deficiencies and more.
IV therapy has long been a rejuvenating go-to for celebrities such as Madonna, Simon Cowell, and Cindy Crawford. Rihanna even tweeted a photo of an IV in her arm after she felt sick at the Met Gala in 2012. Now, these elixirs are available for the general public at various spas offering "cocktails," "juices," and "blends" of vitamins and minerals, priced from $30 to $350. In an age where basic relaxation is a luxury, quick fix treatments—increasingly involving needles—are a salve for overworked, overtired, overpartied lives.
Reviv, a medical spa with locations in Miami and Las Vegas, invites customers to lounge on massage chairs or kick back on plush couches facing TVs while they get drips. Clients can also sit in a private room with the lights off, listening to music or browsing a complimentary iPad.
"A lot of what people come into the ER for is essentially dehydration, and the best way to give your body fluids is through an IV," explained Dr. Andrew Garff, who started Reviv in 2012. "Your body absorbs the vitamins and nutrients faster than when you take them orally, and 100 percent of what's in your veins goes straight to the cells and tissues that need it. We're bringing the ER to people but we give you that warm, fuzzy feelings hospitals can't."
The Hangover Heaven bus. Image via.
Vegas was the original hot spot for IV therapy. Dr. Jason Burke launched IV clinic "Hangover Heaven" after studying various treatments for hangovers. Its traveling bus hit the Vegas strip in April of 2012, picking up sick "patients" (also known as people who don't know when to leave Tao) and treating them with IVs.
"It's always a stream of people looking for a quick pick-me-up, usually around 10 to 15 customers in one round," a Hangover Heaven company staffer told Racked. "We do house calls too. People think energy drinks can help them, but this can ease the hangover in 45 minutes."
Hangover Heaven is a fast-paced fix, where groggy partiers shell out $90 for a basic treatment and $150 for a deluxe package, but other IV clinics are going for a more Zen, spa-like approach.
The lobby of Sweat Shop LA. Photo via Sweat Shop.
Reviv first hit Miami in 2012, and on the heels of its success there, branched out to Vegas in August with a location inside the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. Its menu boasts six intensive treatments: a B12 injection for $25 that increases red blood cell production and helps with sleep, mood and appetite; a B12 Slimboost shot for $30 that increases energy levels and boosts the metabolism; a Glutathione shot for $30 that has anti-aging benefits and improves skin; an UltraReviv infusion for $99 that hydrates, relieves pain and nausea, and boosts energy; a Megaboost drip for $99 that is packed with essential vitamins and detoxifying agents; and a Royal Flush infusion for $195 that promises maximum recovery and the ultimate cleanse. The medical spa also offers eye cream treatments, energy shots and an oxygen bar, where customers can breathe flavored "super" oxygen for 20 minutes.
At the Drip Room in Scottsdale—Arizona's first IV spa, which opened in November—customers can purchase monthly packages that cover services such as "extreme party" IVs and weight loss IVs which include an all-natural fat burner. In addition to an oxygen bar with "aroma therapy," Drip Room also provides an oral vitamin package as a needle-free option.
More and more customers are seeking out IV therapy for superficial reasons, says Dr John Salerno, a family physician who runs an IV therapy practice in New York City. "A lot of people try [IV therapy] because they want to look good," he said. "We have treatments for anti-aging, hair, skin, nails, and preventing colds. You can be perfectly healthy but want a little extra help in feeling and look good."
Salerno said he's seen an influx of patients on the heels of a recent study from the University of Kansas which found that large doses of vitamins through IV can increase chemotherapy's ability to kill ovarian cancer cells. Salerno is so confident about intravenous results that he recommends his patients try IV therapy over prescription drugs.
The Drip Room in Scottsdale, AZ. Image via Facebook.
"There are so many side effects to prescription drugs, so it's a better scenario for patients to get better with IV and vitamin intervention," Salerno said. "The vitamins in the IV bypass the liver and are not metabolized so the body gets higher levels."
At IVme, Chicago's first IV spa, which opened a little more than a year ago, employee Katrina Harper said they get a steady flow of professional athletes who are exhausted and looking for quick solution before their next event. The spa also sees a lot of bachelor parties filling its private rooms after a night out.
"It really depends on the season but a lot of people in the winter come in to treat colds and the flu," she said. "There's a big demand for it. Also jet lag clients, and marathoners."
For those who also prefer an "out" rather than "in" treatment, The Sweat Shop, a medical spa in Los Angeles which will soon open a branch in New York City's Union Square, offers sauna therapy in addition to cocktail injections. The "holistic and detox" spa has infrared sauna rooms where customers can sit in private hot boxes to sweat out their toxins. Sauna detoxs are $30, while IV therapy treatments are $150, and a naturopathic doctor is on hand to work directly with clients.
"With infrared, radiant heat is a great form of detox. It helps your joints and muscles and is really great for circulation," said store manager Diane Klein. "Customers get to relax and detox while their body can burn up to 600 calories just by sitting."
Garff says that IV therapy is "extremely safe" and at Reviv, customers are turned away if they have medical conditions that require hospital attention. He has plans to soon expand to London, Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans because, as Garff said, more and more people are realizing the "powerful effects" of IV therapy.
IVme Chicago. Photo by Jason Barnes.
That doesn't mean you can or should pop in anywhere for an IV. Garff recommends only patronizing spas where medical professionals administer the treatments. The state of California passed a bill in 2012 requiring all medical spas to be owned and operated by a medical professional or else face a $50,000 fine, but other states don't necessarily have rules when it comes to spas, and bad treatment can cause "profound complications."
So why take the risk? According to Jean Godfrey-June, Lucky Magazine's longtime beauty director, the rise of IV spas represents the recent overlap between the worlds of medicine and beauty. Now that dermatologists sell makeup and skin cream, and spas push Botox and Retin-A, customers are increasingly interested in beauty products and services that go deeper than the surface.
On the menu at Reviv. Image via Reviv.
"Ever since [beauty brand] Clinique came out with their white coats, there's always been something about a clean, medical feeling that is very appealing to the beauty consumer," she noted. "They are looking for a beauty treatment that feels like medicine because medicine has been proven to work and people want to see that connection. It's another version of, 'Oh, I wish I could take a pill and look better.' If medical beauty treatments can make a person look and feel better in a painless way, it's appealing."
Are IV Spas an extension of the juicing craze? "People are always looking for extra energy in an easy way," said Godfrey-June. "Having a shot of wheatgrass juice is less of a hassle than going to the gym or being vegan, and the same goes with getting an IV for a quick fix to feel healthy or beautiful at a spa. It's easy to criticize a person for being vain, but it seems less drastic than going in and getting a facelift."