Checking out a new spa is kinda like going on a first date. You feel excitement, a little unsure of what to expect, and you undoubtably have done some online “research,” read, stalking. Everything online usually sounds great (works in finance, tall, handsome, runs marathons, loves dogs), but there’s still a part of you that wonders where’s the flaw? You’ve been let down before, so the skepticism is warranted. That’s how I felt walking up to LA’s latest “burn calories without working out” infrared urban sweat lodge – Shape House. The website sounded amazing touting benefits like: weight-loss (the brand claims one session burns 800-1,000 calories), glowing skin, detoxification, improved sleep and reduced pain and stress. But what was I really in for? Would this first date end up like so many others, as another horror story to laugh about with my girlfriends or would it end up with true love? Thankfully, this spa experience was the latter.

shape house lobby
Founded in 2013, by Sophie Chiche and her behind the scenes partner, Craig Winner, Shape House brings forth infrared technology in the form of what looks like a sleeping bag. Each “bed” emits infrared energy waves that penetrate deep below the skin’s surface gradually increasing the body’s core temperature by heating fat and muscle. As the body temperature rises, the body begins to sweat. Shape House says this is when toxins, heavy metals and fat are released, while stimulating endorphin production, an increased heart rate, and subsequent caloric burn.

While I’m a little skeptical about fat loss benefits beyond lost water weight, the overall health benefits, including improved sleep, pain reduction, and cellular repair are supported by recent studies. The Harvard Medical School reported testing infrared light’s abilities to speed up recovery in NFL players post head trauma. And preliminary animal and human studies published in the Journal of Neurotrauma have shown infrared to improve sleep, decrease post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and overall increase the quality of daily functions. Sounds pretty good to me…

shape house bed tv
Each of the seven “rooms,” partitioned by drawn curtains, at Shape House contain an infrared bed, personal television complete with Netflix, Amazon Prime, TED Talks and headphones, a spot for your water and an attendant call button. I snuggled under the thick plastic blanket and could feel the heat immediately, as 9.4 micron waves penetrated deep below my skin’s surface. Though, it wasn’t until thirty minutes into my fifty minute session that sweat beads started pouring down my face. I could feel the cotton clothing provided to me (Shape House offers clients cotton clothing to wear while sweating) sticking to my limbs beneath the blanket. An attendant came in halfway through my session to check on me and drape a cold wet cloth across my forehead.

shape house bed
Before I knew it, my attendant was back and helping me out of my bed and directing me towards the relaxation room. Hot tea and fresh sliced oranges were provided while I sat in silence and absorbed my experience. Did I feel lighter? A little bit. Was my skin glowing? Sorta. It wasn’t until I had changed back into my clothes and started driving home that I could feel the benefits. A mental clarity and relaxation carried me through the rest of the day. My stomach felt flat and I did notice subtle skin improvements later that night. I am acutely aware of the skin on my hands (sun-exposure, aging and cigarette smoking during my early twenties have not been kind to them) and was shocked to see the skin on my hands appeared smoother, less wrinkled and rough after one treatment.

shape house me
Like anything in life, regular commitment is what delivers big results. My one session at Shape House showed small external improvements, but the deeper ones were felt internally. I slept like a baby that night and noticed an inner calm. Those 50 minutes sweating in the dark were meditative. I can only imagine what regular visits could achieve.

Let’s just say, I promptly purchased Shape House’s current Yelp deal when I got home.

Written by Amy Chang; Photographed by author

To read more about Shape House, check out BOND EN AVANT’s spotlight interview with founders Sophie Chiche and Craig Winner, here

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