Science Nature Beauty

The evolution of wellness: From ancient traditions to modern self-care movement

I must confess I am a big fan of wellness. When I feel bad or after a stressful day, I go to the sauna and sometimes I let myself be pampered with a relaxing massage with a cream or massage oil that nourishes my skin and my mood at the same time. These rituals have become an integral part of my life – my personal wellbeing and health-routine.

Wellness is on everyone´s lips and one of the biggest macro trends of 2023 1, which is, at least partly, still a consequence of the pandemic. Especially during lockdowns, people realized that many others also suffered from anxiety, frustration and loneliness and the shared experience made it easier to talk openly about our own emotions, not just with family and close friends but with strangers all over the world. We learned to prioritize our well-being and become more outspoken about topics that used to be taboo such as mental or sexual health. It is time to take a closer look at the concept of wellness and analyze the impact it has had on the cosmetics industry.

The cultural heritage of wellness

The use of the word “wellness” in the English language – meaning the opposite of “illness” or the “state of being well or in good health” – dates back to the 1650s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, the origins of wellness are far older – even ancient.

The idea of wellness is already documented for ancient civilizations in Asia and Europe, where historical traditions have indelibly influenced the modern wellness movement. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian philosophy dating back over 5,000 years, emphasizes the balance between mind, body, and spirit, offering treatments that promote deep relaxation of the body and mind. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), developed around 2,500 years ago, focused on restoring harmony through acupuncture, herbal medicine, and mind-body exercises. Wellness concepts of ancient Rome and Greece included bathing as a means of physical cleanliness, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Bathhouses were not only for grooming, but popular meeting spots and the frequency of visits represented a person’s social status.

Due to the frequent occurrence of epidemics a fear of water prevailed during the Baroque era in western Europe and as an alternative, perfume and powder were used for body care. In the 19th century Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1898) developed water cures and recognized the connection between nutrition, mental, physical and spiritual well-being, offering a holistic approach to overall health.

In the 1950s a new kind of health movement emerged in the United States, establishing “wellness” as a term for well-being and health-conscious living. The physician Halbert L. Dunn promoted a concept of wellness which focused on the harmony of body, soul and spirit in achieving “High Level Wellness” (1961). Initially overlooked, wellness gained importance in the 1970s as a result of further scientific research. A significant fitness movement started in the USA and spread to Europe. By 1980, new wellness concepts expanded to include beauty and cosmetic offerings with hotels incorporating wellness areas and establishing the first beauty spas.

In the 21st century, the wellness industry has evolved to include new technologies and adapt to modern consumer behavior, establishing itself as a comprehensive term for well-being and health-conscious living in various aspects of life.


Wellness in the 21st century: A 360° approach

What is wellness today? The World Health Organization defines wellness as “the primal state of health of individuals and groups”, characterized by “a positive approach to living”, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It is a proactive approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing illness, rather than addressing health issues as they arise. Practices such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, stress management, good sleep habits, mindfulness, and social connections contribute to overall well-being. This holistic concept recognizes the interconnectedness of different aspects of health and encourages individuals to prioritize self-care and personal growth.

However, wellness nowadays has expanded to almost every aspect of our lives. Social taboos are being shattered and social media acts as a catalyst. New terms associated with wellness constantly emerge such as workplace wellness, sexual wellness, social wellness, parents’ mental wellness, and currently, financial wellness. The food, fitness, and nutritional supplement industries embrace wellness across all domains, emphasizing the inside-out approach. The influence of wellness extends even to our pets, as animal wellness is high on the pet owners´ agenda. It seems that the modern concept of wellness encompasses a 360° optimization approach, aiming to bring happiness, beauty, balance and comfort to every aspect of life – wellness without limits.

Wellness is the new wealth, a lifestyle statement and a status symbol. But does this modern approach mark a significant difference to the traditional idea of wellness and could this new concept potentially have the opposite effect in the long run? Does the wellness trend maybe even make us “unwell”2?


From spa to wellness: The holistic synergy of beauty and selfcare

Wellness has become one of the strongest influences in the beauty industry, according to Mintel3. In fact, the beauty industry is increasingly embracing the wellness evolution as self-care and well-being have become essential components of physical, mental and emotional health. Historically, however, the spa has played a more important role for the cosmetics industry. The word spa is an abbreviation of ‘sanus per aquam’, which means ‘health through water’. Essentially, it refers to any water-based treatment to the body. A spa is a facility that offers a range of relaxation and beauty treatments, such as massages, facials, and body wraps. The primary focus of a spa is to provide a luxurious and pampering experience that promotes relaxation and rejuvenation. Skin care rituals in spas often include a visit to the sauna, followed by a body peeling, the application of a rich massage cream and a face mask with active ingredients such as algae, a classic element of Thalasso therapy. While some spa treatments may have therapeutic benefits, their main purpose is to offer a sensory and aesthetic experience.

The question that arises is whether, wellness is part of the spa or if the spa is part of wellness. While wellness and spa are two distinct terms and businesses, they have significant influence on each other. The key difference between wellness and spa lies in their approach to health and well-being. Wellness takes a comprehensive and holistic approach, focusing on improving overall health, while the spa emphasizes relaxation and a luxurious experience complemented by cosmetic products. With consumers increasingly seeking higher quality offerings, they are becoming more conscious of their health and quality of life. As a result, some wellness and spa industries have started offering integrated services that combine wellness and spa activities. Therefore, wellness and spa are no longer considered two separate fields, but rather intertwined components.

The cosmetics industry can benefit from this trend by expanding its portfolio to include a wider range of products that support consumers in their personal wellness and skincare routines. Research has shown that the connection between the mind and skin has a significant impact on our well-being. Stress can lead to skin irritations, redness, and tension, creating a detrimental cycle that affects our mental health. AnnonaSense CLR™ offers an effective solution to this vicious circle by utilizing Nobel prize-winning technology and targeting the endovanilloid/endocannabinoid system, evidently reducing skin sensitivity and establishing a healthy skin homeostasis and thus enhancing our feeling of comfort, our well-being and, consequently, our overall quality of life.

The combination of relaxing spa treatments and stimulating sensory experiences with the holistic approach of wellness creates a perfect synergy for wellness-conscious consumers. By incorporating highly effective active ingredients, the cosmetics industry can meet the demands of these discerning consumers and cater to their elevated expectations.


AI meets authenticity: The fusion of nature, technology and human connection

The wellness market is booming. The global consumer health and wellness market is valued at $1.5 trillion and is growing at five to ten percent annually. According to a recent McKinsey survey4, consumers intend to continue spending more on products that improve their health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep, and mindfulness. This surge in demand has prompted cosmetic companies to expand their portfolio to include more wellness and spa products. Guests of wellness hotels and luxury spas now have much higher expectations for wellness facilities. Merely offering a spa, swimming pool or basic cosmetic formulations is no longer sufficient.  As perceptions of wellness continue to evolve, cosmetic companies must understand the market from a consumer perspective. Attitudes toward health and wellness have changed significantly, and consumers seek highly effective products that deliver tangible results. Skin health has evolved into a status symbol and sustainable, certified natural cosmetics are increasingly finding their place in spa treatments.

What does the future hold for wellness? The aesthetics and med-spa segment are growing faster and their concepts will also influence the cosmetics industry. Scientifically proven treatments and active ingredients are at the top of the wellness-spa agenda. This movement is strongly supported by digitization, known as digital wellness. Technologies such as full body scans, virtual reality (VR) glasses, multisensory rooms and smart mirrors are just a few examples of how digitization is utilized in the wellness sector. Individualization will shape the future of the spa service industry through AI skin technology. This technology provides an overall skin health score and offers detailed assessments for various skin concerns. Spa providers can leverage these skin assessments to make personalized recommendations and create customized spa treatment plans for their clients.

While these technological advancements are widely adopted, they will not be the sole trend. Traditional manual applications will continue to evolve simultaneously, as the value of genuine human touch and personal advice cannot be replaced by a device. Digitization and reconnecting with our roots are not contradictory; instead, a symbiosis of technology and nature will emerge as the new “back to nature”. In our modern society, we desire both: digitization in various aspects of our lives, but also dedicated “digital off” times. Ultimately it all comes down to our personal well-being. We at CLR are looking forward to it!


(1) “The wellness trends that will be everywhere in 2023”, Cosmetics Business, 03/2023
(2) Dr. Theresa Callaghan PhD: “Is The Wellness Trend Making Us Unwell?”, 03/2023
(3) “Elevate the value of wellness within the APAC beauty landscape”, Mintel, 04/2023
(4) “Feeling good: The future of the $1.5 trillion wellness market”, McKinsey & Company, 04/2021
(5) “How to thrive in the global wellness market”, McKinsey & Company, 01/2022
(6) “Spas and the Global Wellness Market: Synergies and Opportunities?” Global Wellness Institute, 05/2023



Elvira Ruppel

Product Manager