Your Ultimate Guide To Spa Etiquette & Basic Know-How

Whether you are seasoned spa-goer in need of a refresher or a spa virgin, there are certain universal rules to getting the most out of your spa experience. Visiting a spa for the first time can be intimidating. Here is everything you ever wanted to know. Avoid any shyness or mishaps with our must-know spa commandments.

BEFORE YOUR ARRIVE

Check your spa’s website for their tips, rules and FAQ.

Spa Appointments

You have an appointment. Now make sure to confirm it. Not only is this a polite way to let the spa know that you intend on keeping your appointment, it is also a good way to make sure there are no appointment mix ups (it happens).

Find Out Treatment Details

The staff answering your initial call is typically well educated on all spa matters. They can let you know the name of your esthetician or masseur (let them know if you prefer male or female in advance), what amenities the spa provides, and how to prepare for your treatment (ex: if you are getting a facial that includes a peel, you might want to steer clear of certain skincare products prior to your appointment). You can also read up on the treatment in their menu options. Doing this prevents surprises.

Grooming

Shave/wax the night before or hours before your appointment. If you shave the morning of your spa visit, your skin might be too sensitive for a body treatment. For men, it is advised to shave before a facial, however do it in advance (at least two hours apart from your facial) and not right before your appointment.

The Day Of Your Spa Visit

Arrive 15 to 30 minutes early. You will need to fill out some basic information and give yourself time for pre-treatment relaxation. Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink a lot of coffee before your treatment. You will want to be relaxed, without feeling full or hyper. Most spas provide free and healthy water, plus a variety of teas. As an extra tip: make sure to use the bathroom before your treatment starts. Stopping in the middle of your treatment to use the facilities will disrupt both you and the professional providing your treatment.

Bathhouse, 1975© Deborah Turbeville

WHAT TO BRING (ESPECIALLY TO A DAY SPA)

Spas will provide you with a robe, slippers and a locker. If you are a low maintenance type of spa-goer simply bring yourself, your wallet and your bathing suit.

Hygiene & Grooming Essentials

Although spas provide a lot of essentials: hair tools, razors, combs, hair ties, feminine products and more, make sure to bring what you in need in order to groom before you walk out. If you plan to go straight to an event after your treatment, bring your makeup. You can keep everything in your locker. Some spas have started to catch on and provide makeup services for after treatment.

Cash Tip

Direct your tip questions to the receptionist. They will gladly provide you with a small envelope or tell you to give it directly to the therapist after your treatment. If our service was excellent, plan on tipping 20%. Don’t stress over tipping throughout your visit, you can leave it at the front desk.

Bring a Bathing Suit

If you go to a small boutique spa, chances are there are no amenities. This means there is no need for a bathing suit or locker. For bigger spas with saunas, steam rooms and pools, wear your bathing suit under your robe and just enjoy your stay. For your convenience, there will be a separate male and female locker areas. If you are feeling shy, change in the bathroom. Some spas have rules about bathing suits that are too revealing. Then here are spas that have nude areas. Make sure to read signs.

WHILE YOU WAIT

You’ve arrived. Your bathing suit, robe and slippers are on. Let’s get ready to spa.
1966 Steve McQueen SAUNA Faye Dunaway On The Set of THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR Flickr/Christian Montone

Take Advantage of the Amenities

Spa amenities are designed to help you get ready for your treatment or to simply enjoy. Most larger spas and day spas will have a meditation room, a sauna, steam room, sleep room, hydrotherapy, bath soaks and more. Some day spas allow you to use their amenities (for a price) without booking a treatment. Make sure to step into the lounge area for tea, light snack or visit the meditation sanctuary for quiet reflection. If you are a guest at a hotel with a spa, the spa amenities should be free for your use.

Pro Tip: Dare to try hot and cold therapy. If you see a bucket hanging in the showers, pull the robe for a very cold awakening.

Keep Calm & Unplug

As you might imagine, spas are quiet places. This is your time to unplug and by that we mean literally. Do not use your phone, have a loud conversation with your friend, or get frisky with your partner. All of these are big spa faux pas and will get you stern looks from your fellow spa goers.

How to Use a Sauna

Saunas have many benefits, but always pay attention to your body and what it needs. Never use a sauna while drinking alcoholic beverages (saunas provide their own buzz), right after exercising or a big meal. After exercising or eating, wait for 30 minutes to use a sauna. Sauna sessions are not meant to be long. In general and especially for beginners, the maximum time is 10-15 minutes. Stay as long as you can stand it, even if it means staying only a couple of minutes. In fact, you can hop out, cool down with a shower again, dry off, and re-enter for another session. Three 10-15 minute sessions in one day visit will make you a professional spa goer.

What happens inside the sauna? If you are in a nude area of the spa, this means you can enter the sauna in nude. Make sure you are showered (in fact a cool shower or cold plunge is preferred), dried, and use your towel to sit or lay on. Leave your robe on a hook outside of the sauna. Saunas are social places. While we don’t recommend being loud, do bring a friend to converse with and share the experience.

What’s with the bucket and ladle? If the sauna feels too dry, don’t be afraid to add some water on the hot rocks. This puts steam and humidity into the air. You are a sauna pro. Exit and hydrate.

Pro Tip: Bring a sauna hat. Yes, that is a real thing. It protects your head from the hot air and , allowing you to stay longer.

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TREATMENT

Scott Wright Art on Pinterest

Be Honest With Spa Staff

Voice your massage preferences (ex: focusing on specific areas), skin concerns (ex: sensitive skin, breakouts) and health issues (ex: allergies, recent surgeries, pregnancy). Good spa staff is trained in the art of healing; they will know how to make you feel comfortable.

Massage Treatment Tips

Book a massage based on your specific needs. Most traditional massages require a table but a Thai Massage can be done on a futon type of bed and you are fully clothed. Always ask before you book.

Take a warm shower at the spa or if you already feel extra clean, visit a steam room before your massage. This will help you loosen up. You can even stretch. Once you are in your treatment room, your masseur will exit the room and give you privacy to disrobe and slide under the sheet. Typically you should be facing down, with your face in the soft face cradle. For a full body massage it is preferred that you disrobe completely, but no one will judge you if you leave your underwear on. It is all about your personal comfort.

Your muscles become dehydrated during a massage so make sure to drink plenty of water after your treatment. You should be able to relax (with a cup of tea in hand) for a few minutes in your room or go back to the lounge/meditation area. If you feel extra relaxed or tired, it is not recommended that you exercise right after. Some people find massages energizing, while some find that they are in a state of relaxation for the rest of the day.

Pro Tip: Some spas offer paper panties. They are not a client favorite because they barely fit anyone and don’t cover very much. Opt to go nude instead or if you’re feeling modest, wear your underwear. Masseurs are masters at maneuvering in order to get the job done in the most professional way possible.

Facials

For a facial, you do not need to disrobe. If you prefer, keep your clothing or bathing suit on. Make sure to expose your neck and décolletage. A lot of facials include those areas in the treatment.

A facial for an 18 year old will require different steps compared to a facial for a 60 year old. Opt for menu options that match up your needs. Speak to your esthetician and allow them to customize the facial to your specific concerns. A basic facial will include makeup removal, steam, and extractions. Sometimes that is all you need. We like to throw in a peel for good measure. Clinical facials are typically done in a medical office and focus on extractions with some basic extras. Depending on the office, you might even see a dermatologist before you start. Spa facials are a lot more elaborate. Do your research and find a spa that is renowned for their services. Your face is too precious. Watch for our list of best facials in New York City.

Body Facial

A body facial is a body scrub and typically requires you to be either nude or you are provided with the spa’s disposable underwear. Once you are settled in a comfortable your therapist will enter the room and start by rubbing the scrub or polish on your back, followed by the rest of your body. If your therapist has a heavy hand, speak up! Body scrubs take place in a room that typically either includes a shower or a vichy shower overhead. A vichy shower (sometimes it’s a hand held shower) allows your therapist to rinse off all the little granules. In some instances, the therapist will use a hot towel in order to remove the product. Body scrubs can be booked alone or with a body wrap. These treatments leave your feeling smooth and looking polished.

Pro Tip: Often times, a body scrub is the first step in a body wrap treatment.

THE END

Lastly: Do not let anyone push you into buying products or sell you extra services (unless you genuinely want them). In fact, a good spa will refrain from such practices. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask a dumb question.

Cultivate Your Own At-Home Spa

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