My experience with spas and the various treatments came well into adulthood. Apart from the occasional maintenance manicure and pedicure, going for a professional massage, for example, just wasn’t on my radar. That is, until I got one in trade by a massage therapist friend for shooting portraits of his daughter. Since then, I’ve become just shy of addicted to getting massages, facials and other skin and body treatments. As a lifestyle editor, it also happens to be a fantastic part of my job to explore and write about treatments and facilities. Take this piece I wrote about the burgeoning spa scene in New Orleans. Recently, I’ve been working on a spa piece for one of Renaissance Publishing’s custom publication clients and also a piece on couple’s massages for New Orleans Magazine, so spas, treatments and, perhaps most importantly, spa etiquette is on my mind. The latter is geared toward making not only your treatment better, but also that of the staff at the spa—which consequently comes back around again to your experience.
With that in mind, whether you are at a massage therapy chain, getting a quick and basic treatment at a salon facility or splurging on a day at a luxury spa or resort, here are a few things to keep in mind when planning and during your visit:
Keep it clean
Body and skin therapies involve not only being in close quarters with the therapist, but also having him or her apply product, towels and other implements to your person. Regardless of your personal hygiene routine, take a shower or bath the day of your treatment. It may sound obvious or perhaps not, but showing up with freshly washed hair and skin will keep you from feeling self-conscious and, while they are professionals trained to deal with things such as body odor and other issues, this will allow your therapist to focus on the treatment and not be distracted.
Be sure to show up at your designated appointment time. A spa is a busy place and most are unable to push appointments too far in one direction or another, so it’s best to get there on time. This also ensures that your treatment isn’t cut short. Personally, I like to show up early to take advantage of the facilities by relaxing in the lounge or waiting room with a magazine or book.
Depending on the treatment you book, you there are various stages of dress—or rather undress—either necessary for the therapist to do their work or that enhance the experience. Here is a breakdown of what to expect and what to wear:
Facial-Depending on the facility and whether or not you selected a maintenance or deluxe facial, the aesthetician may ask you to swap your shirt in favor of a smock or to go topless, with or without a bra. They will keep you covered at all times, but this makes it easier for them to give you a neck and shoulder massage and access the décolletage, should that be included in the treatment.
Pedicure-Wear a skirt or loose fitting pants that can be rolled or pulled up to your knees to keep the bottom from getting wet and so that the pedicurist can massage your lower leg, if that’s part of the service. Also, while the salon or spa likely has disposable pedicure shoes, many people prefer bringing their own flip-flops or sandals. Pro-tip: Ask the pedicurist to wipe the lotion off of your feet before slipping on your shoes or the pedi-shoes, because the oils can cause an uncomfortable and unwieldy slip-and-slide effect.
Massages, body wraps and hydrotherapy– It’s customary to disrobe for a full-body massage, body wrap, hydrotherapy (such as Vichy) and other wet therapy. Many people opt to wear their undergarments for a massage such as a Swedish or deep tissue, but that’s up to you. Do whatever makes you feel most relaxed and comfortable. If you’ve never before had a massage, research the style you are getting and ask the spa personal what to expect and for any information you should know before the treatment.
Some spas require that cell phones and other electronics be turned off and left in the locker room or are at the very least put on silent. Either way, this is an excuse to completely disconnect and be in the present, quiet and relaxing moment—seize it!
The staff is not your mother
I think there is a special place in heaven for wonderful service industry people. The good ones attend to us, wait on us, answer our questions, do little things to make our experience better and clean up after us. That does not however entitle us to behave like spoiled babies who are unable to function or clean up after ourselves. Throw garbage in the bins, place those thick, fuzzy spa robes and towels, as well as slippers in the correct receptacles after use and replace any other complimentary items, such as hairdryers, in their designated locations. Clear out your locker and wipe up if you spill cucumber water or that complimentary Champagne. Accidents happen, so just let the staff know if you made a mess that you cannot make right and, in general, just be kind and courteous.
After your treatment, you’ll have the option to tip your service provider. Considering this person just cleaned out your clogged pores, applied seaweed scrub all over your body or got that stubborn callous off of your foot—by hand—the least you can do, even though he or she does get an hourly wage, is give them a little something extra. Fifteen to 20 percent is customary and typically you leave it with the receptionist.
These basics should get you started, but for more tips and advice, the etiquette page at SpaFinder.com is helpful and comprehensive. When all else fails however, just ask the staff for information and advice, because they want your spa experience to be a good one. Soon enough, you’ll feel as comfortable at the spa as you are at home. Just don’t forget to wear your robe in the public areas. Everyone thanks you in advance.