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Etiquette

Never visited a spa before? Not to worry, here are three types of information to help you relax about your visit so that you can relax during your visit!

Code of Conduct

ISPA (International Spa Association) and the Resort Hotel Association has developed a ‘Code of Conduct’ for the Spa guest in order to protect them and apprise them of proper Spa etiquette:

As a Spa Guest, you are responsible for: As a Spa Guest, you have the right to:
  1. Communicating your preferences, expectations and concerns;
  2. Communicating complete and accurate health information and reasons for your visit;
  3. Treating staff and other guests with courtesy and respect;
  4. Using products, equipment and therapies as directed;
  5. Engaging in efforts to preserve the environment; and
  6. Adhering to the spa’s published policies and procedures.
    1. A clean, safe and comfortable environment;
    2. Stop a treatment at any time, for any reason;
    3. Be treated with consideration, dignity and respect;
    4. Confidential treatment of your disclosed health information;
    5. Trained staff who respectfully conduct treatments according to treatment protocols and the spa’s policies and procedures;
    6. Ask questions about your spa experience; and
    7. Information regarding staff training, licensing and certification.

      Dos and Don’ts

      Do:

      1. Do your Research to Maximize your Visit
        • Whether an experienced spa goer or not, call the spa before your visit to find out what amenities the spa offers and what they have to offer. Facilities like steam rooms, jacuzzis and saunas are great in helping you loosen up, relax and release toxins before and after treatments.
        • If the spa is local to you, stop by and check it out before committing to the visit or an appointment. How you feel in the spa is just as important as the treatment itself. If you don’t feel comfortable, then the spa isn’t right for you.
        • Call and ask the spa manager or director about the treatments on their menu. They will know which treatments are most popular and who is most popular at administering them. Tell her about you and your spa experience level so that she can help guide you in making a decision that is right for you. Spas should be highly service oriented. If you get a vibe that they aren’t…stay away from them. Rude, untrained and unhelpful staff can make your experience very distasteful.
      2. Get there Early and Leave Late
        Try to arrive at the spa at least 30 minutes before a treatment. This allows you to:

        • Have time to decompress and transition from real life to spa life, allowing your body and mind to relax and get the full benefits of the experience.
        • Ensure you are prompt for your appointment (Spas are punctual. If you are late, your treatment time will still end on time, shortening the treatment’s duration).
        • Take advantage of extra amenities. Using heat therapy facilities such as steam, sauna and Jacuzzi for a minimum of 15 minutes before your treatment, helps you relax, increase circulation and quiet your mind, increasing the treatment’s benefits and your enjoyment.
      3. Speak Up
        Always be sure to be honest and open about what you like and don’t like prior and during a treatment. This can range from everything from the level of pressure during a massage to the temperature of the room, from background music to the amount of conversation. You are paying a lot of money for an experience, make sure you get what you want and don’t get what you don’t want.
        That said, be respectful in how you communicate to your therapist and spa staff. Yelling or arguing is not productive and may disrupt others’ experiences.
      4. Know your Treatment
        Prior to getting a treatment, find out as much information as possible about it so that you can maximize the benefits and results. Be sure to know some of the following components:

        • What the goal of the treatment is (E.g., relaxation, healing, energizing)
        • Where the treatment originated from (E.g., Indian Ayurvedic, Turkish Hammam, etc.)
        • What are its benefits (E.g., moisturizing, cleansing, etc.)
        • What if any are the side effects (E.g., skin redness or sensitivity, sensitive stomach, etc.)
        • Appropriate Post-Treatment protocol (E.g., drink lots of water, staying out of the sun, etc.)

        Knowing these basics about the treatment you are about to have will help you get the most out of it, both emotionally and physically.

      5. Pay in Advance
        If possible, pay for your services upfront. This allows you to not worry about handling money when you leave, which can take away from the natural high of relaxation and rejuvenation you just received. You can allow for a 15% tip in advance if it isn’t included in the price of the service. If the treatment exceeded your expectations, you can always leave a little extra in an envelope when you leave.
      6. Relax
        Relaxing prior to your treatment is very helpful to you and your therapist. Remember that tired doesn’t always mean relaxed. If for any reason you are nervous about your visit to the spa, use deep breathing techniques and mind-over-matter techniques to relax. Think about using heat therapies like a Jacuzzi or steam room to help as well.

        Also, try to avoid thinking about life problems and concerns during your treatment. This won’t allow you to maximize the benefits of the treatment.

      7. Bring your Treatment Home
        If your therapist or aesthetician recommends any products, have her write them down on a card and give the card to you after the treatment. Most likely, the spa sells the products in their retail section near reception. Don’t however; feel pressured to buy products if you don’t want to. The therapist or aesthetician should only be recommending them, not forcing them upon you.

      Don’t:

      1. Sun Worship
        On the day of your treatment, avoid a lot of sun exposure. The sun can be dehydrating and make your skin extra sensitive. You may want to avoid sun the day after as well. Check with your therapist to be sure.
      2. Bring Cell Phones
        If you are at a hotel, resort or destination spa, leave your cell phones, pagers, and/or blackberries in your room. If you are at a spa facility for the day, keep them in your locker and turned off while in the spa. These technologies can be very distracting and interrupt yours, and other spa guests’ experiences.
      3. Be Wasteful
        Part of the spa experience is to connect with nature and yourself. Be respectful of your environment. Do not be excessive in your use of towels and linens, as it takes a lot of water and electricity to clean them. Make sure you participate in recycling and conservation programs the spa and/or hotel offers.
      4. Bring Valuables and Jewelry
        If you are at a hotel, resort or destination spa, leave your valuables in your room or the hotel safe. If you are visiting a day spa, leave them at home. If for some reason you decide to bring them, be sure they are locked safely in your locker or in a safe and that you don’t forget them when you leave.
      5. Rush the Experience
        When scheduling your appointment, plan it at a time when commitments, activities and social obligations are low afterwards. Having a stressful day or schedule post-treatment will undo all the good of the service. Allow yourself to enjoy before, during and afterwards to really maximize the experience.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      1. How often should I go to a spa?
        The more you go and the more you try, the more you will learn what you like, what makes you feel good, what makes a difference to your wellbeing and what heals your body and nurtures your soul. You will also learn what doesn’t, making you more knowledgeable and able to reap the benefits of a visit. Going to the spa is a very personal experience and frequency and duration is all dependent on who you are and what works for you.
      2. What should I drink and eat before a visit to the spa?
        Drinking fluids, especially water, before during and after your visit is important. It hydrates the body and tissues, prompting the system to cleanse itself, remove toxins and function properly. Well hydrated muscles and skin respond best to treatments. Avoid caffeine and alcohol on the day of your treatment. This is especially important if you are going to include heat therapies (Sauna, steam or Jacuzzi) into your visit.

        It is best not to eat for at least an hour before a treatment. When it comes to eating, try to eat lightly as you approach the day of your treatments. If you are going to go to a destination spa, consider cutting back on sugar, caffeine and alcohol to help you start the detoxification process. This will help you maximize your time while there and help set you on a course for when you leave.

      3. How much should I tip?
        Although uncommon, some spas include tips and gratuities in the price of the service. If you are unsure, ask the spa when booking your appointment if tipping is customary. Standard tips range between 15% and 20% for good service. The tip is often left at the reception desk after you have had the service, and not given directly to the therapist. If you have more than one service, tip each person separately. If for some reason tipping isn’t allowed or isn’t customary, referring others to the therapist is a great way of showing your appreciation and satisfaction.

        If you are traveling outside of the United States, tipping protocol may vary. Check with your hotel and spa staff to understand what is customary.

      4. When and how should I book an appointment?
        No matter what kind of spa you are visiting, call ahead by phone as early as possible to make your appointment. This will ensure that you get the time, the treatment and if you know her, the therapist you want. This is true, even if you are traveling. This will also allow you to plan your day and activities around the treatment appropriately.

        Note: Online reservations are not as reliable as the phone.

        Tip: End of day and end of week appointments tend to be most popular. While cruise-spas tend to see their busiest times during ‘at sea’ afternoons. If you are sensitive to crowded or busy places, avoid these peek time periods.

      5. Can I request a male or female therapist?
        If the spa has both men and women staff, and their facilities are coed, you can request the gender you will be most comfortable with. There are some spas that don’t have coed facilities or administer cross-gender treatments, and as a result, you may not have the option. Call ahead so that you are not disappointed. Also be aware, that certain treatments (especially those that are energy related like Ayurvedic treatments are traditionally administered by the same gender for energetic reasons.)
      6. What if I forget to shave before a massage?
        Believe it or not, most of us have been there before. Both therapists and clients come in all shapes, sizes and gender. Therapists are there to help you relax, refresh and rejuvenate, not to judge your body, cellulite or for that matter, unshaved legs.
      7. What should I wear and do I have to take off my clothes?
        Whatever your level of comfort regarding nudity is, a spa and its services should be able to accommodate your needs. Upon arrival, most spas will provide you with a clean, fresh robe for your use throughout your stay. If you are modest and don’t want to remove clothing for a treatment, call the spa ahead of time and discuss what options you have. Certain treatments can be done while you are fully clothed, while others may require you to remove most or some of your clothing.

        For those treatments that do require you to remove your clothing (mostly massage and some types of hydrotherapy), you can still leave your underwear* or a bathing suit on during the service. Sometimes, tight fitting underwear can get in the way, but a thong or briefs should be ok. Also be aware, that some treatments require the use of oils, which can stain clothing. As a result, wear underwear that isn’t very expensive or delicate.

        *Note: If you are comfortable with getting a treatment in the nude, know that spas in North America are legally required to have their licensed massage therapists ensure that your genitals and breasts are properly covered by a sheet or towel throughout the massage and that only the area currently being massaged should be exposed.

      8. Will the therapist or aesthetician be there when I undress?
        If you go to a spa in North America, staff will leave the room to give you privacy so that you can remove your clothing and get settled onto the massage table (usually face down under the top sheet), the aesthetician table (face up under the top sheet) or in the hydrotherapy tub.

        The therapist will always provide you with sufficient time, however, they will be sure to knock and ask if you are ready before re-entering the room.

      9. How long should I remain in the treatment room after the treatment is over?
        After your treatment, your therapist or aesthetician will leave the room and let you take your time getting up and redressing (if you had to disrobe for the treatment). Most likely, the room will be needed in the next 10 to 15 minutes, so it is important that you don’t abuse the privilege. A good amount of time is usually 5 minutes or so. Remember, the facilities and extra amenities are there for your use, so although you have to leave the treatment room, you are free to use the rest of the facilities for as long as you would like. Take your time and enjoy.
      10. Do I have to buy any products at the Spa?
        During your treatment, your therapist or aesthetician might recommend products she thinks might be good for you at home. You are under no circumstances obligated to buy these. However, if you would like to, a good time to do so is during check-out.
      11. What if I drool during a treatment?
        During a treatment, many people fall asleep or become so relaxed that they may drool. This is actually common and therapists understand it is a sign that you are very relaxed. Think of it as a compliment and ask for a tissue.
      12. Should I talk during my treatment?
        How much you talk during your treatment is up to you. This is your time to relax and unwind and you are in no certain terms expected to socialize in order to do so. You are free to relax, close your eyes and ‘escape.’ That said, if you have questions for your therapist or aesthetician, feel free to ask as many questions as you want. Generally, staff will take cues from you regarding how much discussion is appropriate. So if you are quiet for example, then they will most likely be quiet as well.

        Note that some treatments may require your feedback, such as deep tissue massage and sports massage. If you are at all uncomfortable during your treatment, be sure to let your therapist or aesthetician know. Let them know if any of the following occurs:

        • you experience pain
        • the room is too hot or too cold
        • the music is too loud or too soft
        • you have questions related to the treatment
        • you realized that you forgot to mention something during your consultation
        • you are uncomfortable or unsatisfied in any way

        If you are ever dissatisfied or uncomfortable beyond repair, tell the therapist and ask to terminate your treatment. Speak to the spa director or manager immediately so that they can help you and try to rectify the situation.

      13. My husband/boyfriend won’t get a massage because he is afraid he might get an erection. What can I do?
        Many men avoid getting a massage because they are afraid of getting an erection, or even worse, they go but can’t relax because of the same reason. Both male and female therapists know that men may be stimulated during non-sexual massage and that it is perfectly normal for men to get partial or even full erections. Understanding this, they will generally ignore it. If he is still concerned, tell him to wear supportive under garments such as a men’s Speedo bathing suit or briefs.
      14. The pressure isn’t deep enough, but I don’t want to insult the massage therapist’s technique. What should I do?
        Remember, you don’t have to feel pain for the massage to work and too much pressure can cause your muscles to tense up instead of relax. That said, if you feel you would like more pressure, communicate this to the therapist.
      15. If I get more than one treatment during my visit, in what order should I get them?
        The order should go as follows: body treatments before massage and massage before facials.
      16. If I use a gift certificate for my treatment, do I have to still tip?
        Most likely yes, however, it pays to contact the spa to find out if the gift certificate includes the tip. If it doesn’t, you should give 15% – 20% of what the treatment(s) normally cost.