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Spa Etiquette

Most people's first spa experience is at a day spa. Whether you spend an hour or a whole day, the tips below will help you get the most out of your time. They apply to freestanding day spas or those connected to health clubs, hotels, or department stores.

Booking spa appointments At day spas, peak hours are often late afternoons and weekends (especially Saturdays), so book as far in advance as possible in order to ensure getting the particular time, day, and therapist you want. It's easiest to accommodate you during off-peak hours, which are often in the mornings and mid-week. If you will be attending the spa with a gift certificate, it is a good idea to mention it so that the spa can advise you of any policy that may affect its use.

Therapists Many day spas have both male and female therapists on staff. If you have a preference, don't hesitate to let your choice be known. If you have enjoyed the services of a particular therapist on a prior visit, you may request that person. Do realize that your first choice may not always be available.

Punctuality Arrive on time or early. If you are late, your treatment time will need to be shortened since the treatment room (and therapist) is generally booked after your session. After a treatment, it's customary to vacate the room within five or ten minutes. However, you are free to spend additional time unwinding in the day spa's relaxation or waiting rooms.

Arrival If this is your first day spa visit, let the receptionist know when you arrive. They are very accustomed to first-time guests and usually provide a more detailed reception. Some spas ask you to complete a questionnaire on your first visit to provide them with medical and contact information. This is another reason to arrive early.

Exploring the facility On arrival at the day spa, ask for a tour prior to your treatment. The tour will acquaint you with your surroundings and introduce you to any additional spa facilities, such as saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation rooms.

Cancellations If you must cancel an appointment at a day spa, give the spa as much advance notice as possible. Approximately 24 hours' notice is minimum to cancel a single service, and 48 hours or more is usually required for a package of services. This gives the day spa enough time to fill the slot. The spa needs to pay its therapists even if a client doesn't show up. Most day spas have cancellation policies that require either partial payment or full payment if not enough advance notice was given.

Attire Most people come to a day spa in very casual attire-something they can easily slip off and put away in small lockers. If modesty is an issue, call the spa in advance to find out its policies and suggestions. Some treatments can be done while you're fully clothed, but others (such as hydrotherapy) are best received in the nude. Facilities such as the sauna and the whirlpool may be enjoyed either in a bathing suit or au natural. There are always towels and usually robes and slippers provided in day spas that have bathing facilities.

Jewelry If possible, leave your jewelry at home as you will not need it for your day spa visit. If however, you have brought valuables, make certain that they are securely locked in your locker or in a safety deposit box. If you choose instead to take them with you to your treatment, be mindful of not leaving them behind. Day spas have found many valuables in robe pockets and frantic searches are stress producing for all involved. Best to let all the sparkle come from you!

Communicating your preferences All aspects of treatment can usually be modified to your taste: amount of light, kind (or absence) of music, room temperature, and whether or not you choose to have a conversation or enjoy the treatment in silence. If you want the therapist to go deeper or be gentler, let him or her know. Also, feel free to ask questions. Your therapist will appreciate knowing your thoughts and clarifying any issues you may have. If any part of your experience is unsatisfactory, first tell the therapist. If the response isn't helpful, ask to speak to a supervisor.

Medical conditions If you have any type of medical condition, be sure to mention it when you book an appointment. Certain treatments may not be advisable for you. Also, before your treatment begins, let your therapist or aesthetician know of any medical concerns. Tell the technician if you're wearing contact lenses before you have a facial.

Nudity issues It is never required that you are unclothed in front of anyone in a day spa. There are usually places where a person can change (even if it is in a bathroom stall). Towels and robes are generally provided and can keep you continually covered. Therapists are generally well trained in the "art of draping" which means that they leave the treatment room while you get under the sheet on the massage table, and they keep you covered at all times except for the area of the body they are massaging. They also leave the treatment room before you get up from the table. If you feel more comfortable, it is also possible for you to wear a swimsuit during your treatment and in Jacuzzi or saunas-though most people prefer to wear nothing under their robes.

Shaving If you must shave, do so at least two hours before your scheduled appointment, particularly if you're a man receiving a facial or a woman receiving any kind of scheduled bodywork.

Sun and spa going Try to avoid the sun on the day of treatment and, in some cases, the day after.

Eating and drinking Try not to eat for at least an hour before a treatment, and avoid the consumption of alcohol on the day of a treatment. Drink plenty of water before and afterward, especially if heat therapies, such as a sauna or the steam room, are part of your day spa experience.

Gratuities In many day spas, gratuities are not included in the price of the service but gladly accepted-and expected. At some spas, the gratuity is included so it is always wise to ask when you call or when you arrive. Between 15 and 20 percent for each person who gave you a service is customary, but you may of course leave more or less, depending on the quality of the service. It's easiest to leave the tip at the reception desk when you pay your bill rather than giving it directly to the therapist. Often, the day spa has small tipping envelopes at its front desk on which you write your name and the name of the person who gave you the service.

Using shared facilities Before entering a soaking pool, a swimming pool, or a whirlpool, you will want to shower. When enjoying the sauna or steam, always sit on your towel and wear the plastic shoes provided by the spa. Women should not shave their legs in the steam room.

Cell phones Because the day spa environment is supposed to be a tranquil and stress-reducing experience, it's best to leave cell phones and pagers at home or turn them off before entering the day spa.

Children Many day spas have age restrictions. Children are generally not allowed so that the day spa ambiance remains as relaxing as possible. Teens may be accommodated for certain services or at certain times.

Socializing When in the relaxation room and elsewhere in the day spa, be mindful of others. Keep conversations at a low volume.


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