I was alerted through twitter that this is Spa Week! This doesn't mean that I'm getting pampered as we speak, although I wish it did.
I was an adult before I had my first spa experience. My small town salon certainly didn't specialize in hot stone massages or oxygen facials. But when all the women in my office received a massage gift certificate as a Thank You gift, I took up spa-ing and now swear by it as a treat. And, oh, the spa stories I could tell you.
In Los Angeles, I frequent two radically different types of spa: a Korean spa and your typical relaxation/rejuvenation spa. For today's purposes we'll be covering your standard spa experience. But one day I must - must! - tell you all about the Korean spa. Because if you've never been to one, well, you might not believe it.
But for your standard issue trickling-water-fluffy-robe spa, here are my thoughts for the skittish:
1. Think Through Your Appointment. Build in enough time to enjoy the facilities for at least a half hour before your appointment and allow you to take your time afterward. A rushed spa experience simply isn't as satisfying.
If you're trying out a new spot, ask your friends for recommendations. I became a member at a spa in Los Angeles solely because of an excellent masseuse. I had had good massages before, but this woman made me want to return more often, justifying the cost of a membership. All of that to say: a good technician can make or break the (pricey) experience. If you're treating yourself at an out-of-town hotel or something, then ask who is the most popular or who has the most returning clients. Just asking the question might get you with a better person.
2. Wear loose and comfy clothes, and NO jewelry. I tend to show up in my sweats when I go to the spa. Bring them in your bag if you're going straight from work. Who wants to put on something tight when they've just been rubbed on for an hour?
I have lost more than one piece of jewelry at the spa and it's not been from theft. Those tiny earrings or the necklace you never take off will go straight down the drain if left in a robe pocket. And you might not be comfortable leaving it for long periods of time in your purse or in a locker. I don't risk it anymore.
3. Go naked! That's the norm, it really is. I know it feels strange, I know you may feel self-conscious, but I assure you that masseuses (or facialists, or whoever) have seen it all. If it really freaks you out, then leave your underwear on. But for heaven's sakes, no bras. They're a hindrance to you and your technician.
In the jacuzzi before your treatment? Go naked! That's scarier, but it's the norm there, too. I've seen swimsuits in the jacuzzi area before, but it's rare and I've been in some spas that request you don't. (I'm not sure the reasoning behind that, now that I think about it.) This part of the spa experience is particularly strange if you're there with friends, so wear a swimsuit if you must, or skip this part. But try and not giggle or act strange towards those who are doing the typical spa thing.
4. Speak Up. You're paying for the treatment, so act like it. In a sweet way, of course. Before the treatment begins, make sure you're clear about your problem areas ("My shoulders are really tight" or "My skin is very sensitive"), and then during the treatment feel free to voice direction. "I'd like a little more pressure, please," or "I'm a little cold," or even, "What are you putting on my face?"
Alternately, most technicians will take a cue from you on whether or not you're interested in chatting. If someone keeps talking to me when I'm trying to relax, I generally don't answer or give one-word answers or even say something like, "I'm just going to zone out now and let you do your thing" as a hint.
5. Tip. Just like any other beauty appointment, I tip in proportion to the service rendered. I tip between 15-20%. If the person is someone I go to regularly, I tip them extra around the holidays and then again around my birthday (this is just because my birthday is in June, so it spaces out these extras by 6 months).
I also tip the locker room staff about $5. If they have gone above-and-beyond, like searching frantically for my jewelry in a stack of dirty robes, I will give them a little extra. Gratuity in general is such tricky business, I could do a whole post on it. But it's imperative that you build these expenses into your beauty budget so that they don't wreck your experience when it's expected or appreciated.
6. Enjoy it. If you've chosen to splurge on a spa treatment or received one as a gift, don't spend the whole hour adding up the expense in your head or stressing over modesty to the extent that you don't relax. Spa treatments are a luxury. Let it be luxurious.Do you spa? Share your own tips or questions!