We love that magical first moment of stepping into a spa. There’s the intoxicating aroma of pure essential oils; soft, melodic music gently flowing through concealed speakers; and a warm smile (and sometimes even a eucalyptus-infused hand towel) offered by the staff. These never fail to cast a calming spell on our mood and set us up for an unforgettable experience.
Of course, anyone splurging on a spa treatment should expect this kind of hospitality. If it’s not offered, or if something else goes awry (massage was too rough, or your stomach was growling), the time and money spent on your expensive treatment can feel wasteful and disappointing. To avoid such a letdown, we’ve tapped spa directors and estheticians from around the world to get their advice on making the most out of every spa treatment, so you can leave feeling refreshed, not resentful.
Be Smart About Booking
Don’t just assume that if a spa looks empty, it will be easy to book an appointment at a time of your choosing. Looks can be deceiving: more likely than not, the treatment rooms are full. “If you’re booking a treatment at a resort spa during your vacation, make sure to book early, as appointments tend to fill up quickly,” says Shana Ominsky, Executive Spa Director at Montage® Deer Valley in Park City, UT. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you set up your spa session when you’re making your reservations, rather than upon checking in. That way, you can arrive at your destination with nothing to worry about other than which essential oil to choose for your massage.
Careful booking can also help you save money, particularly when you’re visiting a spa with your best friend. Ignore the romantic implications of a couple’s massage and relax as you save money. “These are offered in one room and allow you to get a service discount,” says Marcia Webster, owner and Managing Director of the Lakeside Spa & Salonsm at Mission Point Resort® on Mackinac Island, MI. Furthermore, if you and your friend loved your service, Webster advises to ask what other services that provider(s) offers and which days they’re working, so you can be guaranteed another great experience.
You should also be strategic when scheduling your spa appointments, especially if you’ve booked them back to back. For example, you should always book nail services after your facial or massage to avoid a smudged manicure. If you’re getting a blowout, schedule it as your absolute last treatment — that way, you can step out of the spa and head straight to your next destination. You don’t want to get a massage after your hair appointment and risk oily or frizzy strands.
It’s all too easy to ruin a spa treatment with a growling stomach, therefore, you shouldn’t go into your service hungry or completely stuffed. “Ideally, eat a light meal you’re familiar with a few hours before your treatment, or curb your hunger with some fruits and nuts,” says Hannah Timmons, owner of Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa℠ in Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Columbia. “Anything fried right before is strongly discouraged: there's a time and place for everything, even your curly fries — as is anything that's going to leave you [overly caffeinated], like your favorite blended coffee beverage.” Save your bigger meals for your post-spa dinner reservations.
Unplug and Unwind
Why are you even at the spa if you’re not going to actually relax? Turn off your phones and any other distractions: not only will you benefit, but other spa-goers will appreciate the courtesy, too. “It is especially important to let go of our phones during experiences at the spa, as it’s one of the best places to nurture ourselves and discover that the world will carry on, even when we disconnect for a couple of hours,” says Consuelo Saroyan, Spa Manager at Andronis Concept℠ Wellness Resort in Thira, Greece. “Take the chance to detox from the need to have your phone on you at all times.”
That detox extends to your emotions. Don’t just leave your phone, jewelry, and accessories in the changing lockers before your treatment: “Leave everything behind, and just let go during your spa experience,” advises Saroyan. Let that facial detoxify your skin and your soul.
The Saunas and Steam Rooms Are There For a Reason — Use Them!
Most spa destinations offer sauna and steam room access, and will allow you to come hours earlier or leave later pre- or post-treatment, so that you can utilize these amenities. “Sauna-ing before your massage will make sure your body is primed for treatment by the time you sink into the table, and sauna-ing after will make sure your body continues to detox to the max,” says Timmons. You can also use the hot sauna after a mani or pedi to get a more efficient dry time.
If you’re scheduled for a facial, Saroyan suggests heading to the spa early to spend time in the steam room. “It will help to prepare the skin to receive and absorb precious ingredients more easily,” she says. Consider: many estheticians start facial appointments with a steam anyway to facilitate any extractions. The more comfortable your pore purging experience, the better.
When getting a facial treatment, it’s helpful to let your esthetician know which skincare products you’re already using at home, no matter how simple or complex your routine may be. “The more insight you can give to your esthetician, the more they can give you effective professional treatments and skincare routine recommendations,” says Brian Goodwin, International Trainer for Eminence Organic Skin Care℠. “If you don’t want to actually bring your products to the spa, just snap a picture of them on your phone so you don’t forget.”
Additionally, giving your masseuse honest feedback during your massage treatment is crucial to treatment satisfaction. “If the pressure isn’t hard enough five minutes in, let them know,” says Goodwin. “Your massage is for you, so make sure your needs are met.” Also, if there’s the option, Timmons suggests asking your masseuse for a non-staining oil, like coconut oil, so you can crawl straight into bed post-treatment, without worrying about staining your sheets.
Ultimately, every spa wants you to leave their establishment feeling rejuvenated, calm, and smiling post-service. Help them help you by vocalizing your concerns or your compliments. And once you’ve done that — relax!