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As the spa and leisure industries continues to thrive, a greater variety of day spas and resorts are emerging. Knowing what is offered by each can be confusing for both newcomers and spa-veterans alike, particularly as some spa categories can be used interchangeably.
Our A - Z glossary of different spa types below should help make things clearer, but if you’re still confused about which spa type may serve your needs best, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Originating in India, Ayurveda - meaning ‘the knowledge for long life’ in Sanskrit - is the oldest known health practice in the world and the focus of spas with the same name. Hindu treatments aim to boost immunity, prevent and heal diseases, delay ageing and promote the overall well being of patients. All Ayurvedic treatments are prescriptive - a consultation with a specialised physician will determine the unique needs of your skin and body. Daily yoga and meditation classes are often included as part of packages at Ayurvedic spas.
Bootcamp spas offer the treatments one would expect at a traditional spa (massages, facials, manicure etc.), in addition to vigourous workout classes and educational talks which aim to help participants learn how to make better lifestyle choices for improved health. Many boot camps are weight loss or detox focused, promising inch loss and improved vitality at the end of their two night to one week durations. Guests will feel rejuvenated thanks to nutritional - and delicious - meals, fun team games, and well-earned post-workout pampering.
Club spas are day spas located within a larger gym or health club. Adjoining fitness and health facilities at club spas are often exclusive to those paying a monthly, or annual, membership fee (though day passes are available at certain times, in order to encourage new sign ups). Clubs spas often feature a deluxe spa, fully equipped gym, a cafe, a relaxation lounge and/or bar, and occasionally a hair and/or beauty salon also (individual spa specifications vary).
Unlike spa hotels, day spas provide no overnight accommodation. Guests are welcome to enjoy massages, facials and body scrubs and wraps (note: individual spa menus vary), and make use of onsite leisure facilities during normal working hours, on weekdays and weekends. Day spas can differ greatly - some are large, luxurious and self-contained affairs, while others are quainter and comprise several rooms within a sizeable hair or beauty salon.
Going to the dentist can be nerve-wracking for many but opening wide and saying “Ahhh!” is far easier in a stylish and calming setting designed to mimic a spa. Dental spas are ideal for those who find traditional dental practices intimidating, as well as those seeking the very best maintenance and care for their teeth.
Destination spas (AKA health farms) exist to boost the overall health of guests. Traditional spa treatments help guests unwind, while a full itinerary designed to promote a healthy lifestyle is also provided. Nutritional meals, fitness and stress reduction classes, and educational lectures informing guests how to remain healthy once they have returned home are often included. The term ‘destination spa’ is often used interchangeably with ‘spa resort’, for an increasing number of the latter are extending the health-based services they offer.
At these spas, guests can experience the Middle East’s variation of the steam bath, otherwise known as the ‘Turkish bath’. Hammams are communal places to cleanse and socialise in middle eastern countries, though the experience (often called ‘the wet cousin of the sauna’) has been made private - and more luxurious - within western spas. Guests unwind inside a warm room, before entering another to undergo head to toe body exfoliation and soaping. After rinsing off in a pool of cold water, guests enjoy a massage before ending their treatment inside an invigorating cooling room.
‘Health farm’ and ‘destination spa’ are two terms which are often used interchangeably. Generally speaking however, the former offers a personalised experience with a high staff to guest ratio, personal fitness and dietary advice readily available, no children, a daily schedule of exercise and activity classes included as standard in with package price, menus are calorie counted, it’s the norm to lounge around in towel robes throughout all areas and typically all of this in idyllic settings.
Please refer to ‘Destination spa’.
These are spas within hotel environments. While destination spas prioritise pampering while offering accommodation, guests at hotel spas are less likely to stay simply to enjoy the spa alone - rather, it’s simply a fantastic additional facility to enjoy. These spas often appeal to those who would like to combine a spa visit with other holiday activities.
Medical spas (AKA ‘med spas’) employ fully licensed medical staff who administer non-invasive cosmetic treatments - like Botox, microdermabrasion, fillers, chemical peels and laser hair removal - in addition to more traditional spa treatments (individual menus vary). Such spas resemble a cross between a day spa and a GP’s office, and operate under the supervision of a fully qualified doctor to ensure safety and desirable results for all patients.
These spas comprise a natural source of spring water, in which guests can bathe. Mineral water has long been commended within the spa industry for its healing properties, and many have soaked in such to relieve pain and skin ailments. If the water source is naturally heated by the earth’s crust, the venue is likely to be referred to as a thermal spa. If the water is cool, the spa may choose to heat it so that it is a more comfortable and therapeutic temperature for guests.
Mobile spas allow customers to be pampered by a fully trained professional within the comfort of their own home, or another personal space. The services offered vary between each ‘spa on wheels’, with some therapists providing cosmetic procedures (e.g. tooth whitening and Botox), tanning and hair salon services, in addition to traditional spa facials, massages and manicure treatments.
Please refer to ‘Relaxation spa’.
Relaxation spas are also referred to as ‘pampering spas’ or ‘pampering and relaxation spas’. As these names suggest, stress and tension relief is the aim of these venues, which offer prescription massages, body scrubs, hydrotherapy treatments and thermal therapies to help guests escape life’s worries. Relaxation spas are typically located within larger holiday and health resorts, and are self-contained (i.e. the spa experience does not extend to the resort's cuisine, and fitness classes are seldom provided).
‘Spa resort’ is the generic name applicable to any spa offering hotel accommodation. While spa days are often available, guests typically visit spa resorts for overnight breaks, in order to make the very most of the site’s facilities. Many comprise state of the art gyms, fine restaurants, relaxation rooms, some of the country’s best golf courses and even more to enjoy besides. Some spa resorts (such as bootcamp spas and destination spas) are highly health focused, while others prioritise leisure and relaxation.
Thalassotherapy (from the Greek word thalassa, meaning ‘sea’) is the medical use of seawater as a form of therapy. Thalassotherapy spas often feature a warm, mineral rich thalassotherapy pool comprising powerful hydrotherapy jets to massage, tone and soothe tired and aching muscles, in addition to affusion showers (massaging and invigorating indoor sprinkler systems). These pools and showers can be filled with natural sea or spring water, or minerals may be added to pumped water for similar effect. Dead sea and seaweed spa treatments are commonly provided at Thalassotherapy spas, as are fitness facilities.
These spas feature an onsite source of thermal water which is heated naturally by the earth’s crust. As well as providing traditional spa treatments and thermal therapies (e.g heated body wraps and hot stone massages), thermal spas see guests bathe in the naturally warm water, which is thought to boost blood flow and remove toxins from the body. Water from natural sources is considered particularly healing due to its high mineral content but those without ailments will enjoy a day - or two - of thermal spa TLC just as much.
This term is increasingly common within the spa industry. This is because ‘wellness spa’ can be used to describe any resort at which strict nutritional food plans, fitness and stress reduction classes, and healthy lifestyle workshops are also provided for guess, as opposed to indulgent spa pampering alone.