The Complete Guide to Spa Etiquette

Not knowing how to behave at a spa can be a source of anxiety for first-time spa-goers, but appropriate spa conduct is mostly just common sense. The main thing to remember is that you are entering a tranquil space designed to provide a welcome escape from life’s stresses. As long as you keep this in mind, you will have a wonderful spa experience Keep reading to learn the answers to common spa etiquette questions, and to discover some quick tips for ensuring your spa day or spa break is memorable for all the right reasons.

Common questions

When should I arrive at the spa?

Arriving at your selected venue early is recommended in order for you to get the most from your spa visit and to avoid being late for your booked treatments. It should be noted that guests may be required to complete some paperwork upon arrival at spas they have never visited before; reserve some additional time for this if you’re a newcomer.

Once you’re signed in, you’ll be free to explore and use the spa’s facilities included in your chosen spa package. Keep a close eye on the time, though - you should aim to be in the designated waiting area around 15 minutes before any treatment is due. Being late could lead to your appointment being rescheduled for much later in the day, or completely cancelled, depending on how busy the spa happens to be. Besides which, racing to make it in time for a facial or massage is hardly relaxing.

Is tipping customary at spas? How much should I tip?

The amount you should tip is dependent on the type of spa you visit. While tipping between 10% and 20% is common practice at day spas, some resort spas will include a service fee within the total amount charged, negating the need to tip. Since a percentage of this service charge is not guaranteed to go to your personal therapist, you might like to leave a tip specifically for them, should they provide exceptional service.

Tips should be left at reception, as opposed to being handed directly to members of staff. The majority of spas prefer to receive their tips in cash, as opposed to electronic payments.

Can I use my mobile phone at the spa?

Mobile phone use is prohibited at the vast majority of spas. Some may allow guests to use their phones in reception and on outside grounds, but those making use of these options should be respectful and talk in a hushed, ‘spa voice’, so as to avoid upsetting other guests.

You should not take, or attempt to use, your phone within your chosen spa’s treatment rooms, or health and fitness facilities. Not only will staff and fellow guests find this rude, but you’ll spoil your own spa experience too. How can you truly unwind if you’re texting or chatting your way through your treatments?

When visiting a spa, it’s best to simply leave your mobile phone safely in your car, your locker, or in your hotel room, if you’re staying at a hotel/resort.

Can I choose the sex of my therapist? 

Many spas will allow their guests to select the sex of the therapists performing their treatments to make them feel more comfortable. However, it is important to call the spa ahead of your visit if you do have a preference, as the spa will need to ensure availability of female or male staff. Enquiring on the day itself could see your request unfulfilled.

It is important to remember that a limited number of therapists may be available for certain niche, or less-demanded treatments and during peak hours. You should also call ahead if there’s a particular therapist you’d like to request due to their good reputation, or because of a positive past experience.

Do I have to talk during my spa treatments? 

Talking is not recommended during facial treatments. This can be off-putting for the therapist and it’s very unlikely you’ll feel relaxed. You may wish to hold a conversation with the therapist during a non-facial treatment, such as a back massage, but do not feel obligated. Staff are trained to recognise when a guest wants to be silent and simply enjoy their treatment.  However, you should ensure you communicate clearly with your therapist throughout your treatments. If they are massaging you too hard, for example, you will want to make this clear, so they can change the pressure applied. Do not simply sit through any process you find uncomfortable just because you are in the hands of an expert.

Will I need to get naked at the spa?

Potential nudity is what causes many spa virgins the most anxiety, but these fears are largely unfounded. To learn why, please see our ‘What to Wear and Take to a Spa’ page.

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More spa etiquette tips

The following advice should also be followed, to ensure that you, the staff and fellow guests have a splendid time throughout your time at the spa:

Inform the spa of any medical, or skin, conditions you have in advance - There are some treatments which are not suitable for those with certain medical conditions or skin ailments. Discussing any you may have ahead of your visit will prevent disappointment on the day. Staff can customise treatments to make them suitable, or book an alternative therapy for you 

Be quiet and use your ‘spa voice’ - It is important to keep your noise levels down so as to not disturb other guests trying to unwind. Shouting will almost certainly see you removed from the venue - employ a suitable ‘spa voice’ at all times. 

Don’t splash, or fool around, in the hot tub or swimming pool – This type of tomfoolery is unlikely to go down well with other guests. 

Always employ good manners - Saying “please” and “thank you” to staff costs nothing, nor does being courteous to other guests (you’ll expect the same in return, after all) 

Leave areas and facilities how you would like to find them - While spa staff will want you to feel at home and as relaxed as possible, they will not want to clean up after you. Place all litter in a bin and ask staff where you can leave unwanted, used towels - do not simply drop them where you please. 

Don’t arrive for a massage - or any other treatment - sweaty - This will make for an unpleasant experience for both you and the therapist, and any applied oils or lotions will be less effective. Shower beforehand to avoid the embarrassment of the therapist requesting you go and wash. 

Shower before your treatment if you have come into contact with chlorinated water (in the swimming pool, or sauna for example) - You don't want the chemicals massaged into your skin.

Investigate whether you should shave, or wax, before your selected treatment - It is usually recommended that men undergoing facials shave at least two hours in advance of their treatment, to avoid potential irritation. Similar advice is often given to women when it comes to leg shaving and body massages, wraps and scrubs. Having a treatment shortly after a leg wax can be particularly problematic, so always ask your selected spa for advice ahead of your visit. Don’t worry if your treatment date falls before your next leg wax - hairy pins aren’t bothersome for spa therapists.

Be aware of smoking policies - Smoking is not allowed inside any day spa or resort. Each spa will have its own rules as to if, and where, you may smoke on its grounds. Please observe these rules. 

Check on cancellation policies - If you need to cancel a spa visit and/or treatment, always inform the spa as quickly as possible so your slot can be filled by another guest. Bear in mind that refunds may not be possible should you cancel less than 48 hours before the booked date.

Need further advice?

Call the friendly SpaSeekers team on 08444 77 44 77 today - we’ll tell you all you need to know.

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