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 offer a welcome escape from life’s stresses. As long as you keep this in mind, you will have a wonderful spa experience. This guide provides answers to common questions about spa etiquette at UK venues. We also offer some quick tips for ensuring your spa day or spa break is memorable for all the right reasons.

What is spa etiquette?

While there are defined spa rules that guests are asked to follow for the safety and comfort of all visitors, there is also spa etiquette. This is accepted behaviour that ensures everyone has a calm and relaxing time. It may sound intimidating, but most etiquette at spas is simply common sense. A good rule of thumb is to think about how you would like other people to behave and do likewise. For example, keeping noise to a minimum, tidying up after yourself, and being courteous to staff and guests are all examples of common sense spa etiquette.

Spa etiquette FAQs

When should I arrive at the spa?

Arriving at your selected venue early is recommended to get the most from your spa visit and to avoid being late for your booked treatments. It should be noted that guests are usually required to complete some paperwork upon arrival.

Once you’re signed in, you’ll be free to explore and to use the 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 spa treatment is due to start. 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. If in doubt, ask the receptionist.

Can I use my mobile phone at the spa?

A key spa rule is that mobile phone use is prohibited. Some spas may allow guests to use their phones in reception and outside, but you should still be respectful and talk in a hushed voice to avoid disturbing other guests.

You should not take, or attempt to use, your phone within the 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 of our 500+ 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.

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. Spa rules usually prohibit nudity in communal areas, with the exception of changing rooms and, possibly, the sauna/steam room.

More spa etiquette tips

The following advice should also be followed, to ensure that you, the staff and fellow guests have a pleasant time while 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 (or for pregnant guests). Discussing any issues 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 asked to leave.

Shower before using the sauna – This is one of the main things to know about sauna etiquette. Another is to respect others’ personal space and to bring a towel (even if nudity is permitted).

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.

Leave areas and facilities how you would like to find them - While spa staff 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, 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 no less than 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.


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