If you’re a spa massage newbie, it can be a daunting experience. We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you get the most out of your relaxing and rejuvenating spa massage.
Before the treatment room
What to take with you to a spa
This is a question that comes up a lot, so we’ve compiled a useful guide that covers all the essentials. It looks at what clothing you should take, as well as what items you should bring (and what you should leave behind). It also answers that sticky question of nudity (hint, you don’t have to fully undress during a massage, if you feel uncomfortable doing so!).
When should I arrive?
It is important to be on time for your massage. If you arrive late, you will be sacrificing your treatment time and the spa may not be able to accommodate you at all. Of course, being late is not always in your control. If you are delayed or need to cancel, contact the spa to let the therapist know as soon as possible. Depending on the spa package you have chosen, you may have access to the spa’s facilities. Arriving early and using the spa’s hydrotherapy area before your appointment time adds value to your treatment.
Using the spa facilities
If the spa boasts lots of facilities, arriving up to an hour before your massage is a good idea. This is recommended for two main reasons: - Gentle exposure to heat from a sauna, steam room or tepidarium helps prepare both mind and body, so that you shed any stresses of the day, as well as physically ease tense muscles and boost the circulation of blood and detoxifying lymph before your massage has even started. Bonus! - Using the hydrotherapy and sauna facilities before (and not after) a massage, gives the therapeutic oils and lotions used in your treatment the chance to work their nourishing magic on the skin. Spa therapists recommend leaving products to sink in for an hour or two after your treatment for maximum benefit.
Should I shower after a swim or Jacuzzi?
Massage oils and lotions used in your treatment can really nourish the skin, particularly if you’ve opened the pores by sitting in a steam room or warm whirlpool beforehand. But if you haven’t washed off the chlorine and chemicals after being in the Jacuzzi prior to your treatment, these can stay trapped beneath the topical oils applied to your skin; a layer of unnecessary toxins that could lead to skin irritation.
Specifically want a male/female spa therapist?
Although the majority of spa therapists in the UK happen to be female, in larger spas, you may have a choice.
If the reason for your request is that you’re shy, it’s worth bearing in mind that spa therapists have seen it all before! They all have to undergo rigorous training to deliver the most professional service possible, whether they’re male or female. Don’t assume that a male massage therapist will necessarily be stronger than a female one. Thanks to modern massage techniques using the elbows and knuckles for added strength (and in Thai massage, the legs and feet), you may not notice any difference between the sexes.
Of course, the important thing is that you feel comfortable, so if you have a strong preference, just ask. However, therapists are usually on a carefully planned rota, so the sooner you ask at reception, the more likely you’ll be able to get your request met. Check out our blog post for more.
Spas usually offer plenty of drinking water and/or herbal teas in their reception, relaxation lounge or sauna areas. As tempting as it is to hydrate quickly if you arrive feeling parched, it’s probably not the best idea to slurp a pint of water just before a treatment, as you’ll likely need to interrupt your massage for a loo visit! That said, it’s important to sip water regularly throughout your spa day, as saunas and heat-based massages can be dehydrating.
Need the loo?
Best get this out the way before entering the treatment room, because you’ll be wasting precious massage time otherwise. Allow plenty of time before your appointed massage slot. Busy spas are run regular as clockwork or else their complex schedule goes awry.
Feel faint or get easily dizzy?
Alcoholic drinks and heavy meals should be avoided before a treatment, particularly if you have heart or blood pressure issues. If you suffer from low blood pressure, be extra careful when standing up in wet rooms, saunas and steam rooms. Get up really slowly (or even in stages) from warm hydro pools, herbal baths, body wrap treatments and heated floating beds in particular, to help prevent a dizzy spell. Never get into a herbal bath that feels too hot – don’t be afraid to ask the attendant to adjust the temperature so it’s right for you. Ask your spa therapist if you’d like a cool face towel to help keep you refreshed during heat-based treatments, particularly if you have a delicate complexion. It’s also important to declare all medications and any allergies on the consultation form issued at the beginning of your treatment.
New to spas or never had a massage before? Read our handy FAQs here on what to expect before, during and after your treatment. For more tips, read our complete guide to spa etiquette.
In the treatment room
Don't want to ruin your underwear?
Will I have to get naked? Ask for a pair of disposable paper knickers. Sometimes, these are offered as part of your treatment. They can be quite skimpy and it’s sometimes confusing which way round they go! (Generally, the wider part goes to the front as on a pair of thongs). If in doubt, ask your friendly spa therapist. Rest assured, you won’t be the first to ask!
You can, of course, also wear a bikini if you prefer and undo the back prior to your massage, but most women find it more comfortable simply to lie down topless to prevent their bra digging in to them.
Feeling a bit cold?
Just ask for an extra towel to keep you warm on the massage table (some spas offer comfy duvets for added cosiness).
Don’t hesitate to ask for towels or blankets to be removed. Some massage beds have an in-built electric heater - it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for this to be turned down or off altogether. Your comfort is the therapist’s priority. If you can do it before he/she’s got their hands covered in oils, so much the better.
Find the spa music too loud or annoying?
Don’t be afraid to ask for it to be turned down or switched off. There’s no point gnashing your teeth through chiming bells if you’d prefer quiet. Most spas have a selection of bespoke CDs per treatment room, while others have music that plays over a high-tech system throughout the spa, which may be trickier for your spa therapist to regulate. In busier spas, music can be an effective way of blocking out outside noises or a rumbling tummy – good to know if that kind of thing makes you self-conscious.
Feel a bit self-conscious?
It’s natural if this is your first time at a spa. But remember spa therapists really have seen it all before (this is their day job!). You can rest assured that towels serve another function in spa treatments other than to dry and keep you warm: They’re also used to shield your modesty, particularly around the bust and bottom areas. If your therapist needs to ask you to turn over during a treatment, she will lift a large towel up for this purpose. Take a couple of deep abdominal breaths to help you relax and get the most out of your treatment. Some people find chatting with the therapist for a few minutes a good way to break the ice.
Don’t feel like chatting?
Let your spa therapist know that you wouldn’t mind drifting off or relaxing in silence. Don’t feel you need to explain why – it’s your spa treatment and she will not think it rude at all; in fact, he/she will expect that you’ll want to enjoy the treatment mindfully at some stage. Good spa therapists are actually trained to answer your questions but not to initiate conversations, if they pick up on the fact you may want to zone out. In other words, they will take your lead. The main thing is for you to enjoy the massage.
It’s good to zzzz…
There are proven benefits to be had from letting your brain switch off during a massage. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a short 20 to 30-minute daytime nap can help improve mood, alertness and restore flagging energy levels. Good news if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep. However, don’t be tempted to sleep for longer than half an hour, as this can leave you feeling groggier than ever, say the researchers. Ever wondered why beauty sleep is one of the best natural anti-ageing solutions out there? One of the main reasons is that once your body’s other vital organs are at rest, the body can get to work on repairing damaged proteins and replenishing skin cells. So now you know! Grabbing some shut-eye after a long flight can help alleviate jetlag symptoms too, particularly when targeted aromatherapy oils are used, for example lavender to help you sleep and citrus oils to feel zingy and refreshed.
Got a low pain threshold, or find it hard to relax? If you’re familiar with yoga breathing, try this easy exercise: Take a deep breath inwards (swelling the tummy like a balloon as you do) and breath slowly outwards in time with the spa therapist’s deepest massage strokes. This abdominal breathing technique really works to ease tension and any discomfort. Some spa therapists encourage their clients to breath in this way and may invite you to smell an aromatherapy essential oil at the start of the treatment. Be careful not to hyperventilate and make yourself dizzy or tingly though – two or three deep breaths should be enough. Did you know that the time of month during which you have a massage makes a big difference to how much you enjoy it? Women who are menstruating are known to have lower pain thresholds than at other times of the month, so it may be worth booking a deep massage or a wax mid-cycle!
Immediately after your massage
Trust us, after a relaxing massage or facial, you won’t want to rush off straight to something hectic, so our best advice is to ensure a clear diary after a spa day! This is why dedicated spas boast lovely cocoon-comforting relaxation rooms where you can curl up, read magazines and sip herbal tea, catch up on some kip and emerge fully refreshed and ready to tackle the world. Another practical reason for not dashing straight off to an appointment is that massage oils can make your hair greasy even if a head massage is not part of the treatment. Spa therapists recommend giving your skin time to let the oils sink in rather than showering immediately after their application. We highly recommend sloping off to your room if you’re lucky enough to be staying overnight, for a blissful rest.
Should I tip?
There is no hard and fast rule about tipping, but it’s very British to feel bashful about it. Your therapist will appreciate a tip for good service, but if you feel embarrassed giving this to her in person, you can always pop it into an envelope (these can sometimes be found in the spa reception) or simply ask the spa receptionist to hand it to your therapist.
Did you know? We all know about eating five pieces of fruit and veg a day. If you struggle to meet this target, the latest research recommends increasing daily intake to ten! Here are some other handy tips to get more from your spa package between visits:
To boost lymphatic circulation: Before your shower or bath, sweep your body brush or loofah very lightly over your body’s skin in an upward direction, starting from the soles of your feet up towards your heart. Pause after brushing the back of your knees, underarm and groin areas to help flush toxins from the key lymph nodes in these regions, then repeat brushing your body in upward strokes from these points. Tip: If your skin turns pink, brush more lightly as it means you are stimulating the blood circulation, not the more superficially flowing lymph (the clear colourless fluid that flows near the skin surface).
Stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders are the perils of a sedentary lifestyle. Did you know that the best remedy for back pain is actually plenty of movement?
Try to get active where and when you can: Walk swinging your arms. Ditch the lift and use the stairs. Take regular breaks from your desk. Learn good posture with Alexander technique or yoga practice. Cat stretch pose first thing in the morning is excellent if you wake up with a stiff back, while spinal twists at your desk can be done subtly and easily while sitting in your chair. Drink plenty of water to help your organs function efficiently and detoxify naturally.
Booking a spa package that includes a body massage is one way to keep your body relaxed and supple. However, this should form part of an overall healthy lifestyle that promotes general wellbeing.
If you want to book a massage as part of a package, for either yourself or a friend, be sure to visit our spa vouchers page, or take a look at our latest spa deals. For more details or advice, contact our spa experts today.
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