Friday, June 24, 2011

Spa Going 101: Know Before You Go

While reading June’s edition of Condé Nast Traveler, I came across the article entitled Etiquette 101: Bath Saunas and Spa Treatments. It's summer and as my family and I prep for another trip, I've been reading up on some exotic travel destinations and their traditions. This article is chocked full of the appropriate behaviors for visiting the spa in countries spanning from Japan to Hungary. It is such a well-written and informative article for travelers and spa goers like myself. It is also very telling of spa behaviors. A few choice worldly spa traditions are:
  • Germany engages in mixed gendered nudity is quite routine and has been common in places like Austria and parts of Switzerland.
  • The Japanese like to keep things “squeaky clean” and there are absolutely no shoes allowed in the locker and shower rooms.
  • In Finland, the sauna is an extremely sacred place where women once gave natural childbirths amid the notoriously high temperatures that characterize the countries spas.
My own luxury spa of choice is Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spas. They boast over 31 locations nationwide and on my most recent visit, I was once again wrapped in the iconoclastic spa experience. If you are traveling within the U.S. this summer, there should be a Red Door Spa location close to you giving you the opportunity to experience the good life yourself, even on vacation. From the front door to the amazing views and first-class customer service, this is my new place to be...all the time. This is where you will receive the highly sophisticated services that have become synonymous with the luxury American Day Spa. The spa, in general, is an area of refuge for the overtired and stressed. Booking an appointment at the spa is like therapy or a religious devotional experience for some and has been this way for centuries. Embracing the spa could do the whole world a whole lot of good and that is why I am going to go as much as possible for as long as I can.

In this Condé Nast Traveler article, Melisse Gelula of Well&Good NYC said this of spa going: “The more authentic you go, the less uptight you can be.” Love this quote. Be authentic and you can get major benefits in life. What a concept. I go to the spa with an open mind ready and willing to be rejuventated and pampered. It is not that I deserve to go. It is that I owe it to myself and those around me to become enlightened in one way or another at the spa.

The spa for me, as it does with the hostile troops in the likes of Cosovo, Cyprus and Finland during the cold war, eases tensions allowing me to see and live more clearly. The spa experience has the ability to do a lot of beneficial things for us emotionally, physically and mentally if we open ourselves up to letting it all go. But before we all go, let’s focus on some simple rules of etiquette for spa going in America. Like with most social situations, the spa enlists its set of rules. The Condé Nast Traveler article listed 19 Golden Rules of Spa Treatments that are key to enjoying your spa visit to the fullest.

Here are my top 10 highlights of spa etiquette:

1. Use breathe mints. Especially for facials and haircuts. It’s simply polite not to breathe out fire like a dragon in the face of a professional.

2. Shower beforehand. This should be common sense but a certain masseuse has told me hygiene horror stories in her luxury salon. I don’t want to get into details here, but please lather up before treatments. It’s good practice & very polite manners.

2. Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink tons of water before treatments. Bathroom interruptions are annoying to the specialist and a waste of your money. Time is money especially in a salon.

3. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. They usually require you to take it off before treatments anyway. Adopt this as a standard practice for spas, long vacations, or overseas travel. I speak from a very bad experience here. Keep it locked up & put away when going to the spa. No one is responsible for your jewelry except for you.

4. Always arrive early. Especially if you are a new client. There is usually a doctor’s office amount of paperwork though Red Door is seriously the least I’ve seen in years. You are able to have some extra time to really see the spa, scope out the closest restroom, and get a general feel for the place. If you are going to be late, simply call & if you are super late, just reschedule. You want to relax and not be crunched for time.

5. Don’t use a cell phone. Please people, either take the time to completely disconnect from the outside world or turn all bells, alerts, alarms and whistles to silent.

6. Speak up about what it is that you specifically want as far as music, pressure and injuries. Again, this is your money and you should let them know what they can do to best serve you. It’s their profession and a serious specialist will take these cues as beneficial.

7. Avoid striking up serious conversation. It is your time to relax and enjoy some spa time. A moving jaw during treatment doesn’t help penetrate the products. Just shut up and enjoy your own bit of luxury.

8. Don’t be shy about foot treatments. As a former dancer, I have horrendous feet. No seriously.They are my worst feature and I’ve been told by many a person that this is so. I’ve accepted it over much time and ridicule so it’s taken me time to get used to the handling of my feet but I love pedicures. What was I to do? Just get over it it because my feet look fabulous after a good pedicure. Yours will too.

9. Do not fall for the hard-sale. This is a high pressure that I just can’t stand for. Products sell themselves if they are really a good product so ask about them if you are curious during your treatments. Don’t allow them to be sold to you. A kind, “Not today” will be sufficient and then find yourself another person.

10. Just relax. Chin down, muscles loose and eyes closed is the Spa Going Holy Trinity. Breath it all in whether it be a quick blowout or a 2 hour massage and truly enjoy your time at the spa!