Spa Etiquette - How to Behave When You're Naked Among Strangers

Whether it's your first visit to a spa or your 100th, there are rules of spa etiquette that must be observed for the comfort of everyone.

Nudity (or near-nudity) is an issue for many people, especially on the first visit. Being practically naked in front of a bunch of strangers makes most people queasy!

Relax! You don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with!

Follow the spa rules and you'll be fine. Here are some spa etiquette tips to make your visit pleasurable and relaxing:

woman at a spa wrapped in a towe

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  • Do your research before booking a spa. Whether you're looking for a single treatment at a day spa or a full week of intensive therapy, you should have some idea what you're in for. Look at the Spa Treatment Glossary for descriptions of spas and spa treatments. That will help you decide the kind of spa experience you want.
  • Book your visit in advance. Even if you're just looking for a facial at a resort spa during your Hawaii vacation, book in advance if you prefer a particular day, time of day, or location.
  • Treatments on the beach may be booked weeks in advance, and you don't want to find out that the only spot available conflicts with a tour you've booked.

    Again, the point is relaxation - don't stress yourself out with last-minute details. If you're using a spa gift certificate, it's a good idea to mention that now, too.
  • If it's your first time at this spa - or any spa - let the receptionist know. Spa staff are very good at putting first-timers at ease; let them do their job.
From the first phone call to the time you enter the spa for your treatment, let everyone know that you're new. They will be happy to help you out so you don't feel uncomfortable. If you are really nervous, ask if you can have a brief tour before your visit. Arrange this when you make your appointment. If the spa will not accommodate you, find another spa.
  • Arrive early for your appointment. Even if you've been to the spa before, it is good spa etiquette to arrive at least 20 minutes before your appointment is to begin. You need to check in, shower and change (or disrobe) in preparation for your treatment.
  • Dress appropriately. This will vary greatly from one spa to another, and depending on the treatment you choose. Again, ask at the time you make your appointment.

    As a general rule, clothing is much more relaxed at a destination spa, since everyone is there for the spa experience. At a resort, most guests are just there for a vacation; resort wear is typical. Also ask if guests are required to dress for dinner; some spas encourage this, others don't. Leave jewelry at home; you won't need it and don't want to risk losing it.

    Ask what attire is recommended for the treatment itself. If you are told that nudity is preferable, let them know if you are not comfortable and ask about wearing a bathing suit. That should not interfere with most treatments, nor is it poor spa etiquette to politely decline to be nude during a treatment.

    You can also ask about the gender of the therapist, especially if you are not comfortable with a therapist of the opposite sex. This is much more common in European spas.
  • Shower before your treatment. Try to arrive early enough for a sauna or steam bath before your massage or treatment, too. It's relaxing and a great preparation for your treatment. Shower after your sauna or steam bath; it's generally best to remove makeup as well.
woman getting a massag

Shave the night before your treatment; freshly shaved skin can become irritated by the friction of a massage or by the lotions or oils used.

After your shower, put on the robe provided, relax, and wait for the therapist to bring you to your treatment room.

  • Tip if you feel the service warranted it. As with a restaurant meal, a tip of 10% - 20% is appropriate, and welcomed, if you were pleased with your treatment.
  • If you were not pleased, you are not required to tip; however, let the therapist know during your treatment if the pressure is too hard or soft, the music is distracting, the temperature is too hot or cold, etc. It isn't fair to anyone and is poor spa etiquette to suffer in silence and then complain after the fact. The therapist will do whatever is necessary to correct the problem if notified during the treatment.
  • When your treatment is completed, the therapist will take you back to the changing area or to your next treatment.

    When you are done with all treatments, you can put on your street clothes and return home feeling refreshed and renewed!

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