By: Mari Perez-Lewis
Did you know that only about 18% of Americans have received at least one massage in the last year? I often ask people who have never received massage what has held them back from doing so and the most popular response has been ”I have no idea what to expect or what I’m supposed to do”. When it comes to massage, especially in a spa setting, a fear of the unknown can be a source of stress for some. Here is a simple guide to massage etiquette for first time spa goers to help you know what to expect and to feel at ease.
Turn Off Your Cell Phone
Always turn off cell phones, pagers, and other digital devices before entering a spa; this basic massage etiquette makes your session more comfortable and ensures that other spa clients are not disturbed.
Arrive on Time
If this is your first visit to our spa, please arrive at least 30 minutes in advance. This will allow time for you to fill out paperwork and for the front desk staff to give you a tour of the facilities, change into your robe and enjoy some quiet time in the relaxation room before your session. Unless you have arrived with sufficient time to be in the relaxation room at least five minutes before your appointment time, please wait to use the steam showers until after your massage. Your therapist will often have a full day of massages and needs to begin and end all sessions on time – especially if you have another service such as a pedicure or facial following your massage.
Speak Up About What You Want
When you call to make your appointment, the receptionist will ask you if you have a gender preference for your therapist. Massage therapists are taught to respect boundaries and use proper draping techniques, so either male or female should be fine. When you meet your massage therapist, it is a good idea to go over your expectations for the massage. If you have areas which you would like the massage therapist to address, request that he or she focus on them, and do not be afraid to talk about any concerns you may have. During the massage, speak up about anything that you would like to be different – more pressure, less pressure, another blanket, the table warmer turned off, etc. Your comfort is our priority as therapists, so please do not hesitate to ask if there is something we can do to improve your experience.
Stay in Your Spa Nudity Comfort Zone
Massage is usually done nude, but you are covered with a sheet at all times. Only the part of the body being massaged is exposed. You can keep your underwear on, but it might limit the therapist’s access to muscles that could use some work. However, that decision is yours and is dependent upon what you are comfortable with and what will allow you to relax during your session – your therapist can adapt. If you’re just starting out and know you have some anxieties about being massaged by a stranger, you could try a reflexology session which allows you to keep your robe on during the entire session.
To Talk or Not to Talk During The Massage
You may find that you get the most enjoyable experience by remaining silent, or you may prefer to chat. Your therapist should follow your lead. If you’re not talking and the therapist won’t be quiet, you can say something like, “I’m just going to zone out/be quiet/rest for a little while.” The therapist will get the hint. In general, try to use a quiet “spa voice” when you talk anywhere in the spa.
Getting Up From the Treatment
You don’t have to jump up instantly, but the therapist likely has another client after you so don’t linger too long. Most therapist now say “I’ll wait outside the door,” so you are aware. Your therapist will be waiting for you with a glass of water, and will check in with how you are feeling after your session, making any recommendations they may find appropriate.
Tipping after a massage or body treatment is another tricky aspect of massage etiquette. Standard tips range from 15-20%, although you are not obligated to tip. Be aware that if you do not tip, the massage therapist may think that you were unsatisfied with the massage; if you choose not to tip, you should clearly express your satisfaction, or lack thereof, with the experience. Feedback about your session, good or bad, is invaluable to your therapist and is greatly appreciated.
Cancelling Your Appointment
The spa has a 24-hour cancellation policy. A Charge Card number is required in order to bok an appointment, if you cancel or miss your appointment on the day of the service you will be charged in full. If you know you’re not going to make it, let the spa know as soon as possible. A therapist might have come in just for you, and if you don’t show up or pay the cancellation fee, the therapist doesn’t get paid and another client may have missed the opportunity to have that appointment time.