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The Spa Manifesto

June 4, 2015 | By

The Spa Manifesto

Chris Covington | Editor in Chief | Red Letter Everyday eMagazine | 5-26-2015 | Disclaimer | Photos by Red Letter Everyday eMagazine


Massage: just the word begins to make the stress in my mind and body unravel. I thoroughly enjoy getting massages and facials. And my secret (not any more) affair with them began some years ago when my son was so very young and just entering preschool. He was only there for three hours a day, but I had about a 45 minute drive each way. So why bother to go home just to pop back in the car and wait in the carpool line for pick up. What a waste, so I had to find something to do during his adventure away from me and home.

So I made of list of things I could do each day, while I waited for Ben to master Legos, coloring and, heaven forbid, being without me for a few hours each day. I began with the low hanging fruit: grocery shopping, dry cleaners, and errands of all sorts. Quickly tiring of those things, I added walking in various locations nearby, visiting art galleries and museums, reading in the library, etc… until I finally found this time each day as an opportunity, an excellent way to perk my weary, sleep-deprived, mommy self up.

Just by chance one morning, I found a full service, reasonably-priced salon just down the street from my son’s preschool. I would never again, be that worn-down, unkept stay-at-home-mom. I was beginning a new era! Be gone hair that had not been cut or colored for almost a year and nearly automatically put itself into pony tail each and every morning. Chipped, unkept nails were forbidden, as were unshaped eye brows. Feet were once again soft and always sandal ready, even in the winter. It was glorious!!!


But I didn’t really understand the sweet hour of focusing on myself once every two weeks until, I accepted the invitation from the owner to be a test subject for a new masseuse that was being trained in the salon. Did she really say “free massage with a light facial, hand and foot massage” too? “Yes, please,” was an unexpected reflex response that I heard my voice say. And within minutes, I was handed a drape and left in a dim room with a sink and shower area in the back, a large bed, and soft music playing. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said. It was at this point that I realized that I had zero understanding – absolutely no knowledge – of what one did when one had a massage or even a facial.

The fire hose opened and a litany of questions quietly but rapidly filled from my mind:

  • Do I go naked or just undies, or bra and undies? She didn’t say and I didn’t ask.
  • What is the towel for? To wipe off after a shower? Or do I take a shower pre-massage, like at the pool before you go swimming?
  • Do I take my make up off? How do I get it off?
  • Do I keep my contacts in or take them out? I don’t have a case with me.
  • Is it better to have my hair up or down?
  • Yikes, did I shave recently? Yep, that is stubble … everywhere.
  • Tissues, are there any tissues so I can blow my nose?
  • Hands and feet, are they good? I checked; good enough.
  • And the list went on and on…

So many questions, but I had already committed. So I went with undies on, bra off, contacts in, and climbed under the sheets. I left my clothes in a pile on a stool.

She knocked and came in. And it began. Personal privacy was surprisingly preserved for such and intimate procedure. But it was by no means relaxing, because I was torturing myself with all my questions and doubt. However, I could see where, if one was properly prepared, that this event could be life-changing. And I needed some changing.

Facial Acid Peel

I thanked her, left a nice tip, and with my hair in knots, I left the salon with a mission: how does one properly get a treatment at a day spa.

I went straight to the top spa websites, Ritz Carlton Day Spas in Boston, Red Door near the W in DC, the Greenbriar in West Virginia and several resorts with swank spas through out the country.

At first hey empowered me with a variety of information but as I read on, I became confused with the conflicting information: do this, not that; either or both are acceptable, don’t have these treatments together, plan this amount of time before and after….. it was all too much.

So I decided to take a different approach. If I were the provider and I walked in the door, what would allow me to be comfortable and confident giving you a treatment that I completely enjoyed.

Moisture without irritation!

I’ve refined my inner etiquette rules over the years as I’ve experienced a variety spas from memorable local ones in Sonoma to the grand dames: Greenbriar and the Ritz Carlton. All these spa experiences are thanks to family gifts, sorority sisters’ generosity, and love from my husband and kids. Each experience has been cherished, and savored, reviving my spirits more than the givers will ever know!

In the few short years, Ben was in preschool, I cherished the time I invested in myself. It eventually led to the start of Red Letter Everyday eMagazine, my opportunity to share my passion for health, fitness and beauty.

Since then, mani/pedi’s are my mainstay with Laura, my daughter. Facials are a regular event. And massages are my treat.

A few years back, a young sorority sister of mine, knowing of my spa addiction, asked for tips on going to a spa for a massage and facial for the first time. As you can imagine, my heart leapt at the chance to share my knowledge and opinions: all of the things I wish I knew at that first massage and facial. I hadn’t ever written the spa etiquette rules down, I simply lived them. But she was heading into uncharted territory, and I would not let a dear sister down. And from here the Spa Manifesto began…

The rules were flexible, yet finite, and I can only imagine her surprise at my depth of understanding of the subject matter. 

Spa Manifesto

  1. It is a massage/facial, touching will be required so adjust your personal space, but always feel free to tell the provider if you feel uncomfortable.
  2. Check with the spa to see when you can arrive because you will want to take advantage of the relaxation area. A half hour there with cucumber water, dimmed lights, comfortable chair and soothing music can do wonders for your inner peace and a great treatment.
  3. Many higher end spas have a day pass or window of time you can enjoy the spa, sauna, hot tub, heated pool etc… so make certain to ask when you book your appointment. I recommend doing these activities before your treatment so that you don’t wash off any key products.
  4. Stop all home treatments outside of gentle cleansing and moisturizing three days prior to reduce skin sensitivities and irritations.
  5. Shave the necessary parts the day before, unless you are getting those areas waxed.
  6. Make sure your nose is clear.
  7. Drink 80 oz of water throughout the day for 48 hours prior.
  8. Don’t wear any makeup, jewelry or perfume to your treatment.
  9. Bring a brush and hair tie to pull your hair back. You hair will probably be messy post treatment.
  10. You do not need to shower at the spa prior to the massage, but you will want to have showered that day.
  11. Be early to your appointment to enjoy the relaxation room and to complete any paper work.
  12. You’ll be shown into a changing room or changing area. It in a private room, you’ll be asked to take all your belongings with you and lock them into a locker. I always find it useful to bring a large bag that zips. Everything is secure and in one place. If it is a shared changing room, you’ll be changing in front of others, and they will be changing in front of you. You’ll be able to put your items directly into a locker, but I still find the zippered bag useful.
  13. You’ll be asked to change into a shower towel and given a robe and usually slippers.
  14. Pull your hair back in a way that will allow you to comfortably lay on the back of your head. I usually find that a low pony tail/bun works best.
  15. Once you’ve changed and secured your items, take a moment to go to the restroom so that your treatment does not have to be interrupted.
  16. When you’ come out of the changing room, you’ll go to the relaxation room.
  17. This is your (and everyone else’s) time to relax and enjoy some infused water or herbal tea. So leave that cell phone in your bag/or robe pocket turned off and keep a low voice so that you don’t disturb other guests.
  18. At the time of your appointment, your service provider will come and get you from the relaxation room and introduce herself. She will escort you to your treatment room and give you a few minutes to remove your robe and, depending on the treatment, your towel and get under the heated covers on the treatment table. She will knock and enter the room.
  19. She will talk you to about your regimen and any concerns you have and review your paperwork with you. She should also review your treatment plan. Then she will begin the treatment.
  20. Any body parts not being worked on are covered under a heated blanket.
  21. Relax your muscles and work with the provider for a massage. Relaxed muscles can be worked on better.
  22. When your treatment has ended, the provider will let you know, talk to you about any products you may want to purchase at the spa, and give you a few minutes to train put your towel and robe on. You will then be escorted back to the changing area.
  23. You will probably not want to shower after your treatment as several great products will have been applied to your skin, and you’ll want them to stay on and do their work.
  24. From there, you can get dressed and return to the desk to pay. They will probably have new products that were used during your treatment ready for you to purchase, if you want to do so.
  25. Drink 80 oz of water throughout the day for 48 hours after to continue to flush your systems of the toxins that are release and for maximum benefits.
  26. If any thing makes you feel weird, just let the person know.
  27. You are the client and the provider wants you to have a great experience.
  28. Relax and enjoy!
  29. Oh, and if you should need to cancel your appointment, please make sure you do so as soon as possible and understand the spa’s policies. There may be a fee if you cancel too close to your appointment.

Now let’s talk about personal safety.

  1. Make sure you understand the environment you are going into, as you will be vulnerable. What is the reputation of the spa; have they had any recent activity that involved bringing in the police; when was the spa last inspected by the health department/other licensing agency; are the health and business permits current; even feel free to ask for references.
  2. Make sure someone knows where you are, where you are going, and when you will return.
  3. Laws and law enforcement vary from country to country. In some countries, camera surveillance may be allowed in changing areas. Talk with the spa on its policies before you book.
  4. Please make sure that you leave any valuables, including your rings, etc… at home or locked in your hotel room.
  5. As always, if the situation feels wrong, then follow your gut.

Now when I walk into a spa or salon, I do so with confidence and knowledge, making the experience that much fulfilling for me, and hopefully the provider. What’s your spa manifesto?



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About Author
Chris Covington
The Editor-in-Chief of Red Letter Everyday On-line Magazine is Chris Covington. Chris is an analytical chemist with a love of fitness, healthy cooking, and all things beauty! As a lifelong runner and weight trainer, she incorporates exercise and healthy eating into her daily life. As a skin cancer patient she has a special inquisitiveness for skin health and a desire to share her experiences and knowledge with her readers. Outside of RLE, Chris an alumna of Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority and is a member of the Junior League. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children. Chris enjoys hiking, camping, gardening, biking, and the amazing landscape of Northern California.

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