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Spa etiquette

We ask the embarrassing questions about spa do’s and don’ts so you don’t have to.


Is it weird to wear underwear and/or a bra during a massage?
Not really, says Ruby Room founder Kate Leydon. “The most important thing about getting a great massage is that you are fully comfortable. We do not recommend wearing a bra as this gets in the way of the therapist getting into your back muscles.” But she says it’s not uncommon for people to wear their underwear—and you can still obtain a good deep massage this way. “If you are uncomfortable with disrobing, just keep in mind that this is what therapists do each day,” Leydon says.

How long is it okay to stay at the spa after a treatment?
“There is no actual time limit to how long someone can stay in our relaxation area, but if all clients decided to come and not leave, [it] would become overcrowded and unpleasant for all,” an anonymous spa manager tells us. “Of course a guest can receive a small wax or express manicure and stay in the relaxation [area] indefinitely, but from a business standpoint, it’s not advantageous to [us] to have many guests come and do that. There are some really large spa locations that offer amenities at a low cost. King Spa comes to mind; their layout is conducive to spending countless hours there, but [many] are not set up that way.” We say: Stick to about 30 minutes of steaming or lounging to keep the happy spa karma flowing.

How much should I tip on a spa treatment?
Spa Soak co-owner Emily Eisenberg says it’s customary to leave 20 percent of the cost of your total services. (If you’re a regular client, don’t forget to tip double during the holiday season.) “I do feel many clients should know the answer to that question but don’t,” she says.

How can I ensure a truly deep massage?
For starters, don’t book a Swedish massage, which focuses more on relaxation than deep pressure, according to Eisenberg. And the golden rule: Speak up. “Tell [the therapist] what kind of pressure you like—light, medium or strong,” Eisenberg says. “And if it is still not right, let them know to do softer or stronger.” If it’s not deep enough when you get started, it’s not going to get any better; say something right away. (You won’t hurt the therapist’s feelings by asking for more pressure.)

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