Life gets busy. So when you go on vacation, or even when you can carve out a spare hour or two from your daily routine, it’s great to go to the spa for a little pampering. Perhaps you’ve become a pro at picking the hotel with the best steam room. Or maybe you’ve scoped out all the best facial treatments across your city. And you might even have a favorite aesthetician on speed dial for when you want to splurge. But even seasoned spa-goers could learn a few secrets from massage therapists and aestheticians.
Whether you head to the spa primarily to get a massage, to zone out in the steam room, or to enjoy a facial, there are some things you need to know. These are the secrets your spa doesn’t want you to know — and a few your spa probably does want you to know.
1. You have to choose the right order for your spa treatments
One of the worst rookie mistakes you can make at the spa? Choosing the wrong order for your treatments. Refinery29 reports you should go with a steam or sauna session first. Then, get a bath treatment. Next, do a scrub. After that, have a massage. And finish up your spa day with a facial.
And Allure recommends you follow the sequence of body, face, feet, and then hands. Many spa receptionists — or online booking programs — will alert you if the sequence you request seems counterintuitive. But ultimately, the responsibility to schedule correctly lies with you.
2. There actually is a best time to go
When you book a spa treatment, you’re probably just trying to find a day when you can afford to step away from your responsibilities for an hour or two. (Or, if you’re on vacation, you probably want to maximize your relaxation time at the beach or the pool.)
But Allure reports you should pay attention to timing your spa visit correctly. “You’re most likely to get the best service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays before noon. That’s when spas are least busy, so the staff won’t be rushed.”
And on the off chance it’s the spa on a cruise ship you’re thinking of visiting, Frommer’s recommends going for a port day appointment to take advantage of promotions.
3. Appointments can book up quickly
If you plan to hit the hotel spa on your next vacation, you might want to book your appointment early. Travelzoo reports at many hotels, appointments can fill up quickly. (At many hotel spas, that seems especially true on the weekends.)
Book your appointment well in advance. That way, you won’t end up settling for appointments that are far earlier in the morning than you’d prefer. And do some quick research to figure out which treatments you want. You might not be able to make changes the day of your appointment, particularly if the spa’s schedule is packed, so it pays to plan ahead.
4. If you’re taking a spa vacation, you have to choose the right spa
When you just want a massage after a long workday or need to fit in a facial before a friend’s wedding, you probably don’t need to do hours of research to find the right spa. But as Fodor’s reports, when you take a spa vacation, you definitely need to choose the right destination.
If you just want a massage or two during your stay, a day spa will probably fit the bill. But if you plan to focus on pampering, you might want to opt for a destination spa. Check out the packages in advance. And always book your appointments early.
5. The staff expects you to arrive at the spa early
Speaking of scheduling, you should always show up early if you want to maximize the relaxing benefits of the spa. If you walk in and have to strip down in a hurry to get to your first treatment, you won’t really feel like you’re unwinding. But if you show up with enough time to relax, hydrate, and perhaps even shower and steam before your first treatment, you’ll feel a lot less rushed and a lot more relaxed.
Plus, you can ask the front desk staff to give you a tour of the facilities, particularly at large spas and resort spas. They’ll provide you with a robe and slippers, so you can get comfortable and take advantage of the amenities on site.
6. You should always research which treatments are worth it
Whether you’re at home or on vacation, you should do your research on the spa you plan to visit. Many offer a wide variety of body and facial treatments. But only some of those treatments are worth the price.
Frommer’s reports at cruise ship spas, for instance, facials are generally very overpriced and not up to the standards of what you’d expect on land. For a spa on land, check out reviews by trusted beauty writers to see which treatments yield great results and which ones they’d advise you to skip.
7. Many spas offer ‘samplers,’ so you can try different treatments
Scoping out which spas you like best in your area? Then, you might want to see whether the spa offers a sampler, which enables you to try a set of mini services at a discount. You might be able to get a mini facial and short massage for a lot less than what a full facial would cost. The sampler might even include a discount that you can apply to your next full service. Always check the spa’s social media feeds if you’re looking for a discount or promotion.
8. They will often negotiate if you bring a group
Planning a girls’ day and hoping to take your friends to your favorite spa? Call ahead, and ask for a group discount. Condé Nast Traveler reports many spas will negotiate if you have a group of six people or more. The publication advises, “Call ahead and you can often finagle a free treatment or group discount.” Similarly, if you’re booking rooms at a hotel, ask whether you can get some spa credit thrown in.
9. The spa can often accommodate if you prefer a male or female therapist
If you have a strong preference regarding the gender of your massage therapist or aesthetician, feel free to speak up when you book your appointment. Typically, the spa can accommodate those kinds of requests — as long as you make them with sufficient notice. The spa might not have the personnel on hand to make adjustments the day of your appointment. Always remember to voice your preferences well in advance.
10. You should never drink before heading to the spa
Refinery29 reports many professionals recommend against indulging in any alcohol at all before you come into the spa. Even a single mimosa at brunch is enough to make you feel the effects of the alcohol, which will relax you and throw off your sensitivity to pressure. Save that glass of champagne or wine for after your spa day, and you’ll feel much better. Drink plenty of water before and after your treatments. And always stick to a light meal before you have a massage.
11. Snag a discount by pre-booking your next appointment
U.S. News reports you can get a discount on services at your favorite spa by pre-booking your next appointment on the day of your visit. That way, the spa can count on your business. And you get an extra incentive to keep coming back. “This discount isn’t always advertised — all you have to do is ask,” the publication explains.
Similarly, you can sometimes get a discount by booking multiple services on the same day. Just ask whether the spa offers a discounted rate if you want to treat yourself to a full spa day. Other ways to save? Sign up for a membership at your favorite spa, or check daily deals sites if you haven’t found your favorite spa yet.
12. Massage therapists don’t like to be called masseuses
Mental Floss reports many massage therapists cringe when they hear the word “masseuse.” Some people use the terms massage therapist and masseuse interchangeably. But they don’t mean the same thing. Masseuse implies a lack of education and sometimes even has sexual overtones. Regulations vary by state. But massage therapists go through extensive education to become certified or licensed.
13. You should probably strip down when you get a massage
When you get a massage, your undergarments send a clear message to the therapist. “It’s simple,” Refinery 29 explains. “Anything you’re covering will probably be passed over.” You can always ask for disposable bikini bottoms, which allow for some modesty but still let you get a full massage. But TotalBeauty reports massage therapists say there’s no need to cover up. Your massage therapist has seen hundreds of bodies. There’s nothing about yours that will surprise them.
14. Your massage therapist might help you spot skin cancer
Another interesting thing you didn’t know about going to the spa? Regular appointments with a massage therapist might help you catch skin cancer early. Mental Floss reports massage therapists see parts of your body you usually don’t. (Think the back of your hips or behind your knees.) If you get regular massages with the same massage therapist, they might spot changes in your skin and suggest you see a dermatologist.
15. But you shouldn’t rely on an aesthetician for anything more than routine skincare
Just because your massage therapist might spot a suspicious mole doesn’t mean you should head to the spa instead of the dermatologist. Into the Gloss reports an aesthetician can help you with mild breakouts, sensitivity, dry patches, and aging concerns. Aestheticians can provide microdermabrasion, extractions, superficial peels, pore cleansing, exfoliating treatments, waxing, and a variety of procedures using lights, lasers, ultrasound, and radio frequency.
Anything more than that — whether you need a skin cancer check, require help with severe acne, or want fillers, injections, and intense laser treatments — and you should go to the dermatologist.
16. You should always turn off your phone
Most of us know we want to relax, we should turn off our smartphones. So try to unplug when you’re at the spa. Sure, you can snap a photo for Instagram in the lobby. But after that, put your phone on silent, and ignore the text messages, emails, and social media feeds that usually compete for your attention. They’ll still be there when you’re through with your massage and facial. You’ll just feel a lot more relaxed if you can ignore them for an hour or two.
17. You should never shave or exfoliate on a spa day
Don’t shave — or try any other kind of hair removal — the same day as a body treatment. Irritated skin will feel extra-sensitive to the products used in a massage or body treatment. And a massage therapist won’t judge you, and might not even notice, if you have a little bit of stubble.
Similarly, you should skip any kind of exfoliation — physical or chemical — for about 48 hours before your treatment. And let your technician know if your routine usually includes retinoids or acids because they can adjust your treatment to prevent an adverse reaction.
18. Your aesthetician or massage therapist wants you to speak up
Refinery29 notes whether you’re getting a massage or facial, “communication is key.” Speak up if you want your treatment to focus on a specific area or if you need an adjustment in pressure. Don’t forget to let the staff know if a specific product or ingredient will irritate your skin. And always let the technician know if you’re using any oral or topical medications that could affect your treatment.
19. The spa actually needs to know about your allergies
If you’ve ever been to a spa, you’ve probably noticed the front desk staff asks you to fill out a medical questionnaire that’s actually pretty similar to the one you’d fill out at a doctor’s office. As Travelzoo notes, it’s important that you take your time and list any allergies, sensitivities, or medical conditions.
It’s also important to let the spa know about any food allergies you have. Fruits, for instance, show up in many natural skincare products. So you don’t want to inadvertently go into a treatment that will cause an allergic reaction.
20. It’s a bad idea to shower too soon after leaving the spa
Just because you made it through your treatments without a major faux pas doesn’t mean you’re totally safe. You also need to watch what you do after you leave the spa. One of the biggest mistakes? Showering too soon after a facial or body treatment. You want the potent ingredients applied to your skin to continue to work. So if you shower too soon, you’ll just rinse away those products.
Most spa professionals advise waiting until the next morning after your treatments to shower. But Refinery29 reports you should wait at least six hours.
21. You shouldn’t make plans that immediately follow your spa day
You shouldn’t make plans right after your spa day. Refinery29 reports if you can, you should avoid making dinner plans, drinks plans, or any other kind of plans for the evening after a spa day. You shouldn’t shower or put on makeup immediately after those relaxing spa treatments. In fact, putting on makeup right away can clog your pores. So you should plan to continue relaxing at home or in your hotel room.
22. You should work out before, not after, your massage or spa treatments
Similarly, you should plan to work out before you go to the spa, not afterward. You’ll enjoy the relaxing, glowy effects of your spa treatments for longer. But you’ll probably also enjoy your massage more if you follow your workout with a massage. A good massage can help counteract tension. And it might even help increase your flexibility. Just make sure you take advantage of the spa’s shower and steam room before you get your massage.
23. Not everybody is convinced facials really work
The New York Times reports though facials are the third most popular service at spas across the United States — behind massages and nail care — not everybody is convinced they work — or that they constitute a necessary part of your skincare routine. Dermatologists, specifically, often voice skepticism that spa treatments, unbacked by scientific evidence, can really deliver the results they promise. But some dermatologists hire aestheticians to provide proven services, such as peels, microdermabrasion, and extractions.
When you go for a facial, the aesthetician should always customize it based on your skin type and your skincare concerns. Otherwise, the results likely won’t be worth the cost.
Read More: 15 Secrets Hotels Don’t Want You to Know