My first job was as a spa editor at a travel magazine. Before that, I had been to a spa exactly once, so the learning curve was steep. Over the course of my unlikely three-year stint, I tried just about every type of treatment. I learned about thalassotherapy and hot stones, got scrubbed with coffee and had a tear-inducing session with an energy healer. I had bad experiences, exceptional experiences, and straight-up strange experiences. My biggest takeaway: spas are what you make of them.
Recently, I revisited my cub reporter days when Katia, Hayley, and I took a trip to the Bliss Spa in Manhattan for a little mid-winter pick-me-up. My old spa editor instincts kicked in right away—here’s what I shared with them, and now with you.
Do your homework
While all good spas should be able to offer a top-notch Swedish massage (the bread and butter treatment), they will likely have more specialized offerings. If the one you want to go to is known for a particular type of technology or technique, say hot stone massages, book that. At Bliss, they're known for their highly customized facials, so I booked a Fabulous Facial and then relied on the therapist to design something just for me.
Share some background
When you sign in at the spa, make sure to tell your therapist everything they should know to tailor your experience. This includes big issues like whether you're pregnant or allergic to anything, but also smaller factors like recent diet changes. This can affect everything from the essential oils they choose to the music and lighting. Even if you don’t say a word, your therapist can diagnose your needs. My facialist took one look at my complexion and added an extra dose of microdermabrasion to decongest and a collagen mask to rehydrate.
Don’t be shy
If you haven't been to many spas, it's easy to be a little intimidated. First off, there's the clothes issue: How much should I remove? Do I have to? Your therapist is your guide, so don't be afraid to ask them questions. This applies to the actual treatment as well; if you're curious about the mask that is being applied, or a particular massage motion, just ask. Personally, I always ask questions during facials because I love understanding the techniques and specific products being used.
One of my favorite parts of spa treatments is the heated bed, and I always speak up if it's too hot or too cool. If you're getting a massage, tell your therapist how much pressure you prefer. And if something feels weird or uncomfortable, say so. There's nothing worse than booking a pricey treatment and suffering through it.
Stick around afterwards
Do not, I repeat, do not bolt the minute your treatment is over. One of the pleasures of a great spa is the relaxation room, which is often stocked with delicious teas and healthy snacks (at Bliss, they also have mini brownies, which is a win in my book). Go ahead, keep that fluffy robe on a little longer.