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Spa Etiquette: What To Do at a Spa

Spa etiquette was something I had absolutely no idea about the first time I went to a spa. My only preconception of a spa day or a spa break was that I might be wearing a robe and slippers. 

spa break

Once I got to the spa for the first time I realised there were lots of little details that I had no idea about. I had all these questions about how to act in a spa, what was best practice, how to do things, what was the done thing. I wanted to know how to make the best of my spa experience. (Find my guide on what to pack for a spa day here).

Through experience, trial and error, and asking lots of questions in the industry, I have come up with a list of things to think about when going to the spa, including what to wear to a spa, what to pack for a spa, and best practice for being a good spa-goer. This is my guide on spa etiquette, rules, customs, and general guidance.

what to do at a spa

Spa Etiquette Guide

1. Wear clean flip flops or slippers

For hygiene reasons spas usually offer a pair of slippers for you to use. Alternatively, you can bring your own clean flip flops or sliders specifically for use in a spa/pool area. Never wear your outdoor shoes.

2. Shower before using the facilities

It is spa etiquette and for hygiene reasons have a quick shower to rinse off products, sweat, and dirt before using the pool, hydrotherapy, and spa facilities. 

3. Remove skincare products forsake of hygiene

As above, it’s a good idea to remove make-up and skincare products for hygiene sake. But also, it helps to prepare your face to make the most of the therapeutic benefits of the steam and sauna, etc.

4. Don’t wear perfume or thick products

You’re going to be showering and rinsing them all off anyway, so avoid wearing perfume and heavy products. Likewise, you really don’t need to be wearing make-up. If you use the hydro facilities such as the sauna, steam room, and pool makeup is just going to get in the way of your skin soaking up all the therapeutic benefits. Or rather sweating out all the bad stuff.

5. Leave your mobile phone in the locker provided

It’s a spa! Use this as an opportunity to leave your phone stashed safely away in the lockers and truly unwind. Some spas have a strict no-phone policy. Again, this is for your own relaxation as well as to not disturb other guests.

6. Keep your valuables in a locker

If possible try to leave most of your valuables at home but otherwise keep them stowed away in the locker provided.

7. Wear a bathing costume/swimwear

Most spas in the UK, and the US I believe, have a policy of wearing a swimming costume at all times when using spa facilities. This does differ for other countries (such as Japan’s Onsens, or Turkey’s Hammams) so do check for each locale.

Here it is customary to wear swimwear. I recommend taking two sets so you can change into something dry over lunchtime or if you want to enjoy the dry areas and not sit in wet cossies.

8. Check restaurant dress code

Every spa is unique. I would recommend you check whether the restaurant at the spa has a dress code. Some allow robe and slippers at lunchtimes but casual or smart-casual in the evenings. Others require you to change into daywear to sit in the restaurant. If in doubt, ask the spa assistants.

9. Observe quiet areas

Most spas will have a quiet space. Sometimes this is called a relaxation room, or sleep pods, or chill out space. It is polite to refrain from talking in these areas as other spa users might be resting, sleeping, or unwinding. Everyone has a different way of relaxing, if you’re there on a social with friends try to keep the chat to the more active areas.

10. Use your ‘spa voice’ 

That being said, it’s generally the done thing to use your ‘spa voice’, that is try, to speak in quiet, hush voices so as not to disturb other guests on their own spa experience.

spa guide on etiquette and rules

11. Book your meal times in advance if possible

Some spas will allow you, and even encourage, to book your meal times in advance. This is ideal for planning your spa day and will ensure you are not waiting too long when you want refreshments.

12. Book your treatments in advance

Likewise, I’d recommend booking any treatments you would like in advance. Most spas will get booked up and you can plan your day better when you know when your treatments are. Personally I like to have my treatments near the end of the day so that I can use the facilities first to unwind then leave feeling totally relaxed.

13. Arrive 5-10 mins before treatment

It is customary to arrive at the treatment area or reception at least 10 minutes before the treatment starts. It depends on each particular spa, some may want you even earlier, but generally, you need to arrive in advance to fill out any forms or questionnaires in advance of your spa treatment. You want to get maximum treatment time so if you arrive late you won’t get the full works. 

14. Avoid eating a heavy meal before a treatment

I know this is difficult if you go to a spa with an epic lunch offering, but if you can avoid eating a heavy meal, or at least wait a little time for your food to settle before having a treatment. It can feel uncomfortable to prodded and poked whilst your stomach is sloshing about.

15. Let therapists know of any illness or conditions

Either detail it on the treatment form or questionnaire beforehand or even let the spa reception know before you arrive if you have any specific illness or conditions. This gives them a chance to make adjustments as necessary, or offer advice on the treatments/facilities you can use.

16. Do not go with athlete’s foot or verrucas

If you have a fungal infection or virus such as warts or verrucas please do be considerate and avoid using a spa until this has been cured and fixed. They are super contagious and it’s not fair on others to put them at risk.

17. What to wear for a treatment

For treatments, you can wear a swimming costume or underwear, usually just the bottoms. Sometimes the spa may provide disposable underwear for you to change into (don’t be afraid to ask which way round they go, I always forget!).

The therapist leaves the room for you to change and you cover yourself in the towel provided. If the therapist needs you to move they will hold up the towel to protect your modesty. If in doubt, ask the therapist.

18. Enjoy the silence

It’s up to you if you speak during your treatment. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy it in silence. You are there to relax after all.

19. Pressure and temperature

Let the therapist know if the massage pressure is too firm or too soft. Or if the temperature of the room needs adjusting etc. The therapist will want you to be as comfortable as possible.

spa guide

20. Tipping

Generally tipping is not expected at spas in the UK and Europe but may be customary in other countries. However, if you’d like to show your appreciation you can offer a tip after your session.

21. Drink more water

Drink plenty of fluids whilst on your spa day. Water is usually provided throughout the spa. You will dehydrate if you use the heat experiences, and treatments such as massage tend to bring all the toxins to the surface. It’s good practice to keep drinking lots of water to stay healthy, hydrated, and happy during your experience.

22. Don’t hog hot tub for more than 15 mins

Most hot tubs are limited in size and number at spas and as relaxing as they are, try to be aware that there will be other spa users waiting to use them. The recommended hot tub soak time is 15 minutes. So do be considerate and free up space for others to enjoy the facilities.

23. Dry yourself 

Please do dry off with a towel if you are wet before lying on days beds or in the relaxation areas. It’s not nice for other users to have to lie down on a soggy bed after you. I always pack an extra set of swimwear so I have something dry to wear for lunch and the afternoon on my spa days.

24. Do not take photos or video in the spa

Please do respect the privacy and peace of other spa users and avoid taking photos or video during your spa break. The exception for this may be out in the grounds if your spa has these. Or perhaps in the restaurant or cafe areas. But in the spa and hydro areas, it’s good practice to refrain from photography.

25. Be considerate

As much as possible try to be a considerate spa guest, be aware that other people are also on their own relaxation journey. Enjoy your spa experience, relax, and embrace the therapeutic benefits of the facilities and the treatments.

What would you add to this spa etiquette list?

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