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The Insiders' Guide to Spa Etiquette


From unrobing to perilous waxes, spa-ing can be an intimidating prospect. Stylist asked some of the best beauty therapists in the business to give us their treatment room do’s and don’ts to build the ultimate etiquette guide for embarrassment-free treatments...


“Booking a bikini wax while you’re on your period is perfectly acceptable if you’re wearing a tampon. It doesn’t bother me but it’s best to check on the phone first to be sure.”

“Please don’t shave between waxes. It just leaves a nasty stubble rash which is further irritated by the wax and we have to refuse treatment in severe cases.”

“It’s really common for women to have neglected their bikini area for a long time before a wax. I promise yours won’t be the hairiest! Don’t feel like you have to trim before coming in – we’ll do that for you as we can keep an eye on the hair length which should be at least 1cm to bind to the wax. It’s really annoying when people come in and it’s too short.”

“Let’s get this settled once and for all. A Brazilian takes everything off, including the hair on your buttocks and undercarriage, leaving just a strip at the front. If the therapist doesn’t venture around the back she’s short-changing you as you pay more for this type of wax. Drop a heavy hint by turning over.”

“It's key to exfoliate in the shower the morning before a bikini wax, otherwise you're more likely to get ingrown hairs.”

“Make sure you are clean. A lot of clients rush to their appointments straight from work so might not be as fresh as they could be. Please use baby wipes to freshen up before a wax.”

“Occasionally I get a client who prefers to keep her own underwear on during a wax, which is fine but it makes it really difficult to get a clean finish and takes so much longer. Lose your inhibitions and just take your knickers off please.”


“If you’ve got the remnants of a previous tan on your skin, exfoliate the evening or the morning before a tan to help remove it. There’s nothing worse than having to slather tan over tan, it makes the result look bad and us look bad.”

“Wax 48 hours before tanning and shave 24 hours before. This allows the skin to recover and the pores on the legs to close up. If you are prone to getting spots post spray-tan, let us know, we can smooth an ice cube over the face to close up the pores here too.”

“Around 80% of women wear paper knickers for a spray tan. Personally, I think it's more respectful as we have to crouch right down to the crotch to tan which means we are getting a pretty close view.”

“In all honesty, I don’t notice body flaws; I’m only looking at any dry patches that need moisturising before I start. Women will often confess to me the parts they don’t like but if that’s what makes them feel more comfortable, that’s fine. I’m just as happy for us to talk about the weather.”

“If you have applied moisturiser that day, tell us as it can act as a barrier. Also, remember to wear dark, loose clothing so the tan doesn't ruin them.”


“If you have any deep cuts, burns or rashes on your hands or fingers, it’s better to postpone your appointment until the area has completely healed – we work with a lot of chemicals in a nail salon and this is to protect you from infection.”

“Clients constantly apologise for the state of their nails, particularly biters, but we’ve always seen something worse so there’s no need to feel panicked. A manicure or pedi should be a relaxing experience.”

“It’s not a problem if you arrive with old, chipped polish, we understand you may not have had time to remove it – but we do ask that you thoroughly wash your hands first as we don’t wear gloves because we need to maintain a sensitivity of touch and otherwise you’re constantly passing on germs.”

“Don't feel obliged to cut long nails before an appointment, it's better for us to see the strength and shape of your nails before an appointment and decide on the length together - it might be that we need to cut them again anyway."

“It’s up to the client to lead the conversation during a treatment. Some want to talk and some don’t. We are taught to gauge the difference between the two.”

“Turn up at least five minutes before your treatment [which is true of all treatments]. We have back-to-back appointments all day – it makes such a difference to our schedule, and your treatment if you arrive on time.”

"As with any service industry, tipping is welcomed but not expected. We don't include gratuity - but clients tip around 50% of the time, usually around £5 at reception, which we put into an envelope and give to the therapists. Admittedly we do remember the clients who tip."

“A decent manicure should stay pristine for a week but we hope it lasts up to four, although that does depend on your lifestyle. Come back if you’re not satisfied.”


“If you’ve got any type of contagious skin disease – scabies for instance – let us know when booking as you risk spreading it not only to us, but to our other clients. And don’t be nervous about revealing a spotty back, as massage can really help treat outbreaks.”

''“Try to arrive sweat-free please. It's really hard to massage over skin that's wet as you can't gte the right type of slip with the oil. We point out there is a shower facility which is open to everyone - feel free to bathe.”

“We work on different pressure points during a massage that can sometimes mean the body automatically breaks wind. Most clients are mortified but it happens all the time. The best advice is to just ignore it – I don’t want to talk about it either.”

“If you’d rather not have a male therapist, that’s fine, but please do tell us in advance so that we can arrange a replacement before you arrive.”

"People are conscious of not having shaved. It truly doesn't matter if your legs are prickly or not. We feel all kinds of lumps and bumps so don't disrupt your waxing schedule for us."

“Falling asleep, snoring, dribbling, they’re all really common. It’s the biggest compliment to your therapist – it means you are truly relaxed.”

“I’ve never had a client walk out mid-treatment but I’ve had a few complain about the pressure of the massage after it’s finished which is really irritating. Speak up and I’ll adapt it."

“When you arrive at a spa, we give you a fresh robe, slippers and a packet of paper pants to change into. You'll need to remove your bra but we don't actively encourage nakedness - especially if a woman is on her period - but if you'd rather not wear the pants, that's fine. Just be comfortable.”

“I prefer it when clients don’t talk during a facial. It makes it really hard to apply products. It can’t be relaxing for the client either.”

“Clients sometimes panic at the appearance of their skin following a facial. A flushed, pinky look is totally normal and will disappear after a couple of hours. If you’ve got an important event coming up, make sure you book your facial for at least 5 days in advance, to give the skin time to settle down.”

“The one thing I really hate is when clients bring their BlackBerrys to the bed and start sending off emails while I’m trying to calm them.”

Picture credit: Rex Features



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