A good spa gives off Zen vibes the second you walk in—an amazing spa doesn’t let on to how hard the staff worked to accomplish that. Here are 10 of the most interesting behind-the-scenes spa secrets, straight from the spa therapists who specialize in making sure you reach a super relaxed state as soon as you arrive.
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Your treatment room is prepped prior.
Sure, you expect the massage table sheets to be clean, comfy and neatly tucked in, but we bet you’ve never thought of these two tiny things therapists do before you arrive. “We need to make sure you maintain relaxation during the service, so products will be removed from noisy wrappers prior, or a water basin will be filled before you walk in to ensure that noise from a running tap does not disturb you during the treatment,” says Michelle Kelthy, spa director at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
There’s a reason the WiFi signal is weak.
No one wants to hear someone talking on their cell while they are trying to unwind, but, beyond that, there’s a real benefit to going into airplane mode—and some spas will make the decision for you. “Unplugging is good for the mind, body and soul,” says Tanya Vassell, Fern Tree Spa spa director at Half Moon, A RockResort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “We purposefully do not have WiFi here and we’ve noticed that guests prefer to unplug beachside as well.” Adds Kirkland Shave, program director of Mountain Trek in British Columbia, “While not every spa bans the use of cellphones and personal computers, many of the better ones do because it’s recognized that in order to truly relax, we need to remove ourselves from our gadgets and digitally detox.”
The hallways are decidedly dark.
Even if you’re in a spa that overlooks the outside or the ocean, you may have noticed the hallways and lounges don’t typically let a ton of light in. “We are sure to dim the lights in the hallways, treatments rooms and lounges so our guests can easily quiet their minds and bodies for an ultra-peaceful and soothing experience,” says spa director Jane Terry of SpaBlue at Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar, CA.
There’s aromatherapy everywhere—even in the vents.
Every spa we spoke to said aromatherapy is a major component in the calming ambience. “We infuse aromatherapy oil into all of the towels and robes and in the A/C system, use lavender spray with eucalyptus in the showers for guests to use at their leisure, and infuse the head rest covers in the massage beds with lavender oil,” says spa director William Arango at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach.
The robes aren’t just meant to be comfy.
Yes, they’re comfortable to wear, but according to Shave, being enveloped in a soft, fluffy robe gives you a sense of security, and in so doing, helps lower your blood pressure and your cortisol (the stress hormone)!
The thermostat is higher than you might think.
Even if you prefer a steady thermostat of 70 degrees, getting cold during a massage is a major deal-breaker. “We maintain the temperature of the treatment rooms at 73–74 degrees to ensure the guest is never cold,” Arango says.
Every single inch of design is done on purpose.
“The biggest secret in spas is how much we focus on the environment,” says Jennifer Holzworth, spa director at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. “Your subconscious is constantly thinking about your surroundings, whether you realize it or not, so that’s why we focus on the tiny touches and the little details around you. From the tempo of music and the chromotherapy light color in the hot tub to the plush chaise lounge chairs located in the quiet relaxation lounge, each area is well thought out and strategically designed to optimize relaxation.”
Even the lighting is a different color.
The lighting in high-end spas is different from that in your home or office. “Instead of being found on the blue-white light spectrum, spa lamps tend to have warmer glows, reminiscent of color shades found at sunset,” Shave says.
You may not find yourself completely solo.
Being entirely alone can be unsettling for some. “That’s why spas lean toward having environments where multiple people can hang out,” Shave says. “Even if there’s no talking, our limbic brains are reassured we are socially connected.”
The biggest secret: You’re supposed to leave the rest of the world behind.
“We want guests to begin the journey at the door by stepping out of your shoes, into slippers and over the threshold into calm,” says Allison Schumann, hotel manager at Mayflower Grace. “The secret lies in removing the physical world we walk in every day and slipping into a comfortable mindset. There is no need to be ‘on.’ There is nothing required of you here.”
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