Reading a Spa Menu

When it comes to spa menus, they are fairly similar to restaurant menus. They offer a list of every single spa treatment you can get as well as make every service a spa offers sound amazing. Which is why sometimes you will wonder why the service you got wasn’t the one you expected.

Much like it is important to understand ingredients, cooking techniques, flavor combinations as well as classic dishes when you’re ordering a meal at a restaurant, it is also advisable to learn something about classic spa treatments, equipments and ingredients in order to have a better spa experience.

How A Spa Menu Is Organized

Spa menus are usually organized according to the type of service: facials, body treatments, massage as well as waxing, nail care and salon services. Larger overnight spas may also have a few extra categories such as Asian therapies, energy treatments or specialty services. Here is a list of things you should know about each of these.


By far the most popular service people get at a spa. In most spas, they are listed by name, such as Swedish massage or a deep tissue massage.

For instance, a Swedish massage is more relaxing and lighter, whereas deep tissue involves more pressure and its focus lies on breaking up adhesions in the muscles. If you’re not sure which massage is the right one for you, some spas will offer a customized massage where you and your therapist will decide what you need as you go along.

Another thing to keep in mind is how much time you want to spend on the table. The choices you have are a shorter massage, which usually last between 50 to 60 minutes and a longer massage which usually last between 80 to 90 minutes.

If you want a hot stone massage, it is recommended to find a highly skilled and experienced therapist and these massages usually take a bit longer. A sports massage will focus on specific areas that have been injured or overused and the aim is to restore health and range of motion to tendons and muscles. You can also get targeted massages that focus on your head, neck and shoulders.

In some spas you may be offered other therapies such as Thai Massage, craniosacral work, Shiatsu or reflexology. They may list them under „massage“ or they may be in a different category, like Eastern therapies or energy work. You should ask about the training of the person who is performing the service as a couple of weekends definitely won’t make someone a master.


After massages, facials are the second most popular treatment at a spa. They can be pretty confusing as there are so many of them to choose from. Do you go for an anti-aging facial, a deep-cleansing facial or a European facial?

Don’t be too worried. All facials have the same basic steps – cleanse, exfoliate, extract, massage and mask. The biggest difference is in the skin care products used in each facial and most spas will carry at least two product lines they can use. One line may be more active, such as Hydropeptide, while the other one may be more natural, like the incredibly good smelling Eminence line made in Hungary.

You should definitely talk to the staff at the front desk if you need help. If you’re already in the spa, you can check out the different product lines they have in the gift shop so you can decide which one fits you best in terms of philosophy, feel and ingredients. Furthermore, an esthetician can inspect your skin and give you a recommendation for the right facial on the spot, even if you’ve previously booked one with a different name.

Facial extras may include other services like an ampule of special serum, a gentle peel, special equipment like LED or more time for foot and scalp massage.

Body Treatments

By many considered to be a great but an underated spa service, especially if the spa has special equipment, such as a Vichy table. Body treatments usually include some sort of exfoliation and a body mask that will hydrate your skin or help detoxify your body while you’re wrapped up. You can also book a body scrub before the massage for a really nice experience.

A body scrub will exfoliate the outermost layer of your skin that has dead cells. It uses exfoliants such as salt, which is rougher, sugar, which is gentler or some other type exfoliant like fruit enzymes or coffee grounds that gently loosen the intercellular bonds. You can also get body brushing which will mildly exfoliate your skin and stimulate your lymphatic system, but it won’t leave you feeling silky smooth like a salt scrub will.

Body wraps, brushing and scubs are often a part of longer treatments called signature treatments or rituals.

While you’re looking at the menu, you can also look for scents to see if you like them. Some of the popular choices are vanilla and lavender. Keep in mind that while lavender usually comes from essential oils, vanilla is probably a synthetic scent. After that, find out which products are used during the treatment. Many people prefer natural oils compared to body lotions which tend to hav more preservatives. In some spas, they make their own scrubs, but most spas will use a premade scrub as that is significantly easier.

It is also important to note how the body scrub will come off. The best case scenario is that you stay on the table while a Vichy shower is moved over you. It feels amazing. Sometimes the therapist will remove the scrub using a warm, steamed towel which also feels fantastic. In some spas you have to get up and take a shower yourself, during which the therapist will change the sheets so you can lie back down which is usually done in order to apply oil or a lotion. What this means is that unless you’ve booked extra time for a massage or it’s a part of a signature treatment, you probably won’t be getting one.

The application of lotion and a body scrub can also be a standalone treatment, but once your skin is exfoliated, it is ready to absorb something. This means that the therapist may apply shea butter or some other rich lotion after which you are wrapped up in a blanket or a sheet for a hydrating wrap.

If seaweed, mud or clay are used in the procedure, it’s a detoxifying treatment. Once the product has been applied, you will probably be wrapped up in aluminium foil and blankets or covered with hot towels. This also may need to be showered off.

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