You Deserve a Spa Day–But What is It?

For most people, the idea of being able to sit back and relax while others tend to your every need seems like a luxury straight from a palace or a castle.

But these days, anyone can receive the royal treatment at any time–by visiting a spa. Found in pretty much every city across the United States, spas provide the perfect place to relax and unwind whether you’re on vacation or not. 

From the Romans to the Red Door

The idea of visiting a spa is nothing new. In fact, spas are so old that even the name goes back to the ancient Romans; some historians believe that the letters are an acronym of “Salus per Aquam”, which means “healing by water” in Latin, while others contend that the name refers to an ancient town where Roman soldiers would visit to heal their wounds in mineral water. 

Regardless of where the name actually comes from, there’s a clear link to ancient times. Greeks also incorporated the spa into their healing routines, with ancient philosopher Hippocrates claiming that “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” But it wasn’t until 1910 that the day spa as we know it was officially established by entrepreneur Elizabeth Arden. Her Red Door Spa in Manhattan was the first to offer the spa services we all know and love without requiring residents to stay the night in a hotel or resort, thus the dawn of the “day spa.” 

Building the Perfect Spa Day

The concept of a spa has changed a whole lot since the Romans soaked in their mineral baths, so what does a spa today actually look like? It depends on what you want out of your spa day; today’s spas boast a wide variety of treatments, skin care options, and massages from which customers can choose.

In fact, there are so many options that most places offer a spa menu to help you figure out exactly what you want. Don’t get overwhelmed! Although every place will have different treatments available, learning the most basic terminology and procedures will help you make the best choice of what works well for you. For starters, there are a few basic services offered across the board that have become the most iconic parts of spa culture: massages, facials, and body treatments. 

Massages consist of a trained professional pressing and rubbing your skin in strategic locations to loosen up your muscles and help your body recover when it’s tired. There are several different types to be aware of, most notably the Swedish massage, which uses long strokes and deep vibrations to provide full-body relief, and a deep massage, which is a bit rougher and reaches more specific, internal muscle groups. For athletes or anyone with a specific issue area, there are also sports massages and trigger point massages, both of which focus on muscle recovery and injury prevention. 

If massages aren’t up your alley, try looking into a facial. This multi-step process cleanses, exfoliates, and moisturizes the skin on your face, removing dead cells so new, healthy skin can grow. These are often less expensive than a massage and involve revealing less of your body, but they also tend to be shorter and only affect one area of your health. Facials may involve steaming your face to loosen up dirt, rubbing an exfoliant to clean off pores, and applying a mask with regenerative nutrients. And yes, they may also put cucumbers over your eyes. 

One step up from a facial in terms of body coverage is a full-body treatment. Like a facial, these work to cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, but they can take many different forms. Some involve soaking your body in a certain liquid that provides nutrients to your skin, while others involve wearing a wrap or a full-body mask. The most involved body treatments begin with a body scrub, where a professional uses something gritty like sand to scrub off dead skin before applying a revitalizing body mask. 

Bring the Best Version of You

Trying to understand a spa menu is just one step in preparing for your spa day; you must also mentally prepare. Luckily, going to the spa doesn’t require you to bring anything except yourself, but you do have to get your mind in the right place in order for it to be most effective. Emotionally, the spa is a place to unwind and let go of your worries, so coming in with too much on your mind may lessen your experience. 

Physically, many people struggle with the idea of revealing certain parts of their body around strangers. If this is you, remember that everyone at the spa is a trained professional who wants to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Voicing your worries or concerns to your massage therapist is a great way to make the spa just a bit more approachable. Remember, if anything doesn’t feel good, ask for it to change! The spa should be your time to relax. 

Get Ready to Say Ahhhhh

You’ve learned about what the spa has to offer and how to best prepare yourself to maximize your spa experience. Fantastic! Now it’s time to figure out where to make your spa dreams come true. One of the best things about this activity is that it’s available almost everywhere, from small towns to huge cities. Depending on where you’re going, however, you may need to decide on a time and place in advance in order to make an appointment that works for your schedule. 

To find a spa near you, simply do a search for “best spas near me” and check out the Yelp or Google Reviews for each one. Seeing others’ positive feedback can help quell any fears that you may still have. If you’re traveling somewhere, do the same, but remember to specify the location and check to see if your travel dates have any available appointments. 

If going to an incredible spa is the main reason you’re traveling in the first place, take a look at this list of the top 20 spas in the United States. Remember, though, that most of these options are rather pricey and may require an extended stay. If you’re up for the challenge, visiting a luxury spa might just be the best weekend of your life. 

No matter what type of spa you choose–a local day spa or an outlandish celebrity resort–a day at the spa can be one of the most relaxing, healthy ways to reward your body. After all, you deserve it!