Spa Code of Conduct

spa code of conduct
••• Wondering how to behave at the spa? Feel free to speak up during treatments if you're not comfortable. CaiaImage/ Getty Images

When you're getting a massage and it hurts, do you speak up?  Or do you figure, "he probably knows what he's doing."   If the music is too loud, do you ask the therapist to turn it down?  Or do you just think, "It's not that bad. I can put up with it."   If the therapist is talking and you want quiet, do you fume in silence?  Or do you say, "I'd rather not talk."  

You may be happy to learn that its your responsibility to speak up and state your preferences in these situations, according to the "Spa Code of Conduct" developed by The International SPA Association and Resort Hotel Association.

There are many different spas around the world, but they all have one thing in common: they are there to nurture and take care of you.  They create a beautiful atmosphere that appeals to your five senses, hire the best staff available, and design a range of treatments to make you feel and look better.  

But individuals have different preferences on things like temperature, pressure and music.  Therapists tend to be sensitive people who enjoy caring for others, but they are not mind-readers. They rely on you to speak up if there is something that is making you even a little uncomfortable as the treatment unfolds.  

That's why the #1 guest responsibility in the Spa Code of Conduct is:

  • Communicate your preferences, expectations and concerns.  This means let the therapist know before, during and after the treatment anything that is on your mind!  You like lots of pressure, your skin gets red easily, you've never been to a spa before.  It's all okay. 
  • Communicate complete and accurate health information and reasons for your visit.  Many spas have you fill out a form before the treatment.  You might circle the parts of your body that hurt.  But some information is important to reveal, like whether you are taking Retin-A or recently had a peel.  If you keep that secret and ask for waxing, you might lose a little skin with the hair.
  • Treat staff and other guests with courtesy and respect.  Most people who go to spas are perfectly lovely.  But sometimes....they show up for their treatment drunk.  They're loud.  They bring their cell phones into the relaxation lounge.  Don't be one of these people.  Be quiet and considerate in locker rooms and public spaces.  And in the treatment room, understand that your therapist is a professional who has spent many hours learning how to do their work.
  • Use products, equipment and therapies as directed.  This means don't go sit in the sun for three hours after getting a glycolic peel.  Drink plenty of water after you get a massage instead of getting blasted.  Don't spent an hour in the sauna.
  • Engage in efforts to preserve the environment.  Just because there is an endless supply of towels in the locker room doesn't mean you should try to use them all.  Be green.  

The Spa Code of Conduct also spells out your RIGHTS as a spa guest.  You have the right to:

  • A clean, safe and comfortable environment.  No hair in the drains.  No weird therapists.  No dirty sofas.
  • Stop a treatment at any time, for any reason.  This generally only happens if a therapist is being inappropriate.  But if you don't like the therapist (too inexperienced? not the right fit?) you can say you don't want to continue.  
  • Be treated with consideration, dignity and respect.  Most spas excel at this.
  • Confidential treatment of your disclosed health information.
  • Trained staff who respectfully conduct treatments according to protocols and the spa's policies and procedures.  Everyone should have licenses.  
  • Ask questions about your spa experience.  You can do this before, during or after the treatment. 
  • Ask for information on staff training, licensing and certification.  If a spa advertises specialities like Ayurvedic treatments, you have right to know where the staff trained.