Spa nudity can cause some anxiety and confusion, especially for people who are new to spas. One of the big questions is: "Will the massage therapist see me naked?" The answer is "no," at least in the United States and at most resort spas and destination spas in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The U.S. in particular is strict about draping, which means that the body is covered with a sheet or large towel.
Only the part of the body that is being worked on is exposed.
Fear Of Being Judged
Another concern is a fear of one's body being judged. This is one reason female clients sometimes avoid male therapists. Rest assured that masssage therapists are professionals who are used to dealing with all kind of bodies, and they're most interested in what's going on with your muscle tissue.
Other people -- usually men -- go the other direction with spa nudity. They don't understand why they can't get a massage without being covered by a sheet. They say that they're just more comfortable that way, and it's not sexual. Well, YOU might be more comfortable without a sheet, but most therapists aren't. Pulling the sheet back (or asking the therapist about it) is usually a prelude to bad behavior.
A More Relaxed Attitude Towards Nudity
You can find a more relaxed attitude towards nudity at some hot springs or mineral springs spas with co-ed tubs, like Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe, N.M.
or Esalen in Big Sur, California. So don't expect any nudity in the treatment room. Even the clothing-optional resort, Sea Mountain, Palm Spring, California, uses draping during massage at its spa.
European spas are considerably more relaxed about nudity, both in the treatment room and in co-ed Sauna Worlds.
These are spectacular collections of saunas, whirlpools and ice rooms, often part of a hot springs. In German spas I visited, adults of all ages enjoyed themselves in the nude without being self-conscious. It is quite different from the vibe in American spas, where even sitting in a co-ed lounge with a man can be uncomfortable for some.
Spa Nudity At The Typical American Spa
First you generally change into a robe and slippers in the women or men's locker rooms. Sometimes in large luxury spas there are private changing rooms where you can undress and slip into your robe out of view. More commonly you'll be undressing with other people of the same gender. Some day spas and chains like Massage Envy don't have locker rooms, so you take your clothes off in the treatment room and slip under the sheet.
Resort spas in the West typically have steam rooms, sauna, and hot tubs in separate men and women's changing areas. You can go nude, wrap yourself in a towel, or wear a swimsuit. In the steam or sauna you'll want to bring a towel to sit or lie on, for sanitation purposes.
Once you're in your robe, you go to the area, often called a Quiet Room or Meditation Lounge where you are picked up by your therapist. This separate for men and women or co-ed, depending on the spa. Some even offer both options.
In The Treatment Room
At the time of your appointment, the massage therapist comes to the lounge, calls your name and takes you to the treatment room, sometimes chatting along the way. In the room he or she should ask you about areas of concern and give you clear instructions about getting on the table -- robe off, where to hang it up, face up or down -- and then leave the room. The therapist will give you time to get on the table, then knock and ask if you're ready before entering.
Generally you are nude during the massage, but always covered with sheets. Only the body part being massaged is exposed.
When it's time to turn over, the therapist holds up the sheet and looks away so you're covered as you turn over.
You can wear underwear if you're uncomfortable with complete nudity, but this means the therapist can't work the large muscles of the gluteus maximus and hip attachments, which are often problem areas. But whatever you're comfortable with is what you should do.
Spa Treatments That Don't Require Nudity
If you're nervous about spa nudity, start with a facial, where the esthetician is only touching your head, arms, shoulders and sometimes feet. There are also styles of massage where you stay fully clothed, like Thai Massage and reflexology. I think reflexology is the better choice here, as Thai Massage involves some positions that can feel even more exposing than a simple Swedish massage. And it can be an intense experience, even for experienced spa-goers. There's also the mani-pedi option.
The Treatments You May Want To Avoid
Think twice about getting a body treatment like a salt glow or a Vichy shower if you're uncomfortable with spa nudity. You are more likely to be exposed at some point. Most spas offer disposable panties for the body treatment. Sometimes they're optional, and sometimes the spa requests you wear them.
Spas may request you wear a swimsuit or disposable briefs during hydrotherapy treatments. (This is especially true with men.) Women are often allowed to choose, but you have to be comfortable with the idea that the therapist will see everything at some point.
Legitimate spas don't offer happy endings and it's a serious breach of spa etiquette to ask for one or show signs of sexual arousal, like groaning in a suggestive way, moving your hips, touching an erection or asking the therapist to. If you go there, the therapist has the right to end the massage immediately.