For many planning to get a massage treatment, a key question is "What clothing should I remove?" While the level of requested undress will vary according to the specific treatment, the whole point of getting a massage is to relax and take care of yourself, so each person should disrobe to the level of his or her own comfort.
A traditional Swedish massage, deep tissue massage or other full-body treatments are typically done without any clothes because the therapist uses oil to glide over the bare skin. Wearing panties or underwear is fine, and women can keep bras on with the straps underneath the arms if desired.
For those in the United States that are hesitant to completely disrobe, know that massage therapists are required by law to use draping techniques. This means that the client is under a sheet or towel during the massage. The therapist works on only one uncovered part of the body at a time and this is the most uncovered you are going to be during the massage. When it's time to turn over, the therapist holds the sheet up fairly high so they can't see the client turn over and then the sheet comes down, covering the whole body again.
Clothed Massage Treatments
A good clothes-on treatment is craniosacral therapy, a very gentle, relaxing treatment where the therapist starts by gently holding your head in various positions to address imbalances in the craniosacral system. The therapist slips one hand under the sacrum and keeps the other on the belly, holding each position as they gradually move up the spine.
Thai Massage is always done in comfortable clothes on a mat on the floor, but it's not really a beginner treatment. The therapist puts you into various positions and there is a lot of contact, so it's best if you're comfortable with massage before you try this one.
Body scrubs and other body treatments use water and can be a little messier than massage, but can be done wearing a bathing suit, underwear or in the nude.
Getting a Massage Abroad
The draping requirements only apply in the United States. If traveling to spas in the Caribbean, Europe or the Far East, different rules apply. Attitudes towards nudity are more relaxed, so all the protocols used in the United States might not apply. The therapist might not leave the room when you undress or might walk in without knocking. There might be one rather small towel to cover yourself with rather than a set of bedsheets.