What Is A Body Polish?

Lay Back, Relax and Enjoy the Scrub

Woman receiving body scrub, overhead view
••• Randy Miller /Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

A body polish is a popular body treatment that exfoliates and hydrates your skin, leaving it smooth and soft.  The best way to think about a body polish is that it is a treatment for the skin -- basically a facial for the body.  In a spa the body polish is followed by a shower and ends with an application of body lotion.  It should not be confused with a massage, which targets the muscles.

Is there a difference between a body polish and a body scrub?

 Not really!  They are just different names for the same basic treatment, which removes the outermost layer of dead skin cells, a process called exfoliation.  The name -- body polish or body scrub -- comes down to the person who is writing the spa menu and what sounds best to them.  They will both leave you clean and exfoliated!

A body polish can be done with any number of exfoliants, but sea salt and sugar are by far the most common. Depending on the exfoliantl, the name of the treatment might change to  salt scrubsalt glow, sea salt scrub, dead sea salt scrub, sugar scrub, brown sugar scrub or sugar glow.  You get the idea. No matter what they are called, they are ALL exfoliating treatments that will leave you clean and silky soft.

Look At The Ingredients 

The main difference with these exfoliating treatments is the ingredients.  Sea salt is more abrasive.  Sugar is more gentle.  If you have sensitive skin, you may want to stick with a sugar-based body polish.

 Sometimes spas use other exfoliants. The Spa at Hotel Hershey and Lake Austin Spa both offer scrubs with coffee grounds, which are touted for cellulite treatments.  

Rice bran is a gentle exfoliant that you might find in an Asian-themed spa.   Occasionally, a body polish will have ground walnut or apricot shells, but they are rough and aggressive so not common in a spa setting.

 Spas also don't use products with microbeads, which are bad for the environment and more commonly found in inexpensive home products. 

No matter what the exfoliant -- sugar, salt, coffee grounds, rice bran -- it is mixed with some kind of massage oil to hold it together.  There is also something to make it smell wonderful.  It could be essential oils that will have some kind of therapeutic effect (lavender for relaxing, citrus for uplifting) or even yummy foods that are beneficial to the skin, like hydrating honey, organic pumpkin, or maple syrup.   Most spas buy tubs of ready-made salt or sugar scrub, while others make a point of making their own, which is always nice.  

What Happens During a Body Polish?

A body polish usually takes place in a wet room, which has a tile floor and a drain. The therapist usually offers you disposable underwear, then leaves the room.  She will instruct you how to position yourself on the table -- usually face-down underneath a towel.  Sometimes you are on a special wet table that has a Vichy shower overhead. In that case you won't have to get up to shower off the scrub.

The therapist usually starts by rubbing the exfoliant on the backs of your legs and feet, your back, and the backs of your arms.

 You are draped with a towel or sheet, so only the part she is working on is exposed. Then you turn over and she does the other side.  I've had body scrubs where the Vichy shower was running while the therapist applied the scrub on, and scrubs where the therapist scrubbed me first, then turned on the Vichy shower.  Both work fine.  

If there is no Vichy shower, then you step into a shower to rinse of when they therapist is finished.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly so you don't take little granules back to the table.  And don't use shower gel!  It's good to keep the oil and aromatics on your skin.  While you're in the shower, the therapist will put clean sheets on the treatment table while you're showering and step out of the room again. You dry off and lie face-down on the treatment table underneath a sheet or towel.

Then the therapist returns and applies body lotion or oil.  If the spa is doing the treatment on a special wet table, the therapist will  help you off the table while she puts fresh sheets on for the application of body lotion. 

Other Things You Should Know About Body Polishes

  • Some spas do body polishes in a room without a shower and remove the exfoliant with steamed towels.  This can be pretty nice!
  • You can get a body polish on its own, but often it's the first step in a body wrap, often a seaweed or mud wrap.
  • You can also combine a body polish with a massage. Get the body polish first because it is stimulating, whereas the massage calms you down. Some spas have signature treatments that combine both body polish and massage.
  • Salt and other exfoliants can be abrasive, and some therapists have a heavier hand than others. Individuals also differ in their skin sensitivity. If it feels too harsh, speak up!