How To Avoid Effing Up Your Expensive Spa Day

Photographed by Maria Del Rio.
A relaxing day at the spa isn't cheap. Whether you're posting up at a swank hotel's steam room before a much-deserved massage or spending your Saturday getting your detox on with a laundry list of treatments, chances are you're splurging, with both time and money. Therefore, precautions must be taken: Don't eff up your spa day!

It may sound dramatic, but eating the wrong foods, wearing the wrong undergarments, and using the wrong skin-care products the day before your treatment can all turn your blissful retreat into a source of stress.

To help you get the most out of your day, we've compiled 13 common mistakes to avoid. For advice, we tapped Regine Berthelot, lead aesthetician for Caudalie Spas, the brick-and-mortar incarnation of the French skin-care brand; Courtney Palmer, general manager of Thibiant Beverly Hills, one of Los Angeles' finest spas; and Laura Benge, national spa director of Exhale, a rapidly growing U.S. chain of spa-fitness studios. Take it from the pros — no tip required.
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What you wear during a treatment such as a massage speaks volumes about what you don’t want worked on. “Undergarments definitely send a message to the therapist,” says Berthelot. It’s simple: Anything you’re covering will probably be passed over. “Most of our clients come in nude, but it’s really up to your own comfort level,” she says.

Expert tip: Ask for disposable bikini bottoms, which allow a bit of modesty but still send the message that you want a full massage.
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A spa treatment may be serene, but there’s no need to be quiet. “Communication is key,” Benge says. “If there is an area you want more focus on, or if you need an adjustment in pressure, let your therapist know. Also, be sure to speak up if you ever feel pain or discomfort!”

The same goes for mentioning any medications or skin-care products that leave your skin irritated. “Be sure to let your technician know if you are using any oral or topical medications,” Palmer says. “Don’t wait for them to ask, especially if you are a regular client, because they may assume they already know your routine.”
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Hair removal of any kind is discouraged the day of a body treatment. "Don’t shave!" Palmer says. "Depending on the treatment, it may make the skin sensitive or irritated. Try not to feel embarrassed of a little stubble; body therapists are used to it."
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All of our experts agree that you should keep your menu of treatments in this general order: steam/sauna, bath treatment, scrub, massage, and then facial. Most spa receptionists, and even online-booking programs, will alert you if the sequence you request seems counterintuitive, but it is really your responsibility to schedule wisely. Otherwise, you may end up pressing your fresh complexion into a towel during a massage or upsetting your exfoliated skin in a soak.
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There's no spa faux pas worse than returning home from a day of beauty and relaxation only to remember you have dinner plans, or drinks plans, or any plans at all. Whether you’re fully zen-ed out or just pleasantly relaxed, don’t mess it up by committing yourself to an evening out. Since makeup and showers are post-spa no-gos, plan on Netflix and a big chill.
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Here's why a post-spa workout is a terrible idea: It requires energy, and it's followed by a shower. "Why ruin the relaxation of a massage by making your muscles work, or ruin the glowing, hydrating effects of a facial with salty sweat?" Palmer asks.

But a morning workout before you hit the spa is a great idea. "Massage is a great complement to exercise," Benge says. "Many people enjoy a workout followed by a massage, since it helps to undo tension and tight muscles, and increases flexibility."
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You wouldn't shampoo your hair after a blowout, right? Then, why would you wash off all those good-for-your-skin elixirs after a facial or body treatment? "Showering after a facial is a big no!" Berthelot says. "You’ll rinse away all the amazing ingredients we just applied to your skin." Ideally, it's best to shower before your treatments, and then not bathe again until the next morning. The same goes for a steam room, she says. You can hit the steam, whirlpool, or sauna before your treatments, but not after.

If you absolutely must shower, wait at least six hours, or try Palmer's trick: "Shower with water and no shower gel. You want the essential oils to [continue] penetrating the skin."
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The early bird gets the worm — or, in this case, the utterly relaxing benefits of the spa. "I always suggest coming in a bit earlier than your treatment time, as you could be relaxing, taking a steam, hydrating, and enjoying the spa experience beyond your actual treatment," says Berthelot.

The last thing you want to do is be rushed into your treatments, says Palmer. "You are here to relax, and if you don’t have time to unwind before your treatments, you will be unable to do so until the treatment is halfway over," she adds.
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Raise your hand if you like to leave the spa with irritated skin. Nobody? To help prevent this, lay off any kind of exfoliation for 48 hours before your treatment. This means no manual (scrubs, mitts, brushes) or chemical (acids of any kind, from retinols to spot-treatments) exfoliation, and be sure to let your technician know of any long-term use. “Even an OTC retinol or acid can cause an adverse reaction,” Palmer says. “Best to let us know right away, so we can customize your treatment."
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We don't have to tell you that a hangover has the power to ruin your spa day, but so does even a single mimosa at brunch. "We recommend you not drink any alcohol before a massage or bath treatment," Berthelot says. "Alcohol typically makes you feel more relaxed, and will throw off your sensitivity to pressure." Fret not: As long as you're staying hydrated, Palmer says a glass of red wine the evening after your treatment is fine.
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Remember when we said you shouldn't make evening plans? That includes primping for the trip home. "Sunscreen is a must, but I would avoid makeup," Palmer says. "Let your skin breathe for several hours." Our other experts agree. "No makeup for at least three hours after you receive your facial. It will clog the pores," says Berthelot.
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"It's best to eat light before a massage, so you are not overstuffed or uncomfortable on the massage table," Benge says. "A light snack of fruit or nuts is great if you are hungry right before your therapy." When it comes to dinner the night before, stick to foods that agree with your body and that you digest easily.





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Our experts say that your hydration level is an important step to ensuring you feel good that evening. “You want to be sure to flush out all the toxins to avoid headaches, digestive issues, and muscle cramps,” Palmer says. “Water is a must, both before and after a treatment.”
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