Read This Before Going To The Spa Or Salon

Illustrated by: Michaela Early
After a particularly stressful and wintery workweek, I booked a massage. Hell, I deserved it. When I arrived at the spa, soothing music and the smell of lavender seemed to instantly slow down my pulse. But as I peeled off excess layers and slipped into the cushy robe, I suddenly felt as though my heart was stuck in my throat. Shit. I forgot to shave my legs. And in these icy conditions, it had been a while.

I had opted out for so long that it didn't even cross my mind to grab a razor in the shower as I went over the day in my head, wishing it were already over so I could enjoy my rubdown. Now that I was finally at the spa, all I wanted to do was bolt.

After I de-robed and got as comfortable as I could with my "situation," the massage therapist began to press her hands into my muscles, kneading away the stress that had manifested into knots and tightness. My mind never fully settled, though. As the therapist moved on to my legs, I instinctively tightened around the shoulders. Worries that she was judging me soon turned into guilt about wasting this precious time (that I deserved, remember!) with such ridiculous concerns.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been in this situation — or a similar one — at a salon or spa. I'm all for etiquette, but all this worrying had to be unwarranted — especially in a place that specifically exists to help people unwind. So, I reached out to some industry professionals to get their take. It turns out, all the little things we stress over during treatments don't even register with them. Ahead, 10 things that should never get in the way of your pampering again.
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Being Hairy For A Massage
Okay, let's get right to it: Did my non-shaving insecurities have any merit? The answer is a resounding NO. The massage therapists and spa employees I consulted for this story don't give a hoot about a little (or a lot of) leg hair.

"Women apologize every day for not shaving their legs before a massage or a body treatment," says Chiara Campo, the spa manager at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como, Italy. "We don’t care at all. We are perfectly fine with unshaved legs. There is no difference between women and men regarding this matter."

Massage therapists also have way more important things on their minds. "They are focusing on touch and treatment well beyond the stubbly surface, to the deeper tissue," says Slone Mathieu of Dream Spa Medical in Massachusetts.

For some services, like those that involve exfoliating scrubs or wraps, it's actually recommended that you don't shave beforehand. “Exfoliating after shaving isn’t the best idea, as the freshly shaved skin will be sensitive and could cut in certain places," explains Tammi Johnson, spa manager at Twin Farms in Vermont. "Additionally, it could cause redness and irritate your skin."

Most importantly, whether you are smooth-shaven or not, the therapist's main objective is to make you feel comfortable.
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Not Shaving Before A Pedicure
When it comes to hitting up the nail salon, the same goes — you do you, hair or no hair. Like on your bod, if you're getting a scrub service, unshaven legs are often preferred. "It’s actually better if you don’t shave before a pedicure," says Jenn Baenziger, lead nail technician at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. "A scrub during the pedicure that we do here at the Spa at the Del leaves the legs nice, smooth, and exfoliated after for a closer shave — so it’s better [not to].”

You don't have to worry about presenting a beat-up pedicure, either. If you have some lingering polish or rough, cracked heels, it's a-okay. "[Customers worry] about not having removed their chipped polish before their appointment," says Mabelyn Martin, assistant creative manager at Paintbox in NYC. "This is why you come get your nails done in the first place. It's easy for us to remove."
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Having Tattered Cuticles, Bitten Nails, Or Sweaty Hands
If you're a nail-biter, you shouldn't be nervous about what a manicurist will think. "Some people are embarrassed by too short nails [from biting]," says Martin. "We can do all of our looks on any nail length, so no need to be embarrassed, or feel the need to grow them out before coming in."

And if your cuticles are tattered, no biggie. "While cleaning cuticles, clients often apologize for having hangnails or lots of trimming, but this is [standard procedure] for us," says Martin. "And you can't control how quickly that part of your skin grows. Clammy, sweaty hands, as well. Everyone is just born differently, and that's totally fine."
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Being Naked During A Massage
Oh, the great massage conundrum: Do I keep my underwear on, or take it off? It may feel more comfortable off, but you might spend your time worrying that you're giving the massage therapist a peep show. Or, you might leave it on, and then beat yourself up for being such a prude (just me?).

In this case, it's really about what makes you comfortable. But do note that thanks to draping, the therapist is not seeing much. "Nudity likely causes the guests the most anxiety," says Patricia Norcross, the spa director at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. "Keep in mind that therapists in the United States are trained to maintain guest modesty...using a technique called 'draping,' where only the body part that is being massaged is exposed, and the rest of the body is draped. You do not have to undress completely; it's perfectly acceptable to wear your underwear while getting a massage — whatever makes you the most comfortable. For treatments such as scrubs and mud wraps, spas offer disposable panties."

Talking (Or Not Talking) During A Massage

A good point to remember: "This is your massage, therefore you are in charge of it," says Charleen Senior of The Spa at Harrah’s in SoCal.
"You have permission to ask the therapist not to massage a certain area, or you can ask the therapist to massage one area more than another."

And don’t be shy about providing direction if you want something done differently. "It is perfectly okay to talk during a massage. Massage therapists want to make you feel completely at ease, so if talking and asking questions makes you feel comfortable, then please do," says Kellie Camire of The White Barn Inn. "It is also okay to not talk — please don't feel bad for not having a conversation with your therapist during your massage. This is your time to relax."
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Falling Asleep During A Facial Or Massage
Have you ever dozed off for a sec during a facial, then startled yourself waking up with a slightly embarrassed head jerk? Or fallen asleep head-down during a massage, waking up with a snort and some serious drool on your face? Well, you're not alone. And guess what? Nobody cares.

"It is perfectly normal to sleep during any treatment," says Roselia Flandes, the spa director at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Mexico. "So the next time you feel you are falling asleep, let yourself go."

Some aestheticians even take it as a compliment if you head off to slumberland. "As an aesthetician, I always take a certain amount of pride when a guest falls asleep during my facials. It means I have put them at ease and allowed them to truly relax," says Laura Benge of The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami.

As for massages: "Stress melts away with each massage stroke, so it’s no wonder people fall asleep on the table," says Norcross.
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Not Dressing Up
Arsen Gurgov is the master hairstylist at the Licari Cutler Salon on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan — yep, the Fifth Avenue where you'll find Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Such posh locations can be intimidating to some, but Gurgov insists that you don't have to adhere to any sort of dress code when you duck into a salon.

"Going to these cache places, [customers] feel like they should be dressed up a certain way — I vote against it," he says. "I don’t think anyone should go to a hair salon feeling like they have to look a certain way."
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Having Dirty Hair
I never wash my hair before going to the salon. In fact, I probably go an extra day (or two) longer than I normally would without it — I mean, they're going to do it for me, right? But even with this mindset, I still feel totally guilty sitting down in the hairstylist's chair with a greasy mop. "I'm so sorry, my hair is disgusting," I always say.

Well, it's time to stop apologizing. We're always so quick to say "sorry" that it's almost losing its meaning (but that's a whole other story). "I don't think clients should feel apprehensive about coming to the salon with dirty hair, or having to feel like they have to make the hairdresser feel good about his or her hair," says Gurgov. "It’s our job to make you feel good about your hair."
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Having A Dry Scalp
If you have scalp problems, your hairstylist has seen it, time and time again. And that's a good thing, because he or she is in the ideal position to offer treatment advice. "We are exposed to all scalp issues, and are educated on how to handle these things," says Gurgov. "A hairdresser should guide you."

Dandruff is very common, but there are lots of different culprits that contribute to it. "Scalps being too dry, oil buildup, using too much product, or the wrong product," can all lead to flakes, he explains. "It’s the hairstylist's job to find the reason and resolve this issue." Usually, he or she can tell what you need to do to combat the issue just by looking at your scalp or asking a few questions.
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Not Knowing What Hairstyle You Want
Though we totally believe in getting a little celebrity inspiration when it comes to your hair, sometimes that aha moment just doesn't happen when you're flipping through the pages of Us Weekly. And sometimes, you just don't have time to look.

It's okay to come to the salon without a clue. Once again, the hairstylist is there to guide you and help you figure out just the right look. Gurgov likes to ask a few basic questions: Do you want to pull back your hair? Do you blowdry your hair, or is it a wash-and-go situation? How much of a change are you after?

"If a client doesn’t have pictures, it’s our job to ask the right questions," he says.
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
Using Your Phone
Want to check your email, do a little Snapchat, or scroll through Instagram? Go ahead! When you're getting your hair or your nails done, you don't have to feel guilty about being on your phone. "Clients apologize for taking a call or having to respond to an email during their manicure, but we really don't mind," says Martin. "And it actually helps some work faster, since there's less talking involved on the manicurist's side."

Hairstylists don't frown upon you breaking out the phone, either. These days, it's par for the course. Just be ready to put it down again if he or she needs you to look up for the cut.
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Illustrated by: Michaela Early
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