Making Sense of Muddling Spa Menus

by  Melisse Gelula | Mar 15, 2010
Spa / kzenon/iStock

Some spas think a plain old Swedish or deep tissue massage is just too perfunctory, particularly when partitioned into a 60-minute time slot. So, inspired by the way treatments are elaborated over longer periods of time in spas in Thailand and Bali, spas may dress up a massage with a foot washing and a body scrub beforehand and add on a scalp massage or mini facial, too. This is meant to be a more relaxing experience, even if it’s considerably more expensive.

That’s fine with me, I don't mind paying for more to get more. But what’s irksome is when the massage portion alluded to is massaged right out of treatment by flowery spa menu language, and I walk away with a glorified body treatment. My skin might be smoothed by the scrub and wrap, but I leave with my feathers ruffled.

So how to tell which ones contain massage, and which are really body treatments? Be on the look for these obfuscating spa menu phrases (which may or may not be pulled from actual spa menus) to make sure you know what you’re getting:

• "The treatment is finished with an application of hydrating lavender lotion using long relaxing strokes…"
Translation: There’s no massage. This is a body treatment that ends with a therapist applying your moisturizer. If you’d rather they used their skill set to work on the crick in your neck and your pulled hamstring, be sure that the combo platter includes at least 50 minutes for the massage portion.

• "A customized treatment that uses herbs and oils of your choosing to exfoliate and nourish your body in a sublime envelopment, leaving feeling refreshed, relaxed or energized…"
Translation: This is a body scrub and a wrap, not a massage. (What tipped me off? “Envelopment” is the French word for “body wrap.”) You might leave feeling refreshed, relaxed or energized. It just won’t be from actual bodywork.

• “The Vichy shower jets have a sedative power on the mind, while working muscle-melting magic on the body…”
Translation: The massage therapist isn’t going to knead your muscles, the Vichy shower heads are going to simulate the massage and its results instead. (A Vichy shower takes place on a table, and a long arm with a half dozen showerheads run the length of the table. When it’s done skillfully, a Vichy shower can feel like a couple massage therapists are working on you at once. When it’s not, you can feel like you’re drowning.)

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