It’s Mother’s Day, and right now thousands of women are clutching spa vouchers, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. Or… not.
Ironically, the very thing that’s meant to relax us can actually feel pretty intimidating. I’ve been a beauty journalist for 15 years, but I’ll confess it took a while before I could truly love spa treatments.
Part of me suspected I was a scruffy anomaly in this fragrant, candlelit world, and that nobody else had ever turned up for a massage with chipped toenail polish and hairy legs. Now, though, a spa is my (rare) piece of bliss, and it can be yours too.
So please don’t just stick that gift voucher in a drawer until it expires – read this, book in and switch off.
OMG, I have to strip off in front of a stranger!
Therapists are like nurses; they’ve already seen everything. And while YOU might be thinking about your stretchmarks or stubbly legs, they’re only thinking about whether you’re enjoying your treatment.
«We’ve seen all shapes, sizes and ages and we really don’t judge,» says Decléor’s education consultant Laura Ford. «Your therapist will leave the room when you’re getting undressed, and you’ll be covered up by towels in the treatment. If you don’t want to take your bra off for a back massage, for instance, just say so – we can just undo the clasp instead.»
I just can’t switch off
It’s pretty lousy ‘me time’ if you’re shifting awkwardly on the massage couch, fretting about what to make for tea.
«Try to focus on the here and now,» advises Lisa Brown, founder of spa review site The Luxury Spa Edit. «The first thing I notice when I enter any spa is the aroma – most are scented with relaxing oils to instantly de-stress clients.» And if you’re physically uncomfortable in a treatment, speak up.
«Some find they’re more comfortable with folded towels under their knees, for example,» says Laura.
I feel rude not talking to the therapist
Therapists will usually explain the treatment first, and then take their cue from you in terms of chat. It’s not rude to be quiet in the treatment, you’re not there to entertain anyone.
«If you feel awkward, a good tip is to say you feel tired and close your eyes, or ask for relaxing music to be played,» says Lisa.
I’m stressed about the whole tipping thing
Tips are always appreciated but definitely not expected, says Laura.
«They’re not factored into therapists’ wages like they are for waitresses. Nobody will think any the less of you for not tipping.»
The massage pressure is all wrong
This is your time, so do it your way. Your therapist should ask at the start how much pressure you’d like, so just be honest.
«There’s nothing worse than sensing a client is in discomfort,» says Laura.
Obviously some treatments are more vigorous than others, so if you prefer a light touch you might want to avoid a deep tissue massage, for instance.
Is it a waste if I fall asleep?
Snoozing, especially during a holistic treatment such as a hot stone massage, is a really good thing, reassures Lisa.
«A 45-minute nap can completely re-energise you.»
It’s also a huge compliment to the therapist.
«Honestly, we love things like snoring and dribbling, because it means clients are relaxed and enjoying themselves,» says Laura.
New treatments tested
, from £75, 1hr 15 mins
Combines Decléor’s aromatherapy oils with facial massage to lift and sculpt.
We say: «After a cleanse, exfoliation and mask, my face was given a good working over – a lot of knuckle kneading into the cheekbones, but not uncomfortably so. My skin felt the smoothest it has in years and I looked lifted. Several people remarked on how fresh and glowy my skin seemed and asked what I’d been using!»
, approx £60 for 60 mins
A full-body massage that incorporates breathing and visualisation for maximum relaxation.
We say: «The mindful bit at the start was incredible for getting me into a zen state. It’s a full-body treatment, with gentle top-to-toe sweeping strokes (but the therapist checks in advance if there are areas you’d like them to avoid). I felt like a calm, happy cat being stroked.»
Elizabeth Arden Oxygen Blast, £15 (from 1 April), 15 mins
A service at 180 Arden counters, your face is spritzed with oxygen and a choice of detoxing, brightening, hydrating or lifting booster.
We say: «Perfect for perking up a tired face – the mist felt refreshing, and the brightening boost revived my flagging complexion. You can do it over make-up and the cost is redeemable against an Arden purchase.»
Elemis Superfood Facial, £95, 1 hour
A nutrient booster for tired, stressed-out skin.
We say: «Available in 25 min or 60 min versions. A really good, classic facial: relaxing, refreshing, packed with oils, cleansing and masks. A great treatment for someone who hasn’t been to a spa before. It taught me more about looking after my skin, was a pleasure to do, and I left feeling dreamily blissed-out with lovely hydrated, plumped skin.»
Lisa Brown is founder of Theluxuryspaedit.com – a dedicated luxury spa website sharing handpicked spas and wellness retreats in the UK and around the globe.
We had our Mindful Massage treatment at Espa Life at The Corinthia: Espalifeatcorinthia.com . The flagship spa offers a luxe 90-min version for £190.