Spa Etiquette Basics

Spa Etiquette Basics

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We’ve all been there one time or another. Whether it was for a special occasion or just your regular beauty tune-up, there has probably been a time when you weren’t exactly thrilled with your salon experience. So what is the best way to handle this awkward situation?

Whether you have been going to your stylist for years or you had one of those, “I have to get my hair cut right now!” moments, a bad style can happen.  Somewhere during your intense conversations about the cover of the latest gossip magazine, it hits you. Where did your hair go? Why do you have more chunky layers than you expected? Why is your hair the color of cinnamon applesauce?  And how quickly should you say something about it?

“As soon as possible!” is the time to handle this problem according to Melissa Crowe, artistic designer at Valenti Salon in Mariemont.  She says good communication is key.

0208GIBBERMAN.gif With over seven years in the styling business, Crowe says she averages about five times a year when her clients may not like something about their cut or color. What is the worst thing you can do? “Trying to fix it yourself or not tell me and then just write me off,” says Crowe.

“I want to prove to my clients that I can make their cut or color right,” continues Crowe. “No two stylists are exactly the same but with solid communication I can usually rectify the problem and am more than happy to do so.”

You may not even notice that you don’t like your hair while still at the salon. But after one wash and an attempt at styling, you know the cut is not working. Don’t panic! There is still more than enough time to get help. Just make a call to the salon, ask to speak with your stylist and before you know it, you will be back in the chair and on your way to liking the way you look.

In short, honesty is always the best policy. If you make your best effort to remove the emotion from the situation, most likely you will come across in an honest and respectful manner. Try to be specific. Is the cut too short? Are there too many layers? Or do you feel like you are walking around with someone else’s head on your shoulders? Your stylist can discuss ways to achieve the look you ultimately desire.

If you do not receive immediate feedback from your stylist, then take up your issue with the salon management or owner. Salons are eager to please their clients and want to develop long-term relationships.

The same principal goes for manicures, pedicures and all other spa services. “Let me know what you don’t like and I will fix it,” says Valenti nail technician Kayla Bowman. “I want my clients to leave happy with their services and I want to know if they are not!”

So the next time your color didn’t turn out the way you wanted, the razor cutting is too funky for your taste or your nail color looked better in the bottle, don’t be afraid to turn right around and let your stylist know exactly how you feel. Take a deep breath, use your manners and clearly express your concerns. When you feel good about the way you look, everyone wins!

Here are some other spa etiquette tips, according to


  • Punctuality: Ideally arrive 15-30 minutes early so you can enjoy an unhurried transition into the spa. If you are late, your treatment time will be shortened. After a treatment, it’s customary to vacate the room within five or ten minutes, though you are welcome to spend additional time unwinding in the spa’s relaxation or waiting rooms.
  • Therapists: If you prefer either a male or female therapist, but the spa fails to ask, don’t hesitate to let your choice be known. Also, if you have enjoyed the services of a particular therapist on a prior visit, feel free to request that person.
  • Nudity: The idea of going “au naturel” is very scary to some people, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the spa. If modesty is an issue, call the spa in advance to discuss its policies and suggestions. Some treatments can be done while you’re fully clothed, but others (such as hydrotherapy) are best received in the nude. Facilities such as the sauna and the whirlpool may be enjoyed either in a bathing suit or with no clothing at all.
  • Cancellation: Unexpected things do happen, and sometimes it’s impossible to keep an appointment. If you must cancel, give the spa as much advance notice as possible. Be sure to ask if your money will be refunded; cancellation policies vary widely.
  • Communicating your preferences: Be sure to speak up. All aspects of treatment can be modified to your taste: amount of light, kind (or absence) of music, room temperature and whether or not you choose to have a conversation or enjoy the treatment in silence. If you want the therapist to give you a deep massage, or be gentler, let him or her know. Also, feel free to ask questions. Your therapist will enjoy knowing your thoughts and clarifying any issues you may have.
  • Shaving: Shave at least two hours before your scheduled appointment, particularly if you’re a woman receiving any kind of scheduled bodywork.
  • Using shared facilities: Before entering a soaking pool, swimming pool or whirlpool, always shower. When enjoying the sauna or steam, always sit on your towel and wear the plastic shoes provided by the spa.
  • Perfume: Because the emphasis should be on relaxation and because others may be allergic, it’s best not to wear perfume to a spa.
  • Smoking: For the most part, smoking is not allowed at resort/hotel spas. If it is, there are usually designated areas where you can smoke.
  • Children: A spa is a great place to get a little alone time, so it’s best to not to bring children under 16. You can usually leave small children in the care of a sitter, nanny or under the supervision of the children’s program during your treatments. If children are with you, be attentive to their safety as well as their impact on the comfort and relaxation of others.
  • Pets: Some animals are welcome at certain resorts but should not be brought to the spa. Be considerate of others by keeping your pet quiet and following the spa rules.
  • Cell phones: Leave phones at home or turn them off before entering the spa.
  • Conversation: In the relaxation room and elsewhere, keep conversations at a low volume.
  • Gratuities: Ask if gratuities are included, though that is not usually the case. If not, about 15 percent is customary, but you may of course leave more or less, depending on the quality of the service. Leave the tip at the reception desk when you pay your bill rather than giving it directly to the therapist. If you receive multiple services from different people (i.e., a massage therapist, a facial esthetician, etc.), leave a separate tip for each of them.
  • Eco-awareness: Being respectful of your environment is part of the spa experience. Use only the number of towels necessary. Washing them uses water and electric, which are limited resources in some communities.



Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Location: Gateway Quarter
Nikol Coradi
Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics