Decoding a Menu of Spa Treatments

BY: Colleen Loggins Loster |Jun 25, 2019

black woman getting a massage at a spa

Do you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of visiting a spa? Spas are meant to be relaxing, but between the nakedness and the confusing array of spa treatments, they can be anything but. We can't really do anything about the nudity, but we can help make a spa menu less befuddling. 


Swedish: relaxation massage with long, gliding strokes, kneads, and circular motions 

Deep tissue: therapeutic massage with intense pressure that relieves tension in deep muscle layers 

Aromatherapy: relaxation massage enhanced by essential oils, such as lavendar (to calm), orange (to re-energize), or eucalyptus (to promote deep breathing)

Unspecified 60- or 90-minute massage: This is just another way of saying a custom massage that lasts 60 or 90 minutes. During a consultation with the therapist, you say if you’re looking for relaxation or pain relief, and the therapist tailors the massage to your needs. So that might mean deep pressure on your knotted shoulders and light, flowing strokes on your arms. 


European facial: typically includes a cleanse, exfoliation, steam, extractions (optional), facial massage, mask, and moisturizer with sunblock. Everything will be selected based on your skin type and concerns. It is one of the most ubiquitous spa treatments.  

Signature facial: facial unique to the spa, which often means it's themed based on location (like a luxe gold facial in Las Vegas) or incorporates products with local ingredients (such as local seaweed or clay).

Chemical peel: an acid—glycolic, lactic, salicylic, etc.—that chemically removes dead, dull skin cells 

Microdermabrasion: a diamond-tipped wand (or spray of microparticles) that physically removes dead, dull skin cells 


Woman wrapped up in a gold foil thermal body wrap at a spa

Body Treatments 

Body wrap: most often includes an exfoliating treatment, followed by wrap ingredients, such as mud or seaweed. The body is then covered in plastic wrap and potentially a thermal blanket to induce sweating.

Dry brushing: exfoliating treatment done with a body brush to exfoliate away dead skin cells and promote lymphatic drainage 


Brazilian: removes ALL hair from the bikini area, including between the buttocks. It’s optional to keep a strip or triangle of hair.

Bikini: only removes hair that might peek out of a bikini


Sauna: a room with wet or dry heat. It’s originally a Finnish word.

Platza: a Russian or Turkish body treatment in which one person "smacks" or bathes another with a bushel of eucalyptus, twigs, and leaves often infused with essential oils. (This "broom" is called a venik). It's meant to invigorate and slough off dead skin cells.



spa banner

Related Reads

The 11 Types of Massage: A Complete Guide The 11 Types of Massage: A Complete Guide

A Comprehensive Guide to the 11 Most Common Massage Types
Massage Etiquette Guide: Tips for the Most Relaxing MassageMassage Etiquette Guide: Tips for the Most Relaxing Massage

Should you shave your legs? Should you chat with the massage therapist? Just how naked are you supposed to be?
First FacialA First-Timer's Facial Before and After

One lazy editor gets her very first facial. Is she a convert?
Man in wood saunaSauna Etiquette (or How To Be Naked with Strangers)

It's a lot less scary than you think.