When you’re a spa regular, a spa day quickly becomes a part of your comfort zone, partly because it’s so relaxing and partly because you’re likely reaching for the same treatments time and time again. After all, they feel good and you know what to expect. But, just like with exercise, a stagnant routine can result in boredom and lower returns. How many times can you get the standard massage-facial combo, for instance, until you forget just how nice a spa day really is because it’s no longer special?
Before your next spa day, check out our recommendations for less common spa treatments that can help you take a step—or a champion long jump—outside your comfort zone.
If your comfort zone is facial treatments:
No matter the spa, most facials follow a regimented order: cleansing, exfoliation, steam, extractions, massage, mask, moisturizer with sunscreen. Deviations usually only occur during the application of skincare products, which can target conditions ranging from fine lines to acne. If you’re looking move beyond common facial treatments, spread the wealth around.
Inch your way out with a back facial or body polish.
A back facial or body polish transfers the pampering from your face to the rest of your skin. After all, it needs attention, too.
Aestheticians exfoliate away the dead skin on your back or body, then apply any number of nourishing products. The standard is an intensely hydrating body butter massaged into your skin, but they may also paint on an acne-defying mask or mineral-rich mud. Such mud has been harvested for centuries for its therapeutic properties, including its ability to firm up skin, relieve joint pain, and alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and eczema.
Take a leap with body wraps.
Body wraps work from the inside out. In many cases, an aesthetician administers a body scrub before coating parts of your body with a moisturizing agent. You’re then swaddled in a thermal blanket—or, for some body wraps, infrared heating pads—and left to relax. As one of our beauty editors described it, it’s “like a mix of getting hugged and sunbathing.”
The heat forces you to perspire, possibly detoxifying your body, plumping up skin, and shaving some inches off your waist. Body wraps can vary from spa to spa, so call ahead to know what you’re in for.
If your comfort zone is the sauna:
Saunas can be found just about everywhere with a locker room, from every run-of-the-mill spa to the gym down the street. With the strange sauna etiquette around getting naked, talking, and stretching, saunas can seem like an exotic experience for infrequent spa-goers, but after even just one trip, you know what to expect. If you find the sauna to be old hat, try embracing a treatment from the past or the future.
Inch your way out with a bathhouse excursion.
The bathhouse is a tradition in many cultures. And if you head to one for your spa day, you’ll be able to experience a wide range of unfamiliar treatments.
A Korean jjimjilbang, for instance, offers hot and cold pools, whirlpools, kiln saunas, and invigorating body scrubs (learn why it’s best to come hungry). A Russian banya augments sweat-it-out sessions with platza treatments, in which an attendant smacks you with a bundle of oak or eucalyptus leaves to increase circulation and open pores. At a Turkish hammam, you alternate bathing in hot and cold water before receiving a full-body massage.
Take a leap with a mud bath.
The term “mud bath” seems paradoxical. How do you bathe in something that makes you dirty? And more importantly, why would you? The short answer: spending some time up to your neck in mud can be good for your skin. The longer answer, however, is a bit more nuanced and involves a closer look at fangotherapy—treatments that involve mud. Read our four key mud-bath facts, which may convince you to act like a pig at your next spa visit.
If your comfort zone is traditional massage:
Traditional massage has a lot of benefits, including stress reduction, pain relief, and the restoration of full function to joints and other body parts. But virtually every therapist practicing today has the same modalities in their repertoire: Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, maybe hot-stone massage if you want to get a little wild. Instead of a basic Western massage, step outside the box and seek out someone who specializes in Eastern bodywork.
Inch your way out with Thai massage.
This modality is great for two types of people: those who don’t want to get undressed for their massage and those who don’t mind being manhandled. If you find yourself in the middle of this Venn diagram, this service is the perfect way to spice up your spa day.
During a fully clothed Thai massage, a specially trained therapist pushes and pulls your limbs and cradles and stretches your passive body. Essentially, this modality eschews the rubbing of traditional massage in favor of assisted yoga postures.
The yoga-like positions are combined with rhythmic pressure provided by the therapist’s hands, feet, and legs. Together, they can relieve tension, boost flexibility, and improve range of motion.
Take a leap with cupping.
During this form of traditional Chinese medicine, the practitioner massages essential oil into your back. They then begin heating glass cups with a flame. That way, when they’re applied to your skin, the cups create suction and an airtight seal. Some of the cups are left stationary, to pull the skin upward and apply pressure; others are moved along the back to simulate a massage. The intended results are also massage-like and include improved circulation and energy flow, which promotes healing and pain relief.
Just a heads up—you may end up looking like you have a bunch of hickeys on your back, a side effect our beauty editor discovered after her cupping session. However, cupping should feel relaxing, not painful.
If your comfort zone is microdermabrasion:
Of the facial treatments offered by most spas, microdermabrasion is probably the most interesting. (One of our beauty bloggers, for instance, compared it to being licked by a cat.) In its various iterations, microdermabrasion is meant to deeply exfoliate your face, revealing a new layer of clearer, firmer, and smoother skin. However, you should only get one every few weeks. So what are you to do in between?
Inch your way out with a chemical peel.
The name doesn’t sound all that appealing. But chemical peels are another powerful skin resurfacer designed to fade blemishes and fine lines.
An aesthetician first evaluates your skin to decide how strong the peel’s acid should be. If you’re willing to endure some downtime with redness and flaking, you can get a more intense peel to correct your superficial skin issues.
Take a leap with a nonsurgical face-lift.
A nonsurgical face-lift is typically accomplished with radio frequencies, magnetic pulses, ultrasonic waves, or laser light directed into the face. (No scalpels and no downtime here!)
These technologies are designed to create heat beneath the skin’s surface, spurring the production of collagen. The increased collagen can help lift, tone, and tighten skin, particularly in delicate, wrinkle-prone areas, such as around the eyes.