Picture this … you’re a Roman centurion just back from conquering someone, and you want some R & R. So you head down to the first of three progressively warmer rooms, where you’ll be slathered with oils. After an hour or so, you’ll jump into a small private area with a choice of hot or cold water. Then, off to the hottest chamber yet, where your entire body will be massaged and scraped with a curved metal tool. Then another cool dip and off you go, refreshed and ready to do battle.
Not to be outdone, the Greeks enjoyed a variety of baths as early as 500 B.C. These and other baths of this nature spread throughout Asia, Europe, Africa and North America, many times built around or near natural hot waters or mineral-rich waters for healing and health as well as relaxing, revitalizing and socializing. Some towns became known for special waters — for example, Spa, Belgium, and Bath, England.

In 1522, in the Czech city of Karlovy Vary, scientific studies for the treatment of disease through the use of baths and drinking the mineral waters of the natural springs were being conducted. Clinics and hospitals came to replace the spas as places of healing, so spas began building luxurious accommodations for vacations, weight loss, etc. At the time, only the wealthy could take advantage of these facilities. In today’s world, spas are the answer to healthy lifestyles and are available to many people, not just the wealthy. As things have changed, more choices of treatments, whirlpools, saunas/steam rooms, modern products and other services have been added. Spa services can relax, pamper, calm, cleanse, heal and beautify you, to name a few benefits. So, let’s explore the wonderful world of spas. Although types of spas vary widely, common servicesinclude massage, body treatments and facials.

• Club Spa: A place where fitness is the primary purpose. Classes and other services (massages, facials) are provided by professionals. These are on a day-useonly basis.

• Day Spa: Beauty, wellness and relaxation services are offered, by appointment. No overnight accommodations.

• Cruise Ship Spa: As indicated by the name, these are located aboard a cruise ship, and services include those as in a day spa and might include healthy cuisine.

• Destination Spa: Spa offering overnight accommodations and weekend or weeklong programs of sports activities, body treatments, stress- or weight-reduction activities and specialized cuisine. These are located throughout Texas and the world.

• Holistic Spa: Spa featuring programs on nutrition, wellness and alternative
medicine.

• Medical Spa: Institutions or practices combining medical and spa professionals to provide medical and wellness care and spa treatments. Here you can get injections, maybe a face-lift, and other procedures for beauty and youthful appearance that require medical doctors and other professionally trained medical practitioners.

• Resort Spa: A facility in beautiful, quiet environments offering spa services, wellness programs, fitness facilities and entertainment.

• Sports/Adventure Spa: Hotel or resort providing therapeutic baths and body treatments, along with specialized sports (golf, tennis, horseback riding, skiing, fishing, etc.) or outdoor adventure/survival programs.

• Structured Spa: Spa geared toward specific programs for weight loss, fitness, detoxification, etc. These spas have strict rules relating to foods, exercising, counseling sessions and leaving the premises.

CHOOSING A SPA
When choosing a spa, aside from the services offered, look at how customers are treated, standards of cleanliness and the professionalism and courtesy of therapists. Treatments should start on time, modesty should be preserved, and massage therapists should not be chatty. They should be sensitive to the amount of pressure exerted for your situation and tolerance and should never, never touch you in a sexual way. If you feel uncomfortable, speak up. You should not be left alone during some treatments, especially those involving heat or steam. Aestheticians should inform about skin care but should not pressure you to buy their products.

FIRST TIME AT A SPA?
Feel free to ask questions, tour facilities, inquire about various treatments. Always arrive early to enjoy a shower, sauna or hot tub prior to treatments.
You’ll have the use of a locker with key, a robe and slippers while having your treatments. Your therapist will guide you through each phase of your procedure and will leave the room while you are dressing or undressing and getting between the sheets on the comfortable table. There will probably be soft music and low lighting as well. Spa treatments usually include massages, facials and perhaps manicures and pedicures. Some include hair care services, and others offer less common services such as hydrotherapy, acupuncture, Moor mud wraps, reflexology and more.

SO, WHAT ARE THESE TREATMENTS ALL ABOUT?

Here’s a brief overview.

Facial: Can involve cleansing, exfoliating, massaging and applying masks, toners and creams to hydrate your skin. Special facials might include Vitamin C, oxygen or collagen products. Some may include extractions of blackheads and anti-inflammatory extracts or applications of other products to balance the skin and treat specific problem skin. A facial every month or so is a good program to follow. Body treatments: Like a facial for your whole body! Exfoliation can be via a mixture of sea salt, oil and fragrances like lemon, orange, mint, cucumber, etc. Coffee grounds, grape seeds or other seeds ground up are also used as an exfoliating agent. After a good scrubbing, you shower or are showered with special jet streams of water coming from overhead. Then, it’s off you go to another spa appointment if you have one, or just out into the world feeling great! A body mask and wrap: Here, you’ll get a good coating of mud or seaweed cream, and then you’ll be wrapped in a thermal blanket or with plastic or linen and left to absorb the benefits for 20 minutes or so. A rare mud called Moor mud is available in some upscale spas because it is said to contain many types of rich nutrients for purifying and detoxing. A hydrating body treatment may consist of a very creamy emollient in place of mud and can be a good treatment for cellulite. In addition, it has a diuretic effect, which can cause a temporary weight “loss.” You can see why this is a favorite treatment before a big evening or special event. Body wraps are thought to stimulate your metabolic system, which aids in the healing process as well. If you see the term “Vichy Shower” on the menu, it refers to a shower taken while you’re lying down on a special mattress while the streams of water flow from above you to rinse and hydrate you.

Sometimes spas add their own special ingredients to a mask to differentiate it from others. Examples include eucalyptus, milk and honey, other citrus fruits, pumpkin and marine algae. Some spas make use of products or crops indigenous to their area: The Cliff House Resort Spa in Maine, according to online sources, uses blueberries, wild roses, juniper, sea salts and seashells in their body wraps, exfoliants and massages. You can eat lobster, too.

Author: Anne Moore