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Spa Etiquette: Nudity and the Spa

Your Guide, Anitra BrownFrom Anitra Brown,
Your Guide to Spas.
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Nudity at the spa is a big issue with people who have never been to the spa before. In fact, the most common questions about spa etiquette revolve around nudity. "Will I have to take my clothes off to get a massage?" "Will the therapist see me nude?" Some people are reluctant to get a massage because they don't feel comfortable being naked in front of strangers.

So, what's the real story with nudity at the spa? In general, a massage or body treatment is done nude -- but modesty is always respected. It's important to know that you're in control -- you can wear underwear if you want to. Generally, it's more comfortable if you don't, and because of draping techniques used at North American spas, you won't be exposed anyway. European spas, like the spas in Germany are more relaxed about nudity. They don't use elaborate draping techniques, and men and women typically take steam and sauna baths together, nude.

Nudity During Swedish Massage

For a Swedish massage, you will usually be nude. If you have any qualms about that, rest assured. It's easier than you think. You enter a private, dimly lit room, take your robe off, and hang it on the back of the door. You slip your slippers off and climb in between the sheets on the massage table, while the therapist is out of the room. There might be candles and dreamy music playing. The therapist will knock before entering so you won't be caught in an embarrassing position.

Occasionally a therapist stays in the room while you remove your robe. Usually she will hold up a sheet so that she can't see, then cover you as you lay down on the table. If you don't like that, you can always ask them to leave the room.

During the massage, the therapist uses a technique called "draping." Only the part of the body being massaged -- your back, or one arm, or one leg -- is exposed. Your privates are never exposed. Women's breasts are not exposed or massaged. Your buttocks sometimes are, but in a therapuetic manner, and it can be done through a sheet if you prefer.

That said, you can wear your underwear if you want to. Your comfort level is the most important factor. And there are styles of massage, like reflexology or Thai massage, where you can stay fully clothed.

Men sometimes think that nudity means they can get a sensual massage . This is not the case, and it's a breach of spa etiquette to ask for one.

Nudity During a Body Treatment

If you're uneasy about nudity, think twice about getting a body treatment. Body treatments generally require more exposure. You usually start out under a regular towel (instead of climbing into what looks like bed). If you're getting rinsed off with a Vichy shower, a six-headed shower that drenches your body while you lay on a table, you're going to be exposed. If that makes you uneasy, talk to the receptionist about the level of nudity involved in any body treatment. There are likely some where you stayed fully draped the entire time. (Even then wet towels sometimes move around

You might be offered disposable panties for the body treatment, which you can wear or not, depending on what you prefer. Their purpose is to keep little bits of scrub from wandering into nooks and crannies, not to protect the therapist's sensibilities.

If you really feel uncomfortable with nudity at the spa, you can always get a facial or a manicure and pedicure.


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