Going to the spa shouldn’t be difficult. After all, the spa is a place for relaxation; if you need detailed, complicated instructions on how to relax, you’re probably doing it wrong. With that said, a social faux pas can certainly ruin your time at the spa, and we’re always wondering if we’re doing something that secretly annoys spa workers. We reached out to a few massage therapists, makeup artists, and other professionals to find out about the little annoyances of the job—and the things that customers worry about that really aren’t such a big deal.
1. Don’t be too self-conscious.
When people walk into spas, they often have unrealistic expectations of how they’re supposed to look and act. That’s normal, according to the experts we spoke with, but self-consciousness only gets in the way of therapeutic treatments. “I often am told by clients that they haven’t shaved their legs,” says Stephanie Agakian, owner of Bodhi Body Studios, a massage studio in Colorado. “It’s really not a big deal at all. I typically respond with ‘neither did I,’ so they feel a little more relaxed. There’s nothing worse than a client coming in for a massage who can’t relax!” Customers often worry about their weight, which isn’t exactly helpful. “I’ve actually had customers apologize for being overweight,” said another spa worker who asked to be quoted anonymously. “We want you to love your body, and we certainly aren’t judging you in any way. That’s completely counterproductive in our profession.” That goes for makeup artists, too. Their job isn’t to judge their customers, and self-consciousness can actually affect their ability to do their job. “Please stop thinking I’m judging you on our lack of makeup skill or knowledge!” says Jennifer Trotter, owner of Lip Service Makeup in Dallas/Fort Worth. “I don’t assume everyone has to be a beauty expert. It wouldn’t be great for me if they were.”
2. Don’t assume that your massage therapist is a “masseuse.”
That’s a mistake that we made while researching this article. As our experts pointed out, “masseuse” is an old-fashioned term, and while they won’t be too offended if you use it, they prefer the term “massage therapist.” “This is simply a generational or cultural issue,” Agakian explains. “For a long time, massage therapists were called masseuses. Masseuses worked in massage parlors. Both masseuse and massage parlor are terms offensive to most massage therapists today, as is massage bed (instead of table).” Why? Well, that’s where things get a little bit uncomfortable. “Massage therapists live in a world where creepy men and women will ask for unbelievable services, and we are very sensitive to terms,” Agakian says. They’re hard-working professionals, and they want to make sure that they’re treated in a professional manner. The words people use to describe massage therapy can have a direct effect on the way that customers interact with their therapists. Another reason to use the right terminology: Becoming a massage therapist is tough work. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the legal requirements for massage therapists range from state to state, but all therapists must complete an accredited program. Most also have to put hundreds of hours into their craft before they’re certified, and the process can take years. It’s easy to see why some therapists get slightly offended when their customers call them “masseuse” or “masseur.” Even so, Agakian says that she lets this little faux pas slide. “Most people don’t do it with any ill intent,” she says, “and I always politely educate them that I am, first of all, not in Europe, and secondly, not listed on Craigslist, so my proper title is massage therapist. If they are older or European, I just let it go.”
3. Don’t make things harder than they need to be.
In many cases, customers think that they’re helping their massage therapist or makeup artist when they’re actually making the process much more difficult. For example, if your spa offers makeover services, try not to show up in full makeup. “I have had clients come in for a makeover for an event with a full face of makeup on, so [we] can see how they do their makeup,” says Christina Flach, celebrity makeup artist and CEO of Pretty Girl Makeup. She also notes that some clients don’t take off mascara for “literally months,” which causes some pretty predictable problems. “Nothing annoys me more then a client expecting me to waste my time getting all that mascara—that at this point is nuclear waste—off their face!” If you’re concerned that your makeup artist won’t give you the look you want, feel free to bring in photos to show them what you want. You could also talk to them—as our experts repeatedly noted, communication is key. “Some people walk into the spa and act like they’re in a monastery,” our anonymous source says. “If that helps you relax, that’s totally cool with me, but just be sure to tell me if you’re confused about part of the process or if I’m doing something wrong. I’m not great at guessing games.”
4. Don’t be dirty.
A surprising number of people don’t bathe before going in for their spa treatments. Your massage therapist isn’t going to bathe you, and if you’re especially filthy, you might get sent home. “It’s not just gross to think about, it’s an actual health issue,” explains Agakian. “Imagine if your therapist didn’t do basic hygiene tasks like wash their hands between clients—you wouldn’t want them touching you! Why would your therapist want to work on you if you don’t shower? Also, sometimes clients use things like topical hormones, and not getting those washed off can transfer to the therapist.” “It’s best (and most relaxing) to come in when you are fresh and clean,” Agakian says. What if you’re headed to the spa after a long day at work? Generally speaking, you’ll be fine, provided that you’re not a manual laborer, but feel free to explain the situation to the spa employees. “I keep heated, moist towels on hand with a few drops of essential oils,” says Agakian. “My clients know that if they need to do a quick clean up, they are welcome to grab a hot towel in a pinch and get cleaned up. You can always ask your massage therapist for one if they have a towel warmer and you’re not feeling your freshest.” Oh, and if you’re getting a makeover or facial, use some common sense. “Blow your nose before getting your makeup done,” says Trotter. “Enough said.” Indeed. Another makeup tip: Don’t wax your eyebrows before heading in. “Everyone has a tiny bit of peach fuzz on their face and waxing removes it,” Trotter explains. This creates a halo effect around your brows that is noticeable and difficult if not impossible to cover.” Besides, if you’re getting a facial or other treatment, the freshly waxed area might be especially sensitive. At most, you should apply moisturizer and lip balm before heading to the spa or studio, but don’t go in greasy. Try not to under- or over-prepare; let the spa workers do their jobs.
5. Don’t ask your friends to ply their trade for free.
This is one of the more annoying aspects of beauty-related careers: When your friends find out about your skills, they’ll ask for free services. According to our experts, that’s a very, very annoying habit. “They don’t do their job for free, why should I do mine for free?” asks Agakian. “My education and my supplies are not free, and it takes time away from clients that could be paying. If you’re going to ask for free or discounted services, at least offer a trade, or send in five friends who will pay first.” Granted, your friends who are makeup artists and massage therapists might offer free services from time to time, and you don’t have to feel guilty for taking advantage of an offer. Just don’t assume that the free services are anything but a one-time thing—and definitely don’t complain about the results. “If I’m taking the time to do something for free, be at least a little bit grateful,” our anonymous source says. “And if you’re hanging out with a massage therapist, don’t start loudly moaning and rubbing your neck. We know exactly what you’re doing. Schedule an appointment or just outright ask for some help, but don’t make your neck pain into a pain in my neck.” That’s especially important for massage therapists who work on commission, since they might have trouble getting steady work. They certainly don’t have time to offer free services while they’re trying to find new customers. Oh, and if your spa allows tips, be sure to leave one. “A good tip is about 15 to 20 percent, and therapists always appreciate it,” our anonymous source says. “I’m not going to press a customer to leave a tip, but I’m always a little exasperated if they make special requests and forget to tip accordingly. Oh, and tip cash. [There’s] no reason to tip the credit card companies.”