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Understanding spa speak to know what you're in for

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During my lengthy career covering spas it became evident that many people don’t understand the vernacular so count on me to help set the record straight.

First of all the word “spa” takes on many meanings in the travel world. When mentioned alongside a hotel it can simple translate as a whirlpool bath, seriously, or a place for pampering.

There are three types of spas: medi-spas which offer more intensive treatments and are often staffed by at least one doctor or medical professional; day spas which are self-contained shops where you go for treatments; and destination spas where you sleep over either for a few days or whole week such as the programs at The Golden Door in Escondido, California and Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico; Canyon Ranch in Tucson, the Berkshires and other areas, Sonoma Mission Inn—and others.

Okay now once you go to a day spa, destination spa or medi-spa you will be faced with a menu of options from facials (treatments designed to improve your skin) to massages (intended to relax, detox and relieve aches and pains), aromatherapy massages (same as massages but cost more because they add special fragrant oils designed to detox or enhance the sensory experience), body scrubs (exfoliate the skin and remove dead cells), herbal wraps (detoxing by sweating it out), and reflexology (massage and pressure point manipulation that targets specific areas of the anatomy).

And then there are assorted exotic sounding services that basically cost a lot more because of well, the exotic sounding names, like Ayurvedic (system of Hindu traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and a form of alternative medicine) and assorted other offerings that use pearls, seaweed, maple syrup, hot stones, wine and other ingredients that may or may not have any real benefits and will cost you more, but will feel great usually.

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