Spa Glossary

To have the ultimate spa experience, you need to learn the lingo. Get the facts with this list of terms and resource guide.

Thinking of taking a much deserved time-out at a spa? Good for you. But before you go anywhere, research a few spas online to figure out what's available, and then use our glossary of terms to decide what pampering package you want (and need).

Each spa has its own exotic names for treatments, but the basic elements of the most common treatments are defined here:


A therapy that heals the body, mind, and spirit with the scent of natural essential oils. Aromatherapy is often employed in conjunction with other therapies (sometimes the oil is part of a massage, sometimes the essences are diffused into the air of a treatment room).

Body Scrubs

Exfoliating and polishing rubdowns, usually done with scrubs and creams, that leave your body soft allover.

Body Wraps or Masks

Your entire body is slathered with a mask or mud or draped with algae or seaweed, and then usually wrapped in plastic or cloth. Bundled up like an aromatic mummy, you're then left in darkened silence to relax and absorb the benefits of the treatment.


In this treatment your face is cleansed and moisturized, though the specifics vary according to the type of facial. Some of the products that may be used: mud, seaweed, quadruple-oxygenated water, flower essences, masks, and peels.


Hydrotherapy usually refers to a water massage. It may be administered in a shower with multiple showerheads, with intense water pressure, and in some spas, a hose-wielding therapist. Another variation is a deep tub with massaging water jets. It will leave you all tingly and relaxed.

Manicures and Pedicures

You already know what they are, but at a spa, they'll probably be more luxurious and relaxing than the kind you get at the strip mall or corner shop.


Basically, the manipulation of the soft tissues by trained hands. Depending on the philosophy of the spa, you'll be treated to one or a combination of several massage techniques during a massage. The basic varieties:

  • Swedish -- what we think of as "traditional" massage, a soothing combination of stroking, friction, kneading, and percussive movements.
  • Shiatsu -- a Japanese therapeutic massage employing gentle finger pressure on meridian points on your body, to eliminate energy blockages and relax you.
  • Reflexology -- the best foot rub you'll ever get. Applying subtle pressure to parts of your feet, the therapist is able to manipulate and release blocked energy and emotion throughout your body.

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