Sometimes terms can be confusing—we're here to make it easier.
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Credit: Courtesy of Travaasa Experiential Resorts

A spa's treatment menu can be a wonderful-and wonderfully confusing-thing. (What is watsu, and should you want it?) While many locations put their own spin on service, using local ingredients, for instance, the basic premise remains the same. We've broken down the glossary into themes to make things even easier. Here's how to decode the offerings.

Fast Skin-Care Treatments


Aromatherapy: An essential oil is added to the base massage oil to deliver the desired benefit-from relaxing to energizing.

Couples: A massage for two; you're both in the same room, each with your own therapist.

Deep tissue: For experienced massage enthusiasts, this style delves into the muscle layers and connective tissue to undo knots and alleviate tension. It can be uncomfortable if you're not used to getting this kind of treatment.

Hot stone: Your therapist uses heated smooth rocks to loosen knots and other tight areas. The stones' warmth makes it a very comforting, relaxing experience.

Lomilomi: A form of massage that comes from Hawaii, it involves long, smooth strokes on two parts of your body at once, such as shoulder and hip.

Lymphatic drainage: Using extremely light strokes, the therapist stimulates the lymph nodes to flush out toxins.

Prenatal: This service focuses on relieving pregnancy-related symptoms such as back pain and leg cramps. A pregnancy pillow may accommodate the growing tummy so moms-to-be can (finally!) lie facedown. (Check with your doctor first, though.)

Shiatsu: You'll be clothes-free for many types of massage, but you may wear loose clothing for this one, in which the practitioner uses acupressure to balance your body's energy flow.

Sports: Perfect for athletes, this type of massage targets specific ailments, such as tight hamstrings or hip flexors. It can be intense, so it's not one to pick if you want to zone out.

Swedish: The most basic kind of massage and the place to start if you've never had one before. It consists of a series of long strokes over the body to induce relaxation.

Thai: Sometimes called "yoga massage," it's conducted on a mat on the floor. The practitioner stretches you into a series of assisted yoga poses to increase flexibility. You're clothed for this one.

Watsu: The treatment is done in a pool that's heated to a relaxing 95 degrees Fahrenheit (you wear a bathing suit), and the therapist stretches and bends your body as you float.


Acne: Your aesthetician will use products that quash breakouts and extract dirt and oil from blocked pores.

Antiaging: After cleansing, toning, and exfoliating procedures, expect free-radical-fighting serums to help keep wrinkles at bay.

Brightening: Dark spots and blotchiness are addressed with topicals that reduce hyperpigmentation.

Deep cleansing: The idea is to flush every bit of debris from pores, via steaming, extractions, and masks. It's best to avoid this if you have sensitive skin.

Exfoliating: This routine frequently involves a gentle chemical peel to remove the top layer of dead cells, revealing vibrant skin underneath.

Men's facial: Using specialized products and massage techniques just for guys, this treatment aims to soften the skin and prevent ingrown hairs.

Microdermabrasion: Another form of exfoliation, this uses a handheld device that buffs skin with crystals to remove its dull surface layer.

Oxygen: To enhance your complexion's glow, the facialist may use oxygen-infused products, as well as mist skin with pure O2 straight from a machine.

Rosacea/sensitive skin: The focus is on soothing and reducing irritation, so there likely will not be extractions or steaming. Instead, expect treatments with calming ingredients, such as chamomile and rosewater.

Energy Work

Craniosacral: Gentle manipulation of the skull, usually at the base of the head, helps release compression in the spine and sacrum and relieves tension.

Reflexology: Based on the idea that specific spots on the foot connect to organs and other parts of the body, it is like a glorious foot massage that also stimulates circulation.

Reiki: In this Japanese healing technique, the therapist places his hands slightly above your body without touching it (or touches it gently), to help
balance the body's chi (energy).


Thalassotherapy: Any treatment that incorporates seawater, minerals, or mud.

Vichy shower: Think of it as a car wash for bodies. An overhead shower with six to eight nozzles passes over you as you lie on a table, removing any product left post-treatment.

Body Treatment

Scrub: A full-body exfoliation, usually using sugar or salt and essential oils. Often followed by a rinse under a Vichy shower.

Wrap: Frequently detoxifying, this treatment may start with an application of mud, seaweed, or body cream before you are cocooned in sheets or blankets for 20 minutes or so while the product sinks into your skin.


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