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Spa Etiquette

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The Violet Files

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The owner of Beverly Hills’ acclaimed Tomoko Spa and The Violet Files share the secrets to becoming a top-shelf client.

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Spa Etiquette

The spa should be synonymous with serenity—and certainly not an occasion for stress. But like so many beauty experiences, it can be fraught with nuances of decorum. From when (and how much) to disrobe, to what sum to tip, to handling product-pushing tactfully, Tomoko Kurono, owner of year-old Japanese-style Tomoko Spa in Beverly Hills, explains how to be a gracious—and relaxed—guest.


Inside voices are definitely a “do” during a spa visit. Gossiping with your best girlfriend in the sauna is acceptable, providing you do so at a low decibel. (A hushed whisper sounds more elegant, anyway.) And although we all love children, leaving them with a sitter during a visit to the bathhouse is in everyone’s best interest. “People shouldn’t bring minor-aged children or food [especially if it’s fragrant],” says Kurono about potential disruptions. And while a few minutes in a waiting area is prime time for replying to emails or scrolling social media, make sure to avoid catch-up calls or FaceTime sessions, and leave the ringer on silent.


A big know-before-you-go that Kurono considers imperative: Avoid eating a large meal right before treatment. You’ll be able to relax and enjoy your session without worrying about digestion or feeling overly full. She recommends eating two to three hours before arriving.


Your treatment will be a very close encounter, so it’s not unusual to have a preference when it comes to the gender of your aesthetician or, especially, massage therapist. If you feel more comfortable with a woman (or a man, as the case may be), let the front desk know when you book. If you forget, you can always ask the receptionist if they can accommodate a change-up.


There’s no need to brave the day sans makeup before your facial, says Kurono. Pre-cleansing the face is an expected part of the service. “We have our makeup remover in your private suite so you can come in with or without it.” After a face treatment (Tomoko is all about facial massage), it’s not necessary to wash away all the products. Au contraire: Keeping the spa’s products on for the day might be best for your complexion. “The oil and cream [we use] are great for your skin, and you can apply makeup right after the treatment,” Kurono asserts.

Spa Etiquette


It doesn’t matter what clothes you show up in, Kurono says, as most spas will have you undress and slip into a robe. (At Tomoko, every client receives traditional Japanese yukata clothing to wear during her visit.) As for the potentially awkward question of how much to disrobe during a body treatment, Kurono says it’s all up to the client. It’s fine to take off undergarments, but for the more modest, the spa provides disposables to wear during treatment. If you’re on the fence, going underwear-only is a good default. Bras can get in the way during a back massage or any skin treatment that involves the decolleté.


Sometimes once you’re fully supine, pores steamed, the facialist suggests you try add-ons like the spa’s new ultra-moisture mask or mega laser. These come at a price, of course. And while the extra attention might be priceless for your complexion, there’s still no shame in being clear about cost to avoid any unwelcome billing surprises at checkout.


As you emerge from the blissful post-treatment haze, it’s not uncommon to find a row of bottles lined up along the counter when you check out. Don’t feel pressured: Your spa professional is simply making recommendations, and you are under no obligation to purchase any products (unless, of course, you’re truly excited about their benefits). If you’re not feeling spendy, just demur politely. You can also explain that you’d like to see how your skin and body react to the products used during the treatment, and that if you love the results, you’ll be back for more.


There’s more to tipping than meets the eye—or the wallet. While the standard tip rate is 15 to 20 percent, many spa managers say that because treatment services can run high or clients may be coming in for a series package, additional gratuity is not expected, like it would be in a hair or nail salon. If the spa owner is treating you, the price is usually higher, so she generally doesn’t expect the tip—and prefers that you invest the money into the spa’s products. “Gratuity is always at the guest’s discretion. We appreciate any amount,” Kurono says.


If any blemishes or breakouts emerge right after the treatment, Kurono says the spa will happily do a follow-up. If you have a reaction, it usually shows up quickly, so the spa will likely see you within a day or two as a courtesy. Call your spa right away to check on the policy.