Not all spas are created equal. But what makes a spa experience superior? What aspects of a spa visit make you want to become a loyal customer and refer your dearest friends? We know the answer is different for everyone. From product safety, to process, and to the energy and attitudes of spa staff, we each have our own must-haves in an ideal spa experience. Below, the NAA founders share their own spa experience essentials, with the hope that you’ll share yours as well. Here’s what we look for in a spa experience:

Rachael’s spa: Transparency, involvement in the process

Rachael, President:  When I go to a spa, I definitely look for things like great customer service and quality treatment. But what I really look for is how much the aesthetician involves me in my experience. I really value knowledge, expertise, and an aesthetician’s ability to do more than just provide a service on a menu and try to sell me products. I look for an aesthetician who spends the extra time during the consultation to listen to my goals and concerns and ask questions that help her learn more about me as a person, one who remembers our conversation and treatment from our last time together, and who works with me as a partner in my spa experience. Even before I became an aesthetician, health coach, and skincare formulator, I was never one who liked being told what to do, or discouraged to ask for alternatives. I also never appreciated providers who reacted defensively if I questioned or disagreed with something they recommended. If that’s the vibe I get in a spa today, I will not go back–nor will I recommend that spa to others. I appreciate aestheticians who listen, value my contribution to the conversation, acknowledge any concerns I have and meet them with dignity and openness, and work WITH me to create a treatment plan to best meet my goals within her expertise.

Transparency and honest representation is also important to me. If I see a spa marketed as a wellness center, holistic, or integrative in nature, I have a certain expectation of what ambiance, treatments, and products await me inside. If I see menus full of acid peels, lasers, and microdermabrasion treatments, those are big red flags. If I see a spa that markets that they use all natural and organic products, and then I see ingredients like parabens, synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde-releasing agents, and chemical sunscreens–that’s another red flag. On the flip side, if I visited a spa marketed as “medical,” “clinical,” or as part of a dermatologist’s or plastic surgeon’s office and didn’t see products marketed as medical-strength, a very clinical environment, and lots of gadgets and machines, I’d be equally reluctant to proceed.

The bottom line? Involve me as an intelligent and empowered partner in my own skin-health, say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Tisha’s spa: Safety and sensitive skin

Tisha Co-Founder: To be honest, the majority of my spa experiences are limited to handful of medically prescribed massages for back pain and my annual ‘yippee I can wear sandals again!’ spring pedicures. Still, I peruse the hotel spa menus with longing and include certain spa services on my ideal self-care plan. Certainly, I appreciate superior customer service in the beauty industry as much as the next gal. In fact, I still drive an hour away every six weeks to see the ladies at my favorite organic hair salon even though I moved out of their neighborhood years ago, because they deliver the spa-like experience I long for. They listen to me, they remember me and they continue to do so as my needs and wants change.

My ideal spa experience is one that is soothing, uber safe for my sensitive/reactive skin and is personalized yet unpretentious. Safety first- nothing ruins a spa trip more completely than red, welted skin!  This means, even if you have used that product on ‘lots and lots of clients’ and the label says that it is good for sensitive skin, you haven’t met me. So, let’s discuss the ingredients, do a patch test and approach gently. I love to feel ‘special’ and ‘cared for’ but have little use for ‘fine and fancy.’ That’s just me. My spa aesthetic is more crisp white T-shirt than satin ballgown; I don’t want a disapproving eye roll when I show up for my appointment with slightly unshaven legs in a cotton tank dress that may or may not be decorated with dog hair. Bring me a smile, a cup of organic tea, and your best skin smart & soul refreshing offerings.

Jolene’s spa: Safe products and customization

Jolene, Co-Founder: Seven years ago, when I left the mainstream beauty world to focus on natural and organic products as a beauty editor, I also made a big change in my spa routine. Once I became more aware of the concerns around many of the ingredients that show up in our personal care products, I just couldn’t sit back, zone out, and enjoy a blissful massage or facial the way I used to. I would think about my skin drinking in the ingredients in the products being carefully massaged into my skin, and that took away from the entire experience. I honestly couldn’t enjoy a spa experience in the same way if I knew the products being used on my skin contained ingredients that I wouldn’t choose for myself—and I’ve heard that sentiment echoed over and over again by other women in the the years since. Knowledge is power, but it also comes with responsibility. Today, I choose a spa or a service based on the quality of the products being used. The knowledge that I am supporting my skin, body and senses in a healthy way is a gift that makes any spa experience—and spa—that much more beautiful in my eyes. I encourage my friends and clients to call ahead and ask about products and ingredients if brands are not clearly disclosed elsewhere. Overall, spas strive to give you the most pleasurable, positive experience. You might find that a spa you frequent has a natural or organic option, if you only take the time to ask and voice your preference. Beyond that, it’s always a plus when spas offer customizable treatments, from facials to massages. One size definitely does not fit all, and it’s wonderful to come across a treatment that feels ideal for you.

CommentWe want to hear from you!

Do you agree with these spa must-haves?

What do you look for in your perfect spa experience?

For spa owners and aestheticians, what qualities are you most proud of in your spa?