Spa woman. Female enjoying relaxing back massage in cosmetology spa centre. Body care, skin care, wellness, wellbeing, beauty treatment concept
Image: Shutterstock/puhhha

In a stressed out world, people are constantly searching for a way to relax. They may take up yoga, breathing exercises, taking a walk around the neighborhood, etc. One of the most popular solutions to stress is to go to a spa. Whether for an afternoon, a weekend getaway, or even a bridal shower, people are flocking to these places in search of relief. They believe the soothing music, a nice massage, some steam, and fancy treatments are the answer they’re looking for. In some cases, this is true and it works out well. However, there are downsides to consider before you book your next trip. There’s a dark side to spas that they don’t want you to see, but we feel you should know about in order for you to make an informed decision.

Pools, Saunas and Other Water Related Treatments

Germs love to live in hot, wet environments. When you go to a spa, you’re surrounded by steamy air, warm water baths and pools, and you’re told to sit in a sweltering sauna for several minutes. What you don’t realize when you’re sitting in this water, or inhaling this steam, is what kind of bacteria could be entering your body. With so many visitors to the spa from all over the world, who knows what kind of germs could be living in that water by the time you enter? Sure, they add chlorine to the pools, but not enough that it would harm the bacteria. Whatever you do, don’t swallow any water in the pool or hot tub. To be safe, rinse off before and after your water-related treatment.

Skin Treatments

Several spa offerings include touching your skin in some way, whether that be through a facial, a massage or an exfoliation of some kind. Even when you’re sitting on the tables and chairs for your treatment, you have skin exposed. If you have any break in your skin, you’re being exposed to the germs in those areas. Most of the time, your attendant will not wear gloves. If you go to the spa while you have a sunburn, that will cause your skin to be compromised and more susceptible to germs. Please, if the goal of your visit to seek relief for a skin problem, such as dermatitis, reconsider. You might end up causing more harm to your skin instead.

Nail Treatments

Do you know whose hands or feet touched the instruments before yours? Do you have any way to verify the cleanliness of those tools? What happens when they’re not properly clean, and the nail attendant cuts your cuticles too short? Then you run the risk of contracting a bacterial infection, or skin boils, or some other problem due to the unsanitary tools. Dr. Philip Tierno Jr., director of microbiology at NYU Medical Center, and author of The Secret Life of Germs, recommends that you always bring your own nail clippers, file, etc. to a nail treatment to avoid the possibility of infection. Be on the lookout at the spa for certifications of cleanliness and other documentation that this spa takes sanitation seriously.

Allergies or Skin Reactions

If you are allergic to certain products, be sure to verify what the attendants are using beforehand. They might be able to suggest a replacement lotion, oil, or soap, or maybe they will recommend a different treatment. Don’t assume that the products will be automatically catered to your needs—speak up. The same goes with food, as spas usually offer a light snack or beverage. Not only that, but certain treatments will require a honey mask, a chocolate rub, or caviar facial, and your allergies will act up to these as well, even if it is only on your skin. Double check the contents of all products and treatments before submitting to any of them.

Existing Medical Conditions

If you already have a medical concern, spas can aggravate the issue. For example, if you suffer from a respiratory issue, breathing can be difficult in the sticky hot air. Saunas, in particular, can be dangerous. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, you should avoid excessive heat. Treatments like hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms can cause overheating, and make you ill. If you have diabetes, be wary of pedicures, as a foot infection is harder to shake for you than other people. Finally, if you are pregnant, heat, detox scrubs, hair bleaching, and removal creams should all be avoided. Ask the spa practitioner what treatments they’d recommend during a pregnancy.