Relaxing Repose: Types of Spas and how They Function

As people become more health-conscious and willing to take an active role in their wellness routine, spas, and their related treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Many people are seeking more of a transformation experience beyond that which a gym or doctor visit can provide, and spas fill the gap nicely, without requiring a recurring time commitment. There are several different types of spas, and it is important to understand the differences between them so you can be assured of having the experience that you are looking for. Here are the four most popular among spa-goers.

Day Spa

These are the most common types of spas because they are affordable and can be visited for just an hour or two. The overall vibe of a day spa depends strongly upon its location. Some are located adjacent to hair salons, or inside of busy hotels or airports, while others are soothing, stand-alone spaces where there is zero outside distraction. If possible, do a quick tour of the day spa before committing to an appointment. Day spa services can include massage therapy, facials and body wraps, including pampering and beauty treatments.

Medical and Laser-Medi Spas

Medical spas are simply day spas under the direction of a medical doctor, nurse practitioner, or other licensed professional. Medical and laser-medi spas offer the same amenities that most day spas do, but will include procedures that can only be performed by, or under the supervision of a doctor. These are usually cosmetic procedures such as laser hair removal, laser tattoo removal, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels; although other treatments can be offered, depending upon the total scope of practice. Many times, Oriental medicine such as acupuncture and Shiatsu Massage will also be offered.

Keep in mind that a medical spa is also a functioning doctor’s office and as such, it must carry the proper insurance as a necessity for operating the business. Although a medical spa will be a far more relaxing and positive experience than most visits to the doctor, they are still expected to operate with the same level of skill and care as other medical professionals. Insurance coverage for laser medi-spas that they all carry may even be required by law and can include malpractice insurance as well as general liability and property insurance. Almost all of the staff at a med spa will have received clinical training and/or certification and will hold professional licenses.

Resort Spa

These are spas that are in a resort setting and have become increasingly popular in the last decade, as more people are wanting something beyond a typical resort experience. Resort activities such as golf and tennis are still available, but resort spas will also have a full service, dedicated spa facility far beyond that of a day spa. The spa will be fully staffed, and include activities such as Yoga and Pilates classes, as well as healthy cuisine options beyond normal resort food. Vegan and vegetarian offerings are included in most. Spa activities and treatments are structured with the understanding that guests are going to be there for at least several days, if not longer.

Destination Spa

This is an exclusive and purpose-built resort that caters only to those wanting a transformative and educational experience. If you are traveling with a companion who is not into a spa experience, a resort spa would be a better choice. Destination spas offer comprehensive experiences that can include cooking and nutrition classes, multi-day meditation experiences, and yoga instruction that goes far deeper than that offered at other spas. Destination spas are purpose driven and designed for those interested in total immersion. The food is exclusively spa cuisine, so expect a wide, exciting range of vegetable-based ethnic cuisines. As these spas are very “retreat-like,” there are normally minimum requirements on the length of stay.

While the above spas are the most common, they are not the only types, not by a long shot. There are many sub-categories, such as boot camp spas, thermal or mineral spring spas, and so on. The sky is the limit with specialty spas. But these four types above will provide you with a framework in which to experience the spa lifestyle.


Bio: Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn't on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @RachelleWilber;

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Comment by Lisa Shaw on March 25, 2016 at 8:08am

Hi, Rachelle.  I'm the Health & Wellness editor.  I love the idea of the article and think it would be a great addition to the magazine, but it's a bit short.  Is it possible to add just a bit of information to increase the word count?  I'm  thinking that perhaps you can add info about the lesser-known types you mention in your conclusion and give price ranges for the other categories.  Thanks.

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