Spa Speak Glossary

Spa Speak Defined

Although new services are in development all the time, here are descriptions of some of the most popular terms used at most day and resort spas.

We also recommend a visit to WellnessEvidence.com, a new website providing an archive of medical evidence that numerous wellness approaches and spa services – from acupuncture to yoga – can have powerful health benefits.

Ancient Chinese type of bodywork that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body with the fingers, knuckles, and palms to relieve pain, reduce stress, and promote optimum health.
A part of traditional Chinese medicine, an acupuncturist will use tiny, fine needles in specific points of the body to increase the flow of energy in the body to relieve pain, reduce stress and promote optimum health. 
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, extracted from plants, trees, and herbs, for therapeutic purposes. Application during treatments such as massage, facials, body wraps or hydro-baths to improve acne, blood circulation, detoxification, digestion, and overall stress reduction
Ancient Asian barefoot massage that uses deep compression as well as acupressure to relieve the discomfort and strain of tight muscles. The therapist suspends herself/himself from wooden overhead bars to deliver treatment. This treatment is not recommended for certain people and conditions. Caution is advised.
Founded in India some 5000 years ago; one of the oldest medical disciplines. It incorporates meditation, massage, diet and herbal medicines to achieve health through harmony between mind, body and spirit. Many of the spa treatments are based on the use of oils selected to help balance one’s dosha (personal constitution.)
Uses natural elements such as hot springs and mineral waters. Used for pain relief, to increase circulation and to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
Also known as a Body Polish or Glow.  A full-body treatment using products such as sea salt mixed with natural oils to assist in the removal of dead skin layers and increase blood circulation.
Non-intrusive therapy using gentle manipulation of soft tissue at key pressure points to encourage the body to re-balance itself, release tension and blockages, and assist the natural healing process.
Ancient Roman term for a room for soaking in hot baths or steaming water to detoxify.  
Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Can include therapies and lifestyle sciences as homeopathy, Aryurveda, chiropractic, aromatherapy, therapeutic touch massage and energy work.
Sanskrit word for wheel or disk that refers to the seven energy centers that run from the crown of the head to the base of the spine. Chakras are interdependent and connected to emotional, mental, physical wellbeing. Balanced chakras can lead to optimum wellness.
(Indian Head Massage) has been practiced in India for over 1,000 years. Focused on the on the face, head, neck, shoulders and upper arms that are vital energy centers within the body where tension accumulates resulting in stiff necks and shoulders as well as headaches. Firm and gentle rhythmic massage releases blockages to relieve tension and pain
May be performed with only cold stones or in conjunction with hot stones; helps lower stress, improve circulation and soothe inflammation to treat a variety of maladies. Cold stone massages are generally well tolerated, although you may need to consult a doctor if you have certain conditions that may contraindicate.
  Are preparations that claim to possess both cosmetic and pharmaceutical properties, usually used to treat the signs of aging.
  Is for two people at the same time, often in a special suite, side by side, by two practitioners. The type of massage varies according to the spa.
Gentle, non-invasive bodywork that directly influences the brain and spinal cord. Used to locate and release tension, calm over-stressed systems and over-stimulated nerves.
A Chinese-based alternative therapy, using a cup-shaped device to create a gentle suction of the skin. Simulates blood flow to encourage the body’s natural healing ability.
A wrap or soak of mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea to detoxify skin and body. May also ease painful symptoms caused by such conditions as rheumatism and arthritis.
The elimination of toxins in the body. Various methods include lymphatic massage using essential oils, application of mineral-rich mud or dry brushing techniques. Sufficient daily consumption of water assists elimination of toxins, as do steam baths and high aerobic exercise.
An Ayurvedic term referring to the constitution of a person. The particular combination of each body’s symbolic elements- Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space is called the Dosha. Good health is achieved through a balanced Dosha.
Uses a natural-bristle brush in a gentle manner to remove dead skin and impurities while stimulating circulation and the lymph system. Often precursor to  massages, wraps or body masks.
Hair removal technique involving the removal of hair roots on the skin by the application of heat using an electric current.
Removal of the top layer of dead skin cells from the face or body whether by dry brushing, scrubs, or other exfoliation techniques.
Originated in Italy, a highly mineralized mud used in wraps or facials to eliminate toxins and increase blood circulation.
Ancient Roman term for the bathing room where bathers plunge into a cold pool of water to refresh and close pores after visiting the warmer Caladerium.
A massage administered by two therapists at once, working in synchronized movements along the body.

Turkish or Middle-Eastern communal bathing house with various rooms at different temperatures. Usually incorporates, ceramic-tiled steam rooms, followed by skin cleaning and detoxification rituals.
Intended to promote muscle relaxation and eliminate toxins, the body is wrapped in plastic sheets and warm blankets so that moisture, heat can assist herbal essences to penetrate the skin.
A natural system of medicine that uses highly diluted doses of substances (plant or mineral product for instance) to stimulate the body’s own healing response.
Smooth, heated, basalt mineral stones lubricated with used oil for this massage. Perfect to relieve muscle stiffness and fatigue while restoring body energy.
Term for treatments using various water techniques: underwater massage, jet propulsion or multi-jet showers.
Short for Hydrotherapy tub, a hydro tub combines water with air jets and provides underwater body massage to relieve tension in muscles and joints.
Usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images to induce trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis can be used to help you gain control over undesired behaviors or to help you cope better with anxiety or pain.  Mechanical devices are also available for this type of therapy.
A deep, round soaking tub for two or more structured to immerse the entire body for full body relaxation.
Alternate streams of hot and cold, pressurized seawater administered via a controlled hose. Water massage targets each area of the body to help move lymph, increase circulation and break down fatty tissue and cellulite.
Alternating hot and cold immersion or application named for creator, Germany’s Father Sebastian Kneipp. Kneipp “cure” also includes movement therapies, massage, herbal medicine and nutrition.
German word for “cure” that typically involves a combination of soaking in mineral waters, mud bath, body wrap and massage.
 A room where a gentle, dry heat radiates to warm up the body slowly. Lower temperatures than a traditional sauna are more easily tolerated, so guests can lounge longer. Often part of hot and cold water (Nordic) spa experiences.
Primarily a relaxing, soothing massage where the therapist massages your body with heated clamshells, using light Swedish massage strokes.  The heat comes from inside the Lava Shells due to a mixture of a minerals and algae with salt water and essential oils.
A Polynesian healing treatment incorporating long and broad massage strokes, as well as a rocking motion. Therapist may use forearms and elbows as well as hands.
An Asian body treatment that general combines a coconut oil massage, herb and rice exfoliation, a flower-scented bath, and a yogurt-based moisturizer.
Techniques are performed with hands and fingers simulating gentle, wave-like movements that allow lymph to flow effectively, helping to eliminate toxins.
Improves the appearance and health of the hands and fingernails. Usually  includes  cutting, shaping, buffing and often painting of the nails, removal of the cuticles, and softening of the skin. Service provider may identify areas requiring medical attention.
Baths using a natural preparation that is rich in organic matter, proteins, vitamins and trace minerals, used to help relieve aches and pains.
Fascia the connective tissue that surrounds the entire body from bones, joints and muscles can be damaged by falls, poor posture, repetitive motion causing pain and inflexibility. This deep massage is specifically designed to relax the fascia through the entire body.
The study and treatment of acute or chronic medical conditions using botanical (herbs), Chinese Medicine, Nutrition and Homeopathy as a preventative course of medical intervention.
A system of treatment of disease that avoids drugs and surgery and emphasizes the use of natural agents (as air, water, and herbs) and physical means (as tissue manipulation and electrotherapy)
  Therapists have knowledge of the disease, traditional cancer treatment and possible side effects, together with necessary skills and modifications to ensure that safe spa treatments are performed.  
A popular manicure or pedicure addition, heated paraffin wax applied to body parts helps eliminate toxins while softening the skin. Soothing for arthritis patients.
Soft, heated compresses of paraffin wax applied to areas of the body to relieve soreness and inflammation, caused by arthritis. Effective for joint stiffness and sports related injuries when combined with massage therapy.
Improves the appearance and health of the feet or toenails. Usually  includes  cutting, shaping, buffing and often painting of the toenails, removal of the cuticles, calluses and softening of the skin.
Pilates is a series of muscle resistant exercises incorporating precise movements performed on a floor mat or specially designed equipment. Dr. Joseph Pilates developed the techniques to assist dancers with damaged muscles. Performed in series to help strengthen and re-align the body as well as help flexibility. A number of spas and wellness centres now offer Pilates classes along with Yoga classes.
Treatment for the preservation, enhancement, or restoration of movement and physical function impaired or threatened by disability, injury, or disease that utilizes therapeutic exercise, physical modalities (as massage and electrotherapy), assistive devices, and patient education and training. Performed by accredited physiotherapists.
A computer controlled compression system of specialized inflatable pumps to stimulating lymph flow, starting from the ankles and moving to the upper thighs. Increases blood circulation and helps reduce bloating and swelling.
Targeting specific areas of the muscles, to relieve built up tension and strain.


Ancient healing therapy utilizing pressure points in the hands and feet to stimulate corresponding organs within the body. This stimulation taps into energy resources, creating a balance of the body’s energy, which can strengthen the immune system and identify potential weaknesses within the body.
A gentle Japanese technique that employs the laying on of hands to align the individual charkas to assists with the proper flow of energy.
Believed to be one of the first known places to treat the immune and circulatory systems. Includes a number of hot and cold areas including warm salt-water pools, cold water pools, steam rooms and ice-water showers.
A wooden room heated by rocks that radiate intense heat, while ice-cold water is provided to douse your entire body to eliminates toxins, while encouraging blood circulation. Believe to boost immune system.
Invigorating hydrotherapy treatment using alternating warm and cool water, through a high velocity water wand (or hose), controlled by a body treatment specialist. Speeds up metabolism through hot and cold pressurized water and direct contact to specific points of pressure.
A body wrap or mask containing concentrated seawater and seaweed to helps release toxins and revitalize the skin.
Japanese acupressure massages technique. Therapist applies pressure to specific pressure points in the body to stimulate and unblock’ meridians’ or energy channels.
Similar to a Turkish bath where hot steam is used to help relax the body and cleanse thru perspiration.
(also known as UV-free tanning, self-tanning, spray tanning (when applied topically), or fake tanning) refers to the application of chemicals to the skin to produce an effect similar in appearance to a suntan. Believed to be less damaging to the skin than sun exposure.
Spiritual ceremony linked with First Nations culture taking place in a small, enclosed hut or other structure, and following the tradition of mind, body and spirit purification. Caution advised.
The most well known and most widely requested massage, increases oxygen levels in blood while reducing toxins in muscles. Relaxes muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart.
A Chinese martial art of stylized gestures regulated by deep breathing and precise movement and postures.
A warm room or heated lounge area where guests prepare for bathing or relax after bathing. The term dates back to Roman Times.
An ancient Asian ritualistic practice incorporating the principles of yoga, meditation, and acupressure techniques. Assists the release of stagnant energy within the body, while incorporating range of motion resulting in increased mobility and deep relaxation.
Uses seawater and seawater products such as seaweed and algae. True thalassotherapy centers are generally located in close proximity to a sea where the water, algae, mud and other substances are especially treated and purified for inclusion in the therapies. From the Greek words for sea ‘thalassa’ and treatment ‘ therapia.’
Hands on technique to re-direct energies to help or heal someone who is ill.
Unwanted facial hair is removed by using twisted cotton thread to pull the hair from the follicle. Usually for smaller areas such as the face.
A process to change the colour of hair. May also refer to eyebrows and eyelashes.
Lying prone on a treatment table, under a multi-jet shower. Relaxing and rejuvenating on its own, but most often used in combination with massage.
A variety of scrubs, baths and masks that incorporate the highly antioxidant properties of grape skins, seeds, for skin treatment.
A shiatsu massage treatment performed in a warm pool where the therapist holds and moves the limbs of the client.
Refers to hair removal using wax, which is applied to the skin to coat unwanted hair then quickly removed.  Sugaring is a similar technique using a sugar based product to coat and remove hair.
Ancient Hindu discipline combining deep breathing, meditation, a variety of positions used to tone, strengthen and increase the body’s flexibility. Balances body and mind.
A sect of Buddhism, incorporating meditation and inner peace. In spa and wellness, the term refers to calm, soothing, and minimalist decor.


As  spas  increase  in  numbers  and  with  the  growth  in  the  field  of  medical  esthetics,  there  is  an  increasing  trend  for  medical  esthetic  procedures  to  be  offered  in  spa  facilities. There  are  many  esthetic  treatments  that  can  easily  be  performed  in  a  non­-medical  facility. However,  it  is  important  for  patient  safety  that  medical  standards  are  adhered  to  in  these facilities.

The Medical Spa category is available to spas that have a full-time licensed health care professional on-site. All Leading Spas of Canada spas that offer medical services, must comply with Spa Industry Association of Canada’s Medical Esthetics Standards & Practices.

In the absence of consistent governmental regulation in this area, consumers should inform themselves from reliable sources, carefully follow pre and post service care recommendations and generally exercise caution to avoid any damage or injury that may inadvertently result from these types of services.

What are Medical Spa Treatments?

  • Injectables
  • Laser ,Light-Based and Energy Treatments
  • Medical Aesthetic Treatments

Botox:  are part of a group of medications that use various forms of botulinum toxin to temporarily paralyze muscle activity. They prevent nerve signals to the injected muscles, which minimizes the muscular activity that causes lines to form between your eyebrows, for example. Botox can also be injected to underarm area to reduce excessive sweating.

Dermal Fillers:  A blanket term for a variety of products intended to add bulk or volume to areas that appear wrinkled, hollow or diminished. They are injected to plump thin lips, enhance shallow contours, soften facial creases, remove wrinkles and improve the appearance of recessed scars.

Laser: Works by delivering an intense beam of light that is absorbed by the skin. This light is converted to heat and is absorbed by the targeted cells. while leaving the surrounding tissue unaffected. Used for skin resurfacing, hair removal and to treat spider veins.

Light Based Treatments: Also known as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments use a less-intense, broader spectrum of light than lasers, used for rejuvenation of the skin.

RADIO FREQUENCY: Radio-frequency energy is believed to stimulate the formation of new collagen and contract the layers of your skin for an improved appearance in the skin’s surface. Cellulite and acne conditions may benefit from RF.

Chemical Peel: A chemical solution is applied to the skin, causing to “blister” and eventually peel off. The new skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin.

Exfoliating Treatments (Removal of the top layer of dead skin cells from the face or body) include the following:

Microdermabrasion: Tiny crystals sprayed onto the skin to gently remove the outer layer.

Silkpeel Dermalinfusion: Combines non-invasive exfoliation with the delivery of skin-specific topical solutions.

Skin Tag Removal: Treatment by freezing with liquid nitrogen or by cutting off with a scalpel or scissors. Topical preparations also available.