Glossary: Definitions on all Things Spa

This is the website glossary. Its purpose is not to provide an all encompassing explanation of every word in the spa lexicon, but to provide an essential understanding of concepts covered here. This is a dynamic page and changes as the need to incorporate or remove terms and phrases arises.

Though we are aware that we will not be able to incorporate all meaningful words and phrases, we are keenly interested in bringing to your attention as many as possible. Also, please feel free to recommend any you can't find and would like to see us include.

We gave some thought to what would be a best method for display of the information. After playing with a few ideas, for now, we are going to keep it simple and just place the words under their appropriate letter of the alphabet. Also, as we find time, we will "hyper-link" certain key words or phrases to appropriate articles for that deeper understanding. Check back often!



Acupuncture is a Chinese medical technique. Fine needles are inserted into meridian points that correspond with a practitioner’s diagnosis of a patient’s problem or pain. The process of acupuncture helps restore normal balance and flow of what is commonly referred to as human life energy.

Aerobic Exercise

Continuous rhythmic exercise (walking, running, dance, skating) that works the heart (and therefore the circulation) and lungs. Most authorities agree that for a beneficial return on your effort, 20 to 30 minutes of continuous exertion is necessary. Be sure to see your doctor before embarking on any strenuous exercise.


A kind of thalassotherapy that uses heat and seaweed. This form of therapy is a useful treatment for anti-inflammatory regimens.

Anaerobic Exercise

Exercise method that builds muscle, tones, and strengthens. Some have referred to this as the opposite of Aerobics; however, the body needs both aerobic and anaerobic activity to maintain health.


The application of essential oils derived from trees, flora and other vegetation. Ordinarily, Aromatherapy is used to stimulate the senses (mostly the sense of smell, but often times the oils can be applied to a bath, soap, or lotion) for a specific effect based upon the malady or discomfort concerned.


This is the Indian "Science of Life." Adherents believe that all manifestations of illness inside the body will be displayed on or within the skin. Ayurveda states that plants, herbs and essential oils can treat the skin and therefore the illness within.



The use of water mineral water, salt water, or purified water to improve health and reduce pain.


An Ayurvedic treatment which combines light massage, exfoliation and herbal infusions.

Body Polish / Scrub

Exfoliating body treatment designed to leave the body's skin feeling soft and new.

Body Wrap

This treatment covers the body in mud or other substance. The body is then wrapped in cloth or plastic to absorb the beneficial effects of the mud. Sometimes heat is also applied.


A plant extract used in hair or skin products.


Club Spa

A club spa’s primary purpose is a fitness organization with day spa like advantages.


Color therapy, simply stated, is a technique where color is used to influence spiritual and mental health. Light and tone in rooms and clothes is thought to have beneficial properties.

Craniosacral Therapy

A method enhancing the condition of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord.


Treatment using mineral water, mud and the vapors therein.


Day Spa

Spa facilities whose treatments and services are meant to be enjoyed in the span of a single day.

Dead Sea Mud Treatment

The use of mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea. This is an excellent treatment for those who are afflicted by rheumatic and arthritic pain.

Deep Tissue Massage

Detoxifies, relaxes muscle groups, and returns elasticity through a vigorous application of energy through massage.

Destination Spa

Spas that offer all inclusive accommodations and programs of exercise, treatments for body and mind, and specially designed cuisine.


Releasing the pent-up poisons or toxins in the body.



Massage technique involving rapid, long strokes during the beginning and end of certain types of services.


A method of hair removal involving electricity or radio wave energy to eliminates follicles.


French massage therapy purported to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Essential oils

Aromatic liquids extracted from flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, or trees. These oils are very strong and so maintain their "essential" character.

European Facial

Treatment that begins with deep cleansing, steam, exfoliation, and massage of the face, chest, and shoulders, followed by a hydrating face mask.


A treatment to remove top layer of dead skin cells from face and/or body.



Generic term for treatment of skin in the face that usually includes massaging, cleansing, toning, steaming, exfoliating, and moisturizing.


A treatment that uses mineralized mud mixed with oil or water, applied over the body as a heat pack for skin detoxification, soothing the muscles, and stimulating circulation.

Full Energy Yoga

Energetic workout involving a sequence of postures that flow into one another and that emphasize building body heat and breaching mindfully. Stretches and strengthens muscle while creating a calm and clear mind.

Functional Foods

Foods that have been fortified with herbs, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements.



Cleansing, rehydrating treatment using creams applied in long movements, much as a massage would be.


Hair Extensions

Synthetic fibers or real human hair that is woven (sewn) or braided into existing hair to increase length, volume, or color.

Hatha Yoga

A school of yoga devoted to physical processes and involves breathing and physical exercises.


A Middle Eastern Dye used to color hair.

Herbal Wrap

Treatment using strips of cloth soaked in a warm herbal solution that is then wrapped around the body. It is used for relaxation and may eliminate impurities and detoxify your system.

Holistic Medicine

A school of heath care that takes the entire person into account. Holistic medicine seeks to incorporate the physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values in its diagnosis.


A form of healing based on the principle that a modicum of the ailment will strengthen the body against the actual disease. To stimulate the body to heal itself, the care giver treats patients with tiny quantities of a natural substance that causes symptoms like those of the disease they are meant to cure.

Hot Stone Therapy

A heavenly and Relaxing, treatment where smooth stones heated in hot water or hot spring pools are placed or stroked with light to moderate pressure on areas of the body such as the back, in the palms, and between the toes. For a reverse invigorating experience, cool stones may also be used.


Treatment using water therapeutically to aid relaxation in a variety of procedures such as underwater jet massage, different types of showers, and mineral baths. Thalassotherapy, using seawater for hydrotherapy, has long been a staple in European spas.



International Spa Association, a professional organization representing all aspects of the spa industry: club spas, cruise ship spas, day spas, destination spas, resort/hotel spas, and medical spas (this list is not all inclusive).


The study of patterns and structures in the iris (colored part of the eye) to diagnose disease.



Kinesthetic Awareness

Sensitivity to the movement of your body through space, contributing to your ability to balance and move rhythmically and fluidly.

Kneipp Baths

Water therapies originated by Father Sebastian Kneipp, a holistic teacher of natural remedies. The therapy involves immersion both in warm and cold water.

Krauter Bath

A bath composed of a strong, aromatic herbal solution.


Labyrinth Walking

A man-made, spiral pattern path walked to meditate, focus, and calm the mind. It is not a maze like you would find in a Victorian garden, rather the path follows through several circuits to the center of a circle and then works itself back out.

Laser Hair Removal

Use of concentrated beams of light to permanently remove unwanted hair. This treatment is most successful with fair skinned, dark haired individuals.


A dry, gentle sauna. This sauna originated in ancient Rome and often includes a cold water plunge.

Lomi-Lomi Massage

Lomi-lomi is an extremely gentle, uninterrupted series of flowing strokes. It has often been referred to as the "loving touch" massage because of its exceptionally soft and easy application.

Loofah Scrub

An exfoliation with a sponge formed of the fibrous skeleton of the loofah, a vegetable from the gourd family.

Lymph Drainage

Form of massage meant to stimulate circulation in the lymph system, thus draining away excess fluids and blocked toxins.



Manipulation of tissues (musculature)to improve health and well-being by relaxing muscles, relieving tension, and improving circulation.

Medical spa

Destination or day spa that offers traditional and complementary medical services supervised or administered by medical professionals. Some medical spas specialize in certain treatments.


Any facility, usually a day spa, that offers both medical treatments and spa therapies.


Facial exfoliation procedure in which skin is "sandblasted" with ultra-fine crystals of aluminum oxide to remove the top layer of the dermis.

Mineral Springs Spa

Spa offering an on-site source of mineral-rich thermal water or seawater that is used in hydrotherapy.

Moor Peat Baths

A treatment thats uses mud harvested from a peat marsh, rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Applied to the body or as a facial treatment to hydrate and exfoliate the skin and also to ease aches and pains.


Neuromuscular Integration

Body work and exercise system that focuses on the interaction between the central nervous system and the musculature.


Foods that have been fortified with herbs, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements to promote wellbeing and help prevent disease.


Oxygen Facial

Treatment that involves oxygen and other nutrients being applied or sprayed onto the face. This is often applied as an anti-aging strategy.


Pancha karma

Cleansing and rejuvenating program for the body, mind, and consciousness based on Ayurvedic medicine and meant to clear the body of toxins, restore balance, strengthen the immune system, and promote calm. May involve massage, sweat therapy, yoga, diet, etc.


Volcanic mud mixed with paraffin wax to alleviate discomfort derived from rheumatism and arthritis.

Paraffin Treatment

A treatment using heated paraffin wax. The wax is brushed over the body, soothing muscles, drawing out the dirt, removing the dead skin, and leaving skin clean and soft.

Photo Rejuvenation

Treatment using laser light to smooth wrinkles, diminish the appearance of age spots, damaged capillaries, and rosacea


Healing treatment using herbs and seaweed, and in the form of aromatic essential oils and herbal and floral extracts, applied during massage, wraps, and water therapies.

Polarity Massage

A therapeutic and relaxing treatment involving hands placed along the energy meridians. Stretching, and light rocking is believed to have some effect on the bodies balance.


A poultice consists of a paste-like substance spread on or between layers of cloth.Originally used as a remedy for swelling and inflamation, spas use this technique to apply muds and herbs during a massage or other treatment.




A mineral-rich mud often used to clean and detoxify the hair and scalp.


Ancient Chinese technique that uses pressure-point massage, to restore the flow of energy within the entire body.


Japanese healing technique in which practitioners use their hands to bring energy into the body to increase relaxation and wellbeing.


Full-body treatment that uses a clay, herbs, seaweed, and mud to cope with the various cleansing and moisturizing needs of different parts of the body.

Resort Spa

Spa facility offering treatments and services at a vacation destination that offers a full range of complimentary activities such as golf, tennis, horseback riding, skiing, water sports, etc.

Restorative Yoga

A school of Yoga using passive yoga poses lasting up to 20 minutes, supported by pillows and towels. This style is meant to encourage relaxation and the release of tension in the muscles and spine.

Rolfing Structural Integration

A deep massage system designed to encourage changes in posture and structure by manipulating the body's muscular-skeletal system. It is believed this will reduce pain and stress.

Roman Bath

A Roman bath was composed of a circuit of hot, warm, and cold pools. This, however, does not exist in this form today. Rather, a whirlpool or Jacuzzi is the modern day substitution.


Salt Glow

Body treatment in which skin is rubbed with coarse salt, sometimes in combination with fragrant oils, to exfoliate and stimulate circulation.


A "bathing" treatment that consists of periods of perspiring in the heat and steam created by throwing water on heated stones. This process is thought to aid the immune system.

Scotch Hose

An alternating hot and cold, fresh and/or seawater massage through a high-pressure hose. Usually administered with the customer standing, this treatment is thought to relieve soreness and aid in circulation.

Seaweed Wrap

A body treatment using concentrated seawater and seaweed that contains minerals, rare trace elements, vitamins, and proteins. It is thought this treatment aides circulation, and reduces the appearance of cellulite.


A Japanese massage technique where the therapist applies pressure to specific points in the body to stimulate and unblock the "energy" paths in the body.


Ayurvedic treatment lasting 7 to l0 minutes during which stream of oil is poured in the center of your forehead in order to aid focus, concentration, and relaxation.


The International Spa Association(ISPA) definition is: "Spas are devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit."

Sports Massage

steam Room

A room where temperatures are maintained at 110 to 130° F and humidity is regulated so to soften the skin, cleanse the pores, and relieve tension.


This is a form of depilation that involves applying a sugary/sticky paste to the skin and then pressing on a cloth or paper and quickly pulling it off to remove the hair. Similar to a waxing.

Swedish Massage

Classical European massage technique of manipulating muscles with the use of massage oils. It is among the most gentle of massages.

Swiss Shower

Treatment that involves powerful shower jets directed at the body from various heights. Essentially, it creates a shower massage.



Originally the place where the Ancient Roman would go before taking a public bath, today, it is analogous to to a lounge where you can relax before and after a treatment.

Thai Massage

This massage is a full-body treatment that involves yoga-like stretching and pressure-point massage.


Treatments using sea and seawater products such as seaweed and seaweed wraps.

Traeger Massage

A treatment that uses gentle, rhythmic movements to relieve tension, ease movement, and increase relaxation.

Turkish Bath/Hamam

A bathing treatment that involves proceeding through a series of steam rooms of increasing temperature, followed by a massage and cold shower.



Vichy Shower

This treatment involves the customer lying down on a table under a spray of warm water from several shower heads. Hydration, circulation, and a reduction in stress is thought to be achieved.



Healing massage treatment performed in a warm pool in which the therapist administers rhythmic movements and pressure-point massage.


Depilation method that involves application of warm wax followed by a strip of cloth quickly pulled away from skin to remove hair (see also "Sugaring").


Whirlpool baths are equipped with hydro jets that use electric pumps and air vents that shoot heated water to ease muscle tension, aches, and pains.



The Hindu discipline and philosophy that involves both mind and body and is designed to improve mental development, and physical health.



A Japanese discipline whose belief is that enlightenment is gained through direct, intuitive insight-by focusing on your essential nature.