Well+Good’s Guide to Spa Nudity: Your right to bare all

Half of being relaxed at a spa is knowing what to wear. Or what not to.

Americans are perpetually baffled by how much to bare at a spa, while the French and Finns, Germans and Japanese, know exactly what’s appropriate and when, thanks to their prescriptive spa cultures. But we’re New Yorkers—we always know what to wear, or not to wear, right?

You have to believe us when we say, your body anxieties are a moot point. Therapists have seen it all—from flabby bodies and people breaking down and crying on the table, to hairy legs, a wicked case of ass-ne, belches, hiccups, rumbling stomachs, the sudden and audible releases of gas, and serious sock lint stuck between the toes. None of these will fluster a therapist who’s been on the job for more than a minute. So unless you’re sharing a room or the place is a bargain bodywork hole-in-the-wall, plan to bare all. The spa is that rare G-rated venue with lots of nudity.

So, we’ve culled the clothes-off etiquette for the most popular spa treatments, because sometimes unmentionables need mentioning.


Body treatments
You really don’t want anything between you and your body wrap or salt scrub, unless (truly horrid) disposable panties are proffered by the spa. That’s because clothes get in the way of the head-to-toe slathering of products—e.g., you can’t pull your g-string out of your butt when your arms are pinned in a wrap, and your tush needs the scrub or wrap ingredients more than any other body part. Plus your Malia Mills suit will be forever stained by mud or seaweed.

Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage
At a bargain place, keep your kit on. At a Four Seasons, drop trou. Therapists drape you in sheets or towels so you never feel exposed or cold. The good ones generally work low back, glutes, and the attachments around the hip joint, so not wearing skivvies makes it easier for them to reach these areas.

Surprise! You wear loose-fitting clothing during Thai massage

Thai Massage
Little known fact: This is a great massage for the spa shy. Spas often play wardrobe department, lending you loose-fitting clothes to wear during this treatment, which is based on loads of yoga-style stretching—it would be impossible to keep you covered with sheet during some of these moves. If the spa doesn’t have a traditional Thai fisherman’s-style outfit for you (some do!), they’ll recommend at booking that you bring your own comfy apparel.

You strip down to your underwear, don the provided facial half robe that looks like a towel but velcros in place under your armpits, or just take it all off. Why? Your bra gets in the way of the décolleté massage, plus if you’re cosseted in white Egyptian towels and duvets, it’s way more comfortable. This rule does apply at Mimi’s or the like, where your privacy is compromised and you should cling to your garments like holy vestments.

Sauna, hot tub, communal bathing area
In a co-ed setting, wear your swimsuit—with the notable exception of northern California’s hot springs where men and women soak naked together as if it were still 1968. In a single gender environment, like the lavish women’s area at the Mandarin Oriental Spa, wear whatever makes you most comfortable. Not sure what that is? Start with a two-piece, which you can easily remove after a dip in the vitality pool and before a spell in the amethyst crystal steam room. —Melisse Gelula and Alexia Brue

Got any questions on what not to wear at a spa? Or a beef with disposable panties? Fire away, here!


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7 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. January 27th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Awesome article!
    Thanks for the tips…

  2. Well+Good
    January 27th, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks, Angela. Let us know if you’ve got a spa situation we didn’t think of.

  3. January 29th, 2010 at 10:42 am

    […] Go into hot room, sweat, leave—and repeat. But behind the practice of lolling about half nude (or completely nude if it’s a single-sex sauna) is a deeply held philosophy of […]

  4. February 17th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Totally agree! Deciding to take your clothes and go commando at a spa is a nerve racking experience! Great post.

  5. April 12th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    […] skin you usually bare at the spa and got a variety of responses. Well, just in time for Spa Week, Well+Good NYC came up with a great how-to guide for stripping down in the spa. Worry no more about what to wear […]

  6. May 20th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I haven’t been to a nude spa or beach, though I have enjoyed the topless deck on a cruise ship before. My friend and I didn’t think it was any big deal (and a great way to get rid of our tan lines!), except that there were some creepy guys up there, obviously hanging out to get a sneak-peek. We just ignored them.

    I have been to a clothing-optional hot springs in Southern Cali — since it was separated by gender, I didn’t find anything odd. But def interesting to see how bodies age!

  7. November 22nd, 2011 at 11:51 am

    […] skin you usually bare at the spa and got a variety of responses. Well, just in time for Spa Week, Well+Good NYC came up with a great how-to guide for stripping down in the spa. Worry no more about what to wear […]

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