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Six spa treatments you should never pay for


Spa menus can be a minefield of so-not-worth-it treatments that promise far more than they can deliver, give you surprisingly little time with a skilled therapist, and cost way more than they’re worth. Before you fork over your precious spa dollars (like we did), here are six red-flag spa treatments to keep on your radar.

outdoor spa shower
Helene Spa on the French Polynesian island of Moorea has one of the best examples of a Vichy shower with value.

1. VICHY SHOWER TREATMENTS AT GENERALIST SPAS
Nearly drowning on a table isn’t worth the $100-plus that these otherwise excellent horizontal shower treatments can cost. The promise of rainstorm surrender, while seven jets hit you from top to toe, can feel like a cold, soggy mess of a treatment, if the equipment and therapist aren’t topnotch. Look for spas that have their head around hydrotherapy (gorgeous hand-carved tables are also a good sign), and they’ll keep yours above water.

2. A LA CARTE BATHS
Unless you prefer to fill your tub with bottles of Evian, there’s no reason to spend money on a simple soak. There’s often very little therapist time or skill involved, and even the bath-enhancing ingredients—whether herbal-infused salts, aromatherapy oils, fresh-picked petals, or what have you—don’t cost nearly what these treatments do (upwards of $50). That’s not to say that baths aren’t relaxing or beneficial, especially in beautiful spas. It’s just that the markup is extraordinary. (Ditto Bath Butler services, like at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, that draw your in-room bath and about $80 from your wallet.) Save private spa baths for spa packages that include them.

Sorry, scrubs made for orange-peel skin can't remedy cellulite.

3. CELLULITE SCRUBS
Since cellulite is a factor of fat and fascia, not the skin, no manner of scrubbing it—even with coffee extracts—can do much for derriere dimples except cause some temporary edema, a beneficial swelling that makes puckering look less pocked. The best treatment for the appearance of cellulite (there is no cure), according to medical experts, is one of the most popular overall: deep-tissue massage (or its mechanical version, Endermologie). Just let the spa know you want a cellulite-savvy massage therapist with a very firm (or firming) hand—and expect to pay for a package of ten or more treatments.

4. FACIALS WITHOUT EXTRACTIONS
It’s one thing for you to opt out of extractions, the cleansing practice where a facialist manually goads your clogged pores and blackheads into giving up their guck. But it’s another if your facialist does—particularly if getting extractions are your raison d’etre for paying at least $130 for the service (the going rate for a basic facial in NYC). Many spas with a French foundation (Clarins Skin Spa) share the opinion that extractions are invasive. But many of the holistic-inclined spas (Jurlique on Madison Avenue or Great Jones Spa) now offer them “if they’re necessary.” And because it can feel like a rip-off to head home with your clogged pores. If that’s your case, make sure your facialist shares your “squeeze, please” philosophy before you book.

seasonal spa treatment
What seasonal spa treatments should look like.

5. SEASONAL SPA TREATMENTS
Spas love treatments like pumpkin facials and cranberry scrubs for fall and cinnamon massages in winter because they offer something new to their menus—a special of the day, so to speak. But unless your summer papaya facial is coming straight from the spa Cuisinart, you’re just getting slathered in a spa product from a jar that’s available year-round.

6. STAND-ALONE BODY SCRUBS
Sugar and salt scrubs—even with gorgeous ingredients mixed into them—just aren’t worth it unless the treatment includes an hour-long massage in addition to the 20 or 30 minutes given to exfoliation. Why? Scrubs are so easy and cheap to do yourself, especially now with places like Whole Foods selling fresh aromatherapy salts by the pound ($12.99), and the “massage” you’re often promised is really a 20-minute application of a moisturizing body lotion, devoid of knot-pursuing, muscle-melting moves.

Have you ever paid for a spa treatment that wasn’t worth it? Tell us, here.