Massage Etiquette: 10 Dos and Don’ts You Must Know for First-Timers

Navigating the Dos and Don'ts: Essential Etiquette Tips for a Relaxing and Respectful Massage Experience

What is Massage 03rd Jul, 2023

Do you intend to treat yourself to a relaxing massage? It’s crucial to be knowledgeable about massage etiquette whether you’re a frequent spa visitor or a newcomer.

Man receiving a body massage from a Thai masseuse in a spa.

Being aware of the dos and don’ts will make your experience more pleasurable and relaxed.

We’ll go over 10 key suggestions in this article to help you get about the massage industry with ease. So let’s get started!

1. Dress Comfortably

Dressing comfortably is essential to maximize the benefits of your massage therapy. Dress down to your comfort level – there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to comfort during a massage.

Cultural norms vary globally, influencing what is deemed appropriate in a massage setting. In some countries, nudity during a massage is commonplace and is not considered out of the ordinary. However, in others, such as the United Kingdom, clients typically prefer to retain a level of clothing, retaining an element of personal modesty during the massage session.

For the best experience, opt for comfortable and stretchy clothing, especially for your lower body. Pieces such as leggings or joggers are excellent choices, as they allow for freedom of movement without constriction. These types of clothing can facilitate better access for the massage therapist to your muscles without being invasive or uncomfortable.

It’s also wise to avoid attire that could interfere with the massage process. Belts, jeans, and trousers or shorts that lack stretch may restrict movement and prevent the massage therapist from effectively reaching and treating specific areas. Clothing with numerous pockets can also create unnecessary barriers for an efficient and thorough massage.

2. Body Positivity

Embrace your body as it is – every unique aspect of it. Your body is a testament to your life’s journey, and each character tells a story of your experiences. Allow your therapist to create a soothing, safe, and comfortable environment where you can let go of self-consciousness and fully immerse in the moment.

Communication is key. If you have any concerns or insecurities, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your therapist. They can help reassure you and adjust their approach to ensure you feel at ease during the session.

Lastly, it’s about self-love. Remember that by treating yourself to a massage, you are nurturing your body and honoring its needs. This act of self-care is a powerful step towards cultivating a more body-positive mindset and developing a healthy, loving relationship with your own body. Remember, body positivity is not just about acceptance, it’s about celebration, gratitude, and love for the body you inhabit.

This mindset will not only enhance your massage experience but can also empower you in other aspects of your life, promoting overall wellness and happiness.

3. Body Hair is Not an Issue

It’s common to have concerns about body hair when going for a massage, especially if it’s your first time. However, rest assured, body hair is a non-issue in the realm of professional massage therapy. Massage therapists are health professionals who have seen and worked on a diverse array of body types, including those with varying degrees of body hair.

They are not concerned about body hair on your legs, armpits, chests, backs, or any other parts of the body. Their focus is solely on your muscles, tension areas, and providing you with the most beneficial and comfortable massage experience. Feeling embarrassed or self-conscious if you haven’t had time to remove your body hair before your appointment is unnecessary. Remember, massage therapists are trained to respect and accommodate clients’ individual needs and personal preferences, including body hair. The purpose of a massage session is to promote relaxation and wellbeing, not to judge your body in any way.

It’s important to note that even if you prefer to remove your body hair, stubble can appear quickly and may even cause irritation during a massage. The friction generated during a massage can exacerbate any sensitivity caused by recent shaving or waxing. So, in fact, hair removal is not only unneeded but might be better avoided close to your appointment time.

4. Keep It Natural

When preparing for a massage session, it’s best to adopt a natural approach to your appearance and personal grooming. Avoid making excessive efforts with makeup, fake tan, or heavy perfume, as these can have unintended consequences during the massage.

Makeup, especially heavy or oil-based products, can smudge and transfer onto the massage linens, potentially causing stains or discomfort for both you and the therapist. It’s best to go with a minimal or no makeup look for your session, allowing your skin to breathe and fully benefit from the massage.

Similarly, fake tan products can leave residue on the linens, potentially causing stains. It’s advisable to refrain from applying fake tan prior to your appointment to maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of the massage environment.

Strong perfumes or colognes can be overpowering and may interfere with the therapist’s ability to focus on the aromatherapy or essential oils used during the massage. Additionally, some individuals may have sensitivities or allergies to certain scents. To create a pleasant and comfortable experience for both you and your therapist, it’s best to opt for a light or natural scent, if any at all.

While jewelry can be a personal expression, it’s recommended to remove any items that might interfere with the massage process. Necklaces, bracelets, or rings that dangle or have sharp edges can be distracting or even uncomfortable during the massage. By removing jewelry, you allow the therapist to have unobstructed access to your muscles, ensuring a smoother and more effective treatment.

Massage Etiquette Using a blackboard and pens, dos and don'ts were written.

5. Relaxation Means Nodding Off

One of the remarkable aspects of a good massage is its ability to induce deep relaxation, often to the point where clients may find themselves dozing off during the treatment. Falling asleep during a massage is not only common but also a sign that your body is experiencing the restorative rest it needs.

The calming environment, soothing touch, and release of tension during the massage can create a tranquil state of mind, allowing you to drift into a peaceful slumber. It’s perfectly natural and an indication that your body is responding positively to the therapeutic touch.

When you doze off during a massage, it’s important to remember that the benefits of the therapy are still fully realized. In fact, when your body is in a relaxed and restful state, your muscles are more receptive to the techniques applied by the therapist. Your muscles can release tension more readily, and the therapist can work more effectively to alleviate knots, tightness, or areas of discomfort.

Don’t worry about missing out on the experience while asleep. The primary goal of the massage is to enhance your well-being, and your body will still reap the benefits of the therapy, even if you are not consciously aware of every technique or movement.


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6. Prioritize Personal Hygiene

Maintaining good personal hygiene is an important aspect of preparing for a massage session. While being sweaty from a workout, training session, or sports event is not an issue, it is appreciated by massage therapists if clients prioritize cleanliness and freshness before their appointment.

Taking a shower on the day of your massage, preferably in the morning, ensures that you are clean and comfortable during the session. Showering not only helps to cleanse your body but also provides a refreshing start to your day. It removes any accumulated dirt, sweat, or odors, allowing you to fully enjoy the relaxation and therapeutic benefits of the massage.

7. Don’t Hesitate to Speak Up

During a massage, it’s crucial to remember that your comfort and satisfaction are of utmost importance. As a client, you have the right to express your preferences and ask for adjustments throughout the session. Don’t hesitate to speak up and communicate openly with your massage therapist.

Each individual has unique preferences when it comes to pressure, temperature, and other aspects of the massage experience. If the pressure applied by the therapist is too firm or too light for your liking, let them know. They can modify their technique to better suit your needs and ensure that you feel the right level of comfort and relaxation.

Temperature can also greatly affect your comfort during a massage. If you feel too hot or too cold, inform your therapist so that they can adjust the room temperature or provide additional blankets or fans to create a more comfortable environment for you.

Additionally, if you need a bathroom break or have any specific requests, such as focusing on particular areas of tension or avoiding sensitive spots, feel free to express them. Your therapist is there to cater to your needs and provide a personalized and effective treatment. They are trained to listen attentively and adapt their approach accordingly.

It’s essential to remember that speaking up during a massage does not make you a bother. On the contrary, your input is vital for the therapist to tailor the treatment to your specific requirements. They genuinely want to provide you with the best possible experience and outcome. By communicating openly, you enable them to address any concerns, make necessary adjustments, and ensure that you receive a massage that aligns with your preferences and goals.

8. Silence is Golden

Your comfort and satisfaction are paramount during a massage, and your therapist is there to support you in achieving those goals. They want to create an environment where you feel at ease, relaxed, and fully cared for.

By expressing your preferences, you actively participate in the customization of your massage experience. If the pressure being applied is not to your liking, don’t hesitate to let your therapist know. Whether you desire a firmer touch to address deep-seated tension or a lighter pressure for a more gentle and soothing experience, they can adjust their technique accordingly.

Temperature can significantly impact your comfort during a massage. If you feel too hot or too cold, inform your therapist promptly. They can modify the room temperature, provide additional blankets, or adjust the airflow to ensure that you are in an environment that promotes optimal relaxation.


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9. Timing Matters

Also, its Massage Etiquette when it comes to scheduling a massage, timing matters not only in terms of making the appointment but also in relation to your meals. It’s generally advisable to avoid eating a heavy meal immediately before your massage session.

To ensure optimal comfort during the massage, it’s best to wait at least an hour after a meal before getting on the massage table. A heavy meal can leave you feeling bloated or uncomfortable, which may detract from the relaxation and enjoyment of the experience.

It’s important to remember that passing gas, while potentially embarrassing, is a natural and normal bodily function. The combination of massage techniques, pressure on certain areas, and stimulation of the digestive system can sometimes lead to unintentional gas release. Massage therapists are aware of this possibility and understand that it can happen to anyone.

10. Massage Etiquette Be Prepared for Your Session

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable massage experience, it’s important to be prepared and considerate of both yourself and the spa environment. Here are a few additional points to keep in mind:

  • Personal Hygiene: Taking a shower or bath before your spa appointment is a considerate gesture that enhances your own comfort and that of your therapist. Clean, fresh skin allows for a more pleasant and hygienic massage experience.
  • Timeliness: Arriving on time or even a few minutes early helps create a stress-free atmosphere and allows you to fully relax before your session begins. It also shows respect for the therapist’s schedule and ensures that you receive the full duration of your massage.
  • Communication of Health Information: It is essential to inform your massage therapist about any allergies, health problems, recent injuries, surgeries, or other relevant medical information. This enables them to tailor the massage to your specific needs and ensures your safety and well-being during the session.
  • Cell Phone Etiquette: To fully immerse yourself in the serenity of the spa environment and maintain a peaceful atmosphere, it is recommended to turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent mode. This allows you to disconnect from distractions and fully enjoy the tranquility and therapeutic benefits of the massage.
  • Tipping: It is customary to show appreciation for your therapist’s skill and service by leaving a tip. Remember to bring cash or a credit card to facilitate the tipping process. In most cases, a tip of around 20% of the massage cost is considered standard. However, tipping practices may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check with the spa or refer to their guidelines.

By following these ten do’s and don’ts of massage etiquette, you’ll make the most of your spa experience. However, if you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to ask your therapist or the spa receptionist. They are there to help and ensure your comfort.


Proper Massage Etiquette when getting a massage

Respect the therapist’s time by arriving a few minutes early. Communicate your comfort level, preferences, and any medical conditions. Ensure personal hygiene and silence your phone during the session.

What You Should Not Do During a Massage

Avoid eating a large meal beforehand. Refrain from holding your breath during the massage. Do not withhold information about any discomfort during the session. It’s advisable not to engage in vigorous activities right after a massage.

How to Give a Proper Massage Etiquette

Start with a light touch to warm up the muscles. Use a combination of techniques like effleurage (long, gliding strokes) and petrissage (kneading). Always work towards the heart to improve circulation.

The 1st Rule of Massage Therapy

The first rule is “Do No Harm”. This means providing safe, effective treatment that respects the client’s comfort and boundaries, while also acknowledging the limits of one’s competence and professional scope.

Massage Etiquette

Ethics in massage involve maintaining client confidentiality, obtaining informed consent, respecting boundaries, exhibiting professionalism, and adhering to a code of conduct that upholds the integrity of the profession.

The Bottom Line

Massage therapy is a wonderful opportunity for relaxation, rejuvenation, and self-care. As a first-timer, understanding and adhering to massage etiquette can enhance your experience and ensure a positive and comfortable session. By following these 10 dos and don’ts, you can approach your first massage with confidence and make the most out of this therapeutic experience.

By following these dos and avoiding the don’ts, you can ensure a respectful and enjoyable massage experience. Remember that massage therapy is a partnership between you and your therapist, focused on promoting your well-being and relaxation. By embracing massage etiquette, you can fully reap the benefits of this therapeutic practice, nurture your body and mind, and embark on a journey of self-care and wellness.


[1]Massage Etiquette – 10 Must Know Do’s and Dont’s On The Table, Retrieved from Published on 21 September 2019, Access June 29, 2023


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