How to Speak "Spa Lingo"

I often get asked, “What is the difference between a spa treatment and a spa therapy?”  There is so much trendy spa-related terminology thrown about by hipsters that it is difficult to stay in the know!  I thought it would be helpful if I explained some essential “spa speak” so that you know what to ask for when you are planning your next spa break.

Treatment:  A (spa) treatment is a non-medical procedure that is intended to improve the overall health of the body.  Treatments can be performed at day spas, resort spas, destination spas, and medical spas.  Most spas offer a menu of a la carte treatments when you arrive, which cover a wide range of health, beauty/cosmetic, and pampering. 

Some of the most popular treatments include:

  • Bathing in specialized, therapeutic pools such as  hot springs (e.g., Japanese onsens or Roman Thermal baths) or Thalasso (revitalizing sea water pools)
  • Massages including various disciplines (e.g., Thai massage, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, Shiatsu)
  • Body wraps including hot blankets, mud wraps, or herbal compounds
  • Facials
  • Saunas and steam baths
  • Aromatherapy
  • Facials
  • Waxing
  • Nail care (e.g., manicures and pedicures)

Retreat:  A (spa) retreat is a spa holiday with a purpose. Spa retreats can be either  pre-determined, set programmes or a personalized package created to help you reach your goals.  Retreats normally last between 3 – 7 nights, but some intensive programmes may last up to one month.  Spa retreats are the perfect way to see results fast, kickstart your practice, and to stay focused to achieve your objective.  Most retreats also include relaxation and pampering treatments in addition to the core programme.  Spa cuisine or specialized diets are often required to cleanse the body and provide calorie-controlled, nutrient rich, locally sourced, organic foods to contribute to detoxification, weight loss, fitness, and anti-ageing.

Some of the most popular retreats include:

  • Detox
  • Yoga
  • Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Stress Relief
  • Deep Sleep
  • Stop Smoking

Bootcamp:  A (spa) bootcamp is really just a spa retreat with a quirky name. The original bootcamps were strictly regimented fitness “kickstart programmes” lead by drill sergeant-like instructors to produce quick weight loss results by  shocking the body with intensive workouts and calorie-restricted, healthy eating. While most bootcamps focus on fitness (e.g., excericise, healthy eating, weight loss), the term is now being used in reference to yoga, beauty, pampering,  and almost anything!

Therapy:  Therapy and treatment are often used interchangeably, but they are quite different.  A therapy is a clinically proven method of treatments that are performed at spas.  A therapy is more of a philosophy that comprises a programme.  Treatments are part of an overall therapy methodology. Some of the most common spa therapies include :

  • Thalassotherapy - The medicinal use of sea water.
  • Balneotherapy -The use of mineral baths.
  • Aromatherapy – The use of essential oils.
  • Hydrotherapy – The use of water.
  • Climatotherapy – The use of specific climates.

Pampering:  Pampering refers to spa treatments that allow you to indulge yourself.  Pampering treatments are normally non-surgical, non-invasive procedures that focus on relaxation and beauty.  The most popular relaxation pampering treatments are massages, bathing in therapeutic pools, saunas/steam baths, body wraps, and aromatherapy. The most common pampering beauty treatments are facials, manicures, and pedicures.  Pampering treatments have crossed over into “Pampering Retreats” and “Pampering Bootcamps”, which are specialized programmes that focus on stress relief, relaxation, aesthetic beauty, and healthy eating.

Health Farm:  A health farm is a funky phrase that is gaining popularity. It is really just the new lingo for a health spa retreat, a fitness bootcamp, or a fitness farm.  Health farm is often used to replace “fat farm” with a politically correct alternative,  but don’t let it confuse you.

Holistic:  Holistic medicine  considers emotional, mental, and spiritual elements in addition to the physical aspects of a person so that the approach to healing is viewing the person as an entire system.  The aim is to target the cause of an illness, rather than just treat the symptoms.  Holistic healing is a longterm, grassroots approach to overall wellness and is a very popular philosophy in spas around the world.

Ayurveda: Ayurveda is a system of alternative medicine  that  uses diet, herbal treatments, and yogic breathing in treatments.  Hygiene, balancing the five elements, building a healthy metabolic system, and proper digestion are the emphasis of this philosophy.  Exercise, yoga, and meditation also play a key role in ayurvedic wellness.



I hope that these terms help you to decipher the esoteric codes of spa speak.  Please post a comment to share your favourite definitions or to let me know which vocabulary you struggle with.  You can always call the experts at Healing Holidays on 020 7843 3597 who have been patient enough to explain a lot of this terminology to me.


Need help to book? +-

Opening Hours (UK Time)
Monday to Friday: 9:00am - 5:30pm
Saturday: 10:00am - 2:00pm
020 7843 3597

Email us an enquiry

Would you like us to call you?

call me back

« back

Leave your name and number and we'll call you back as soon as possible.

No Thanks