Nude at the Day Spa: Are Aussies Embarrassed?

by Glenn Reynolds

Australians have a reputation for being relaxed in their bodies.
Is this really true?

I think spas in Australia are too conservative.

This topic was prompted by an earlier post comment by Rose (her blog is The Land of Spa) who is a spa journalist in the US. She interviewed a European spa professional who observed that “Americans who visit European spas are shy about nudity and would get very stressed about stripping down completely or having certain body parts touched.” Rose went on to ask me where Australians fitted on the continuum. I was a little unsure, not having asked many directly, but instead I talked to a number of spas, and read their policies on nudity.

I was surprised to find that less than a quarter of the spas on the Great Spa Directory (Vic) (NSW) allowed clients to undress completely for massage, water or body treatments. Some spas such as Rejuvenation Spa and Villa Day Spa encourage clients to fully undress. Examples of other progressive spas allowing their clients to fully undress are:

The rest enforced a policy of wearing disposable underwear. From my findings, I am led to ask a number of questions:

Does this mean that most Australians are actually quite shy about nudity, and spas are accommodating their conservative views?

Are spas more conservative than their clients would want? Would more clients take up the option of undressing completely for body treatments, and have their gluteal muscles massaged for example, or breasts clay wrapped? Maybe they would prefer to be completely unclothed in a hydrotherapy tub?

In the Japanese Bath House, nudity is madatory in the bathing area, but the sexes are strictly segregated.

Professional draping techniques allow therapists to work with clients who are completely unclothed without exposing the client. While I was training as a professional massage therapist, we were trained to drape properly, as if all our clients were completely nude and we were never to expose them. That way it didn’t matter what the client turned up in, you could still perform a professional service.

One spa receptionist that I talked to seemed shocked when I asked her if it was possible to be completely unclothed during treatment.

Although it’s easy to place Australians somewhere in between Europeans and Americans, as far as spa policies go, we are close allies with the US. I feel that Australians are actually more relaxed than this policy bias allows, and more spas would provide a better service by relaxing their policy on clothing. I have always found therapists to drape professionally, so there is no need for a prudish policy here.

I’d love to hear from you…

POSTSCRIPT:

Following publication of a directory of spas in Queensland, I’d like to add a further list of spas that permit or encourage clients to undress for treatments…

Golden Door Spa Retreats, Main Beach Gold Coast
Dome Retreat, Brisbane
Angsana Resort & Spa, Palm Cove
Sebel Reef House & Spa, Palm Cove
Q1 Resort & Spa, Surfers Paradise
Azure Spa, Lizard Island
Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa, Daintree

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rose July 14, 2007 at 12:08 am

I wonder if these no-nude policies were designed to protect against potential lawsuits. I keep coming back to the fact that for Asians and Europeans, spa-going is age old. Certainly, societies were not litigious as they are today—Americans being, unfortunately, maniacally so.

Our continents came to spa going only very recently and so we perhaps project a lot of these fears onto a perfectly normal and healthful experience.

Possibly?

Reply

Dave July 14, 2007 at 2:42 am

Hi there,

Nice and informative site you have here. Perhaps the minimum attire policy is to cater for the maximum number of people in terms of comfort? During my first spa experience, I must admit I was not too comfortable fully undressing, but as mentioned, therapists do drape you discretely whether you have bathers/underwear or whatever on.

Reply

Andrew July 16, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Hi Rose,

I think your fear projections are spot on. You may be right about the fear of litigation, and Australia is slowly following the US in taking each other to court.

I find it interesting that the larger hotel destination spas are the ones more accommodating here. These are part of multi-national (and US) companies.

In another day spa, the all-female staff are responsible for maintaining cleanliness of the open-plan wet (shower) areas, so I can understand why they would want men to be covered a little.

Reply

Andrew July 16, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your kind comments. Hopefully you can share some of your knowledge and experiences with us.
I’m glad your day spa experience was improved by the professional draping techniques. Hopefully your discomfort was fleeting.

Sure, not everyone wants to fully undress, and I haven’t heard of spas directing you to undress more than you wish. Spas should always accommodate people who wish to leave a level of clothing intact, or state their policy very clearly before accepting bookings (such as the Japanese Bath House [mandatory nudity] do on their site).

Reply

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