During my freshman year in college, a couple of friends and I decided to spend our hard earned money on a cruise to the Bahamas over Spring Break. It was the first time in my life where I was vacationing without mom and dad in tow; it was really my first real adult adventure period. I can still remember all the anticipation and excitement of waiting in that long departure line and then finally seeing the interior of the ship for the first time- I was truly on cloud nine.
Which, looking back, is exactly how the cruise industry wants you to feel. Everyone was smiling and so kind to us, wishing a “Bon Voyage” while they handed us those complimentary tropical drinks in fancy little pineapple mugs.
It was a completely surreal experience that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life- right up until the moment I officially “fell for it” with a coupon for a $59 spa day.
At the time, I hadn’t realized that I would be attending college to study dermatology. And to be honest, I really didn’t have any problems with my complexion- I was just 20 years old, after all. But the brochure promised to unlock my inner radiance by gently stripping away layers of damaged skin, removing blackheads and giving my face the perfect luxury pampering before six days in the amazing Caribbean sun.
Who could say no to such a thing?
Stick to Reputable, Well-Established Spas
Looking back, I definitely should have- because we all know that the “$59 Special” turns out to be a heck of a lot more money by the time you walk out the door. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did feel fantastic when I stepped out of the spa that day on the cruise ship. But after a full facial, a body scrub, a chemical peel and a full waxing, I had essentially blown over half my spending money for the entire vacation.
How did $59 suddenly turn into $350 so quickly?
Here’s what experience has taught me; there’s nothing wrong with taking a spa day to have your skin pampered. There are three things you have to know before walking in the door though-
- Ensure that the spa is established with a great reputation
- Know the treatments that would benefit your skin type the most
- Understand the pricing structure beforehand
Additionally, some spas are quick to add heavily fragranced additives to their product lines. These may make the overall experience feel more suave and luxurious, but you’re essentially just over-paying for their scent of the month. That’s why I always recommend sticking to quality, well-reviewed spas.
Know What You’re Better Off Doing at Home
Years later, I can say with confidence that most spa-like services can be completed at home for a fraction of the price you’d pay with a quality establishment. And although you might not receive the same level of pampering inside a relaxing environment, a little creativity can go a long way in getting a spa-like feel on a budget. Try this scenario on for size-
Reach out to 3-5 close friends and plan an official “Me Day”, where you’ll start with a late brunch followed by DIY facials with a gentle exfoliant followed by a light facial massage and a quality moisturizer. Then take the money each of you saved and go buy a new outfit for a night out on the town- you’ll feel just as lavish and get a lot more bang for your buck.
Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a ceramide or an oxygen infusion facial that can’t be completed at home- and I’m not implying that it’s not worth it to receive a professional facial from time to time. I’m simply saying to be smart about your skincare choices and avoid overspending whenever possible for unnecessary services. Many spa “upgrades” are simply not worth the investment…unless you’re doing it solely for the extra pampering.
Always Trust Your Dermatologist
Remember that there is no replacement for sound advice from a certified dermatologist, and there are a number of reasons to book a doctor’s visit over a spa day. Just off the top of my head-
- They have access to prescription-strength facial creams (retinoids, etc.)
- They have advanced tactics to clean your skin (microdermabrasion, etc.)
- They can better understand your exact needs and diagnose problems
So if you’re seeking help with fine lines, age spots or other signs of aging, have your doctor write a referral to a good local dermatologist. And during your first appointment, don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions! Then you’ll have a much better understanding of what will work for you personally and how to book future spa visits to maximize results.