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Body image: why size matters in spas

Body image, shapes and sizes are an inevitable topic of concern and conversation when it comes to spa breaks. A spa is somewhere you should be able to let your guard down, take the proverbial armour off and put on that fluffy white robe, knowing you’re in a safe space. It’s all about support for you and your body. 

Spas should be a safe space supporting mind and body confidence

However, these positive intentions can be severely undermined by the small details that have a big impact on how we experience spas. As Stylist beauty editor Lucy Partington so eloquently wrote recently, robes and treatment beds, which should be symbols of comfort, can become sources of anxiety, discomfort and even negative body image. In short, size matters, and we need to be more embracing of all body shapes and sizes, in actions as well as intentions. For example, while most spas opt for a median size in both robes and slippers to accommodate ‘all’ guests, the reality is that the approach needs to be more personalised.

‘Do you want to slip into something a bit more comfortable?” the beauty therapist asks me. I politely decline, saying I’d rather keep my own clothes on. She insists I change so I reluctantly agree and I’m led to a changing room. “There’s a dressing gown in the locker, pop that on and I’ll wait outside for you.”

I lock the door and let out a huge sigh. I know exactly how this is going to go but I play along anyway. I take the dressing gown and unfold it, hoping that for once, I might be wrong. I take one look and know it’s not going to fit. It’s so small that it’s barely going to cover one of my arms.’

Stylist beauty editor Lucy Partington

The details that make a big difference to how we feel on a spa break

The issue of robe sizes doesn’t just affect ‘plus size’ spa goers either. For those who are less than average height for example, the standard robe size can swamp, while the slippers provided can often feel like boats. While that may, or may not, feel less hurtful than the anxiety of finding that a robe is too small, it still undermines the spa experience. 

The good news is that spas are increasingly aware of the need for a more personalised approach in all areas of the spa experience. At some, admittedly more luxurious wellbeing destinations, that approach does extend to the details such as robes. For example, at Pennyhill Park on an Elysium spa break, the experience is complete with a personalised robe. 

However, we know the details do not yet go far enough. A manageable way towards greater personalisation, if not perfect personalisation is definitely something we are passionate about working towards.

How we talk and think about body image in spas

Of course, the question of body image goes beyond robes and slippers, into the wider conversation about spas and how they are marketed as well as presented. It isn’t a question of size alone either, it’s about moving away from this myth about spas as destinations for the elusive body beautiful, and remembering that they are places for real people, real bodies and representing that body image. This is an area we have worked hard to address in our time in the spa industry, as Spabreaks.com Director Abi Selby has previously written on LinkedIn. She has said: 

“We all have bodies and they are forever changing. They bear the scars of life and all its highs and lows, and that is a wonderful thing. The idea that a spa is for one type of (probably non-existent) human being is laughable to the point of absurdity.  If I put my business head on and try to understand this representation from a commercial perspective instead of an instinctive, human one, then the portrayal of spas as purely for ‘perfect people’ is also flawed because health does not discriminate.” 

Feeling good is what spas are all about

Body image is an area that still needs working on, and awareness and discussion is such an incredibly important part of making things happen. Spas are businesses where individual wellbeing and making people feel good about themselves is at the heart of what we do. It is also why many therapists go into their line of work. It’s not a nicety or a small thing, it is the very essence of what spas are about. As Lucy concludes:

“It’s these sort of micro-aggressions that have the ability to make women feel inadequate and diminish their confidence. I’m a prime example of that. But - in true Carrie Bradshaw style - I can’t help but wonder why this is still happening in a new-age world that’s seemingly bursting with body positivity.”

READ ABI’S ARTICLE ABOUT REAL PEOPLE IN SPAS

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