The truth about massage etiquette |

The truth about massage etiquette

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Rob Pudim

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Massage therapists are experts at making you feel comfortable. From dimming the lights to cueing the new-age music to covering your naughty parts with sheets, they know exactly how to put you at ease.

Shouldn’t you return the favor?

An unwritten code of etiquette applies to the massage table. Break the rules and you can end up annoying or even offending your favorite therapist.

Read on to find out what gets his or her goat.

Massage therapists list dirty clients as their pet peeve, so do them a favor and shower before the session.

“It’s nice for both of us to be clean,” said Angela Moor, a massage therapist with Simply Massage in Avon. “I like to touch a clean body.”

Showering rinses off sweat and can cut down on offensive odors. Because let’s face it: a massage can lead therapists into some fragrant territory.

“All kinds of smells: Armpits, feet, bad breath,” Moor explained. “A lot of times, of course, you sit by their head. You work on their neck, so if they have very bad breath, you have to kind of hold back your inhale.”

To score points with your massage therapist, bring your toothbrush into the pre-session shower.

Brittany McMullen, a massage therapist with Simply Massage in Vail, agrees hosing off before an appointment is key.

“I think people should definitely take a shower before going into a massage because a lot of people come in and they’re sweating or just getting done working out and everything like that,” she said. “It’s nicer for us to work on somebody that’s clean. More hygienic.”

Just how dirty do clients arrive?

Some skiers and snowboarders head straight to the massage parlor after a day on the mountain ” and that can leave them with a coat of grime.

“Sometimes they’re just a little, ah, dirty still and for sanitary reasons ” it’s not that sanitary for people to come in right away,” said Corey Zalewski, a massage therapist with Simply Massage in Vail. “I’d rather have them take a quick shower or something before they come in.”

Aside from promoting dirt and smells, not showering can actually hamper the massage. Shinji Tsuji, assistant spa manager for The Spa at Vail Mountain Lodge, said too much sweat prevents massage oils and moisturizers from absorbing properly into the skin.

When clients make too many sounds during a session, some massage therapists get uncomfortable.

What noises cross the line?

“Moaning,” Moor said. “Especially with men, it depends, you can have a client that just, you know, likes the massage too much.”

Along with going overboard with sounds, talking too much can be inappropriate. While most massage therapists agree small talk is OK, they steer their clients away from incessant chatter and diatribes.

“We try not to encourage talking during the treatment,” Tsuji said. “If the client chooses to talk, most likely it will be general conversations. We try not to get into personal issues, dilemmas, dramas.”

In other words, save those sob stories for your psychologist ” and while you’re at it, keep the dirty talk to a minimum.

“Obviously sexual innuendoes and things like that would be off limits,” Zalewski said. “But I mean, sometimes talking with your clients is also part of the treatment too. Some people just like to talk about their day and stuff like that, and that’s perfectly acceptable.”

Moor agrees that while sexual matters are taboo, other topics are fair game.

“You can talk about grandkids and birth or your job or whatever, but pretty much, I feel like during a massage you should relax or only talk about nice, positive things,” she said.

When it comes to chatting too much, the problem sometimes stems from alcohol. Every now and then, clients come in drunk and they just “talk, talk, talk, talk, talk,” Moor said.

“Their tongue is free, so they tell you their whole life story,” she explained.

So while you might want to sip a drink to relax before an appointment, bonging a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon is bad way to warm up for a massage. Show up sober, and if you want to stay in your therapists’ good graces, use your inside voice.

“When they are talking, people could be a little more quiet because some people tend to yell and you can hear them in the other rooms and it’s not pleasant for other clients,” McMullen said.

Most massage clinics in the area have a code of ethics, so asking for sexual favors or making advances can lead to trouble.

“If something like that were to happen, we are supposed to end the session right away and if it’s that bad, we’re supposed to call the cops,” McMullen said.

Instead of looking for romance at an established massage business, people should direct R-rated requests elsewhere, like to escort services or to spas in other parts of the country, Tsuji said.

“I think if people are looking for more than a massage, or more towards a sexual act, they should find the appropriate people,” he said.

Showing up late is a sure way to tick off massage therapists.

A late arrival can throw off their schedules for the whole day and leave them scrambling to cram a good massage into a small window of time.

“Then you are stressed because you’re trying to squeeze in and do it as fast as you can in a shorter period of time so your clients end up getting off the table feeling that rushed energy you are giving off,” said Amelia Siemonsma, a massage therapist with Heaven Massage and Spa in Vail. “It’s better for everybody if you’re on time.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or

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