Can I book a massage and facial now? The spa treatments you can (and can’t) have

Back massage in a spa
Back massage in a spa

Since July 13, spa hotels across England have been welcoming guests back to their hygenically spruced thermal suites, socially distanced relaxation lounges and bookable outdoor pools. With the gradual reopening of spa facilities, some beauty treatments were permitted to resume – but not all of them – until recently. So where are we at now? What can we book and when? Here’s the latest lowdown on the well-deserved therapies for soothing our post-lockdown souls.

Can I get a massage?

In the era of working-from-home, laptop-hunching postures, the allure of a knot-busting massage is oh-so tempting. In June, a survey of 5,000 UK spa goers by The Good Spa Guide showed that 80 per cent of people would go to a spa straight away after lockdown, with almost half citing a massage as their top priority. Shortly after, the government announced that spas could resume some “low risk” beauty treatments including body massages from July 13

But expect them to be slightly different, whether that’s a shorter session or application using gloves and other objects. Many spas are now offering post-lockdown goodies specifically aimed at soothing the mind and body. From mid-August, treatments offered at Lucknam Park in Wiltshire will focus on “touch” after months of social and physical distancing. The new Awakening Treatment from ESPA incorporates a back massage, reiki and reflexology (60 minutes; £105). At Gainsborough Bath Spa their reduced menu offers massages that focus on calming the body with lots of aromatic oils and muscle-melting techniques, or tension relief for stiff, tight and achy areas (60 minutes; £120). On the other hand, some spas are offering “no touch” massages which incorporate the use of bamboo sticks, jade rollers and hot stones to minimise contact.

Can I book a facial?

As mentioned, some “low risk” beauty services such as waxing and massages were allowed to resume as of July 13, but treatments involving direct contact with the face, such as facials and eyebrow threading, were still under restriction. That is until Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on July 17 that all beauty services, including “high risk” close-contact treatments, in England can resume from August 1, with health and safety guidance to follow. This means that facials are back on the menu.

Or so it seems. In order to maintain safety standards, many therapists have had to either eliminate facials from treatment menus, shorten the length of treatment time, or get creative. Grantley Hall, a country house hotel in North Yorkshire, will be offering a “facial workshop”. This is a full 60-minute prescriptive facial, self-applied under the guidance of the therapist, followed by an Ila LED mask for 20 minutes during which time a foot and leg massage is performed (£90; from August 1). At Chewton GlenCliveden and Lygon Arms a “less is more” approach is being taken. They have dramatically reduced their menus in favour of bespoke experiences, where guests can design their own facial (or massage) and the therapist will implement it (45 minutes; £90).

Lucknam Park, Wiltshire
Lucknam Park, Wiltshire

Manicures and pedicures

Manicures and pedicures were permitted to resume from July 13. Even if the hotel’s spa isn’t fully open, many have opened up parlours and appointment times for residents and members to book a mani and pedi from this date, as with on-site hairdressers and barbers. 

Waxing and threading

In the Prime Minister’s briefing on July 17, he announced that all beauty services in England can resume from August 1, including close face-to-face contact treatments such as eyebrow threading and lip waxing. Great news for the pre-holiday grooming ritual.

Haircuts and beard trims

Hairdresses and barbers have been allowed to reopen for salon services since July 4, including beard trims. Perspex screens, PPE including visors, a limit on small talk and temperature checks on the door have all become the new norm. Beard trims were the only above-neck treatment allowed to resume before July 13, when nail bars, beauty salons and spas could reopen. 

Spa facilities

Spas have the green light to operate gyms, Jacuzzis, whirlpools, hydrotherapy and swimming pools outdoors from July 13, and indoors from July 25, with social distancing in place. The new guidance states that “saunas and steam rooms should stay out of use for the time being as the risk of transmission is unclear” – so it’s likely that thermal suites and areas will remain shut, though it’s not illegal if they don’t. See our round up of Britain’s best hotels with swimming pools here, and more on the coronavirus rules in spas here.

Some hotels have worked the rules in their favour and exclusive-use spas could be the new trend: Gilpin Hotel & Lake House will be opening a new round of five spa lodges with their own private hot tub, steam room, sauna and separate treatment room equipped with infrared lounge beds and a massage chair (the first Spa Lodge 100 opens on August 17), and you can book the entire spa suite at Rockliffe Hall‘s spa garden – which comes with its own relaxation room, sauna, steam room and outdoor infinity pool. 

Classes and gyms

Outdoor fitness classes and gyms have been open since July 4, with indoor classes and gyms following suit from July 25. Many hotels in England now offer outdoor gyms, socially distanced fitness and meditation classes and a whole range of outdoor wellbeing pursuits. 

Grantley Hall, Yorkshire
Grantley Hall, Yorkshire

Trending treatments

It’s likely we’ll see more immune-boosting therapies, holistic wellbeing practices and outdoor pursuits. In Surrey, Beaverbrook’s Coach House Health Club & Spa will be introducing a new naturopath, Camilla dos Santos, to the fold in September. Her workshops advise participants on natural therapies, healing practices and nutritional techniques.

Beaverbrook has also curated a series of new Wild Wellness experiences, from woodland bathing combining meditation with gentle movement and dynamic breathwork sessions, to vibrational sound therapy and fire ceremonies (from £150 including picnic and use of spa).

Elsewhere at Lucknam Park, guests can book equine therapy sessions at the stables (from £766 including room). These are designed to promote connection and help with anxiety, all in a socially distanced, outdoors environment.

We may also see a rise in vitamin infusions. The Coach House Spa at Beaverbrook has teamed up with the NADclinic, best known for their headquarters on Harley Street, to offer NAD+ IV Therapy (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) from August 15 to September 15. The intravenous infusion of vitamins (from £699) is said to enhance energy levels and promote cellular regeneration.