Getting Comfortable at the Spa: A Guide to Spa Etiquette

The Greater Palm Springs area is full of world-class spas offering everything from a dip in local mineral waters to the ultimate in luxury pampering. However, those who have never visited a spa might not know what to expect the first time. Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your spa experience.

Book Your Services

spa services in greater palm springs

What type of spa experience you are looking for? Do you simply want access to the spa’s facilities, such as the steam room and sauna? Then ask for a day spa pass. If you are looking to combine a visit to the facilities with a treatment, such as a massage, a facial, or a body wrap, then book a spa package. Many spas offer packages combining two or more treatments, but most will allow you to select your treatments a la carte.

It’s always a good idea to let the spa know if you have any special requests, injuries, or health concerns when you call to book your appointment. That way, they can match you with the therapist best suited to your needs.

When You Arrive

two bunch palms grotto in greater palm springs

Be prepared to put the world on hold as soon as you walk through the door. This means that you will be entering a quiet zone, where you will be asked to use your “whisper voice” and either silence or leave your smart phone in your locker. This is vital to ensuring a quiet, relaxing atmosphere for you and your fellow spa guests.

Dawn Ferraro, spa director at The Spa at JW Marriott Desert Springs, also recommends that you tell the front desk if this is your first time vising a spa. She says that staff will go to great lengths to make sure that you are comfortable and informed about everything you experience, from the standard health questionnaire upon arrival to a complete tour of the facility so you know what’s available to you.

Getting Ready

the spa at jw marriott desert springs

Next, you will be shown to the locker room and handed a robe and slippers for use during your visit. While it is implied that you are to emerge from the locker room with nothing on but the robe, rest assured that you only need to get as bare as you are comfortable getting. If you prefer to leave your underwear on, that is completely your decision. Spa staff will work with the level of undress with which you are comfortable.

That being said, you can expect that others may be naked in the gender specific locker rooms; however, everyone will be robed in the co-ed general areas. Always remember to bring your swimsuit, as co-ed pools and mineral baths require them.

In the locker rooms, you will most likely find the steam and sauna facilities. These wonders of natural soothing and detoxification are generally clothing optional areas. You can wrap yourself in a towel or lie down on the bench in the buff. Again, it’s all about your personal comfort.

In the Treatment Room

L'Horizon Spa in Greater Palm Springs

As you are escorted to the treatment room, your therapist will ask you questions and provide information specific to the treatment you are having. For example, if you are there for a massage, expect the therapist to ask what level of pressure you prefer. Make sure you communicate your desires clearly.

Robert Seibel, director of spa and retail for Two Bunch Palms, recommends open communication with your therapist at all times. According to Seibel, inserting a simple “I would prefer” in front of your request goes a long way toward a blissful spa experience.

When you’re ready to get started, the therapist will step out of the room to allow you to take off your robe and slip under the covers on the treatment table. Even if you’re naked under the covers, rest assured that only the areas specific to the treatment will be exposed. Your modesty will remain intact.

Tipping

massage at two bunch palms in greater palm springs

Spa therapists are skilled in the specialties they provide. Just as you would tip any talented service person, you are expected to tip a spa therapist. Many spas automatically include a gratuity for the therapist on your bill at checkout. This is to make sure that their contributions to the level of bliss and relaxation you feel upon departure do not go overlooked.

If there is no automatic tip included, it is generally expected that you contribute an 18-20% gratuity. Of course, if you’ve had a problem or negative experience, the spa wants to know about it. Raise these concerns and most spas will adjust or eliminate a mandatory gratuity.

The spa experience is one to be savored. Whether on your own or as part of a larger group, walk in knowing that the staff is there to provide quality, personalized treatments in a serene atmosphere. Take your time and soak it all in. You’ll enjoy it and it just may become your “go-to” escape the next time you require serious relaxation.

Ready for a spa day? Don’t miss these summer spa deals in Greater Palm Springs.

 

Pam Salvadore is a freelance writer and contributor to Desert Health®, a free news publication that promotes integrative health care and prevention in the Coachella Valley. For more information visit pamsalvadore.com or DesertHealthNews.com.

Closing the Door on 2016

by Pam Salvadore

As we wake to another bright and sunny desert morning, a sense of calm has settled over the valley as it is finally 2017, a new year that brings the promise and hope of things to come. 

As 2016 came to a close, the online world had much say in the usual “Year in Review” commentary. If you looked online, the world was coming to an end. Politics destroyed us and violence abounded. Despite what the great feedback loop in the cloud (AKA social media) portrayed as a world gone mad, I had a lot to be thankful for in 2016. Sure, we suffered the loss of legends David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, Gene Wilder, and the great Arnold Palmer, to name a few. However, as with all great losses, we will carry a piece of these pioneers forward in our hearts so we can pass their joy along to future generations. 

And, yes, there were many who proclaimed the 2016 presidential election as the most contentious of all time. However, that contention opened the eyes of a great many voters and got them involved in the process as never before. As a people, we reinvested in the governance of our nation which serves us well moving forward. 

A visit to the real world (i.e., talking to live human beings) further exposed great things that happened in 2016. A casual poll among friends came up with all kinds of good things to remember the year by: The Cubs finally won a World Series. The Coachella Valley provided the backdrop for two historic weeks of Desert Trip. A shy folk singer won the Nobel Peace Prize for communicating the thoughts of generations through his songs. Medical studies advanced our knowledge of the inner workings of the brain, opening the door for possible cures to many diseases. We fought for human rights – here at home and around the world. The Rolling Stones played a free concert in Cuba! These events made history in their own right…good history. 

As we look forward to the New Year, let’s take a collective deep breath. Ask yourself how you want to remember 2017 at this time next year. What amazing things will we accomplish both privately and collectively in the New Year? Let’s set our intention to create more good and to reject the bad. Let’s consider the perspective with which we view others. Let’s listen to others and really hear what they have to say. Let’s come together as a whole and show the world what we stand for, both as an individual and as a nation. Let’s advance progress in fighting disease and share that knowledge with all who are ill. 

In the end, these intentions will restore our faith in each other and give the Internet only good things to say. Each of us is inherently a good person. We need to let this goodness shine through and eliminate the nastiness. Goodbye, 2016. It’s been real, and we are all moving on.

Time To Diet: The ups and downs of finding the right fit.

by Pam Salvadore

A diet that doesn’t fit your lifestyle can lead to less-than-desirable results.

As you may recall, my most recent article discussed weight gain associated with alcohol intake during menopause (I Need a Drink, Desert Health May/June 2016). While the article was enlightening, writing it did nothing to burn the extra twenty pounds I’ve accumulated through this hormonal roller coaster that is “middle-aged.” 

So, I found myself faced with the harsh reality that it was time to go on a diet. 

Having been down the diet road before, I was not looking forward to tracking calories, exercising when I didn’t want to, and giving up my favorite foods and beverages. Subsequently, I set out to audition different diets in hopes of finding a more satisfying, yet effective, option. The four diets I explored were either new twists on old science, radical elimination set-ups, or back-to-basics calories in/calories out plans. 

First, I tried the Paleo (or “caveman”) diet. I ate pasture-raised meats, vegetables, seafood, eggs, drank bone broth, and dabbled in fermented foods (kimchi). Grains, legumes, added sugars, and dairy were strictly prohibited. On the plus side, the Paleo diet handed me a great foundation for a healthy, sustainable diet that eliminated all processed foods. The downside was that cavemen didn’t drink alcohol, and they didn’t need to shop at the local supermarket. I found the Paleo diet to be inconvenient in that I had to buy different foods for myself, while maintaining our original fare for my husband. I also missed my glass of pinot in the evening and found that I really don’t like coconut milk enough to put it in my tea. Discouragingly, at the end of my two-week Paleo audition, I’d actually gained weight!

Next I tried the Atkins diet, the infamous plan in which you eat meat and fat, but decrease your intake of carbs to less than 20 grams per day. I figured this would be easier to manipulate, as I could eat the meat and fat portion of whatever I served my husband and simply steer clear of the carbs. While eating an unlimited amount of meat was a plus to me, the downside of Atkins was that in cutting carbs, I ended up cutting out one of my favorites: fruit. After two weeks on Atkins, I felt incredibly deprived and, for this reason, found it was not a sustainable diet for me. (The scientist in me also noted the resulting nutrient imbalance from eliminating that rainbow of carb-rich fruits.) While I didn’t gain weight auditioning the Atkins diet, I did find myself constantly obsessing over what I would eat at my next meal. The fact that food was always on my mind told me that too much of it was missing from my plate. 

At this point I decided to loosen things up and simply downloaded a free caloriecounting app. I chose the Fat Secret app for its massive database of nutritional information and endless choices of foods. Unfortunately, the plus of unlimited choices turned out to be my downfall. Fat Secret was a little too permissive. Additionally, I was the one calculating how many calories I should eat in a day. That becomes a nebulous number when faced with dessert at the end of a conservative meal. Needless to say, I gained weight as well in my trial period using this unrestricted model. 

Finding a diet that works for you – and sticking to it – is the key to success.

While I had no interest in the monotony of being on a diet, I knew that Weight Watchers (WW) had worked for me in the past. I decided to see if it would work with my presently reduced metabolism. The upside of WW was that I could eat anything I wanted as long as it fit into my daily allotment of points. This allowed for a piece of chocolate after lunch and a glass of wine before dinner. WW also gave me weekly bonus points that I could use for special occasions or an evening out. I found that WW steered me toward making healthy choices, as fruits and vegetables are free, meaning I could eat them all day if I wanted to. WW also encouraged activity by rewarding it with activity points. On average, I earned 3 activity points for every 30 minutes of light exercise. I found it motivating to know that I was earning something. The downside I found with the WW program was that it required an electronic tether. I needed to access the website every time I put something in my mouth, which took the spontaneity out of eating. Then again, that spontaneity is what added the twenty pounds in the first place! WW was the only diet I tried and actually lost weight.

Overall, I found WW to be better suited to my personality and lifestyle because it provided a realistic environment that directed me toward a healthy, balanced diet. It allowed for splurges and rewarded effort. While I once thought that I had ceded all dietary control to my menopausal hormones, WW gave me back that control. In the end, I found that each diet has its own unique criteria that speak to different people for different reasons. I’m going to continue with my WW plan. 

If you find yourself in a similar position, don’t give in to the hormonal shifts in your body. Take the time to consider if you should address these hormonal changes with dietary changes of your own and find a diet that works for you. 

Contributing writer Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com.

“I Need a Drink!” Middle-aged women and alcohol

By Pam Salvadore with medical review by Shannon Sinsheimer, ND

So many things change as women age. Our bodies, our minds, our purpose, all appear to go through a major transition between the ages of forty-five and sixty. Perhaps the biggest of the female changes is that of menopause, the end of a woman’s reproductive ability. Currently, the average age for menopause is fifty-one. During peri-menopause, the years leading up to menopause, one of the primary goals of the female reproductive system is to drastically reduce estrogen levels. When a woman enters into full menopause, estrogen levels have fallen by 75-90%, resulting in the infamous menopausal symptoms we all dread – hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep interruptions, to name a few. 

New symptoms, such as “brain fog” – that muddled feeling that requires great effort just to concentrate – are also coming into focus as being decidedly related to reduced estrogen levels. Adding insult to injury, as menopause settles in, women also lose water from within their systems, one of the most important components of metabolization in the human body.

Given these sometimes harsh changes, it’s no surprise that a woman may crave a cocktail as a means of relief, which begs the question: How does alcohol consumption affect women as they go through peri-menopause and menopause? 

The simple answer is that alcohol changes the impact of our hormonal balance. First, alcohol cannot be stored in the body; therefore, it becomes a priority for metabolization. However, alcohol does not require digestion, as it is simply absorbed into our systems, meaning it moves through our bodies more rapidly than regular food.1 Our body reacts to alcohol similarly to how it reacts to sugar, and quick jolts of sugar to our system wreak havoc with our hormones, especially insulin. 

Insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas whenever blood sugar rises, is the hormone responsible for sugar metabolism. Insulin is like the traffic cop telling all the excess sugar created by alcohol in our blood to move straight to the nearest fat cell. Insulin then tells that fat cell not to open its doors and burn the fat as energy until all the other nutrients in our system have been metabolized. End result: you’re stuck with excess fat cells. 

So while a woman’s endocrine system is trying to drastically reduce estrogen levels in the years leading up to menopause, we tend to make it harder on our bodies by drinking alcohol and providing more places for estrogen to accumulate, creating mixed messages in our systems. On the one hand our bodies are going through these incredible symptoms of estrogen loss – night sweats, hot flashes, etc. – while on the other hand our fat cells are concentrating estrogen within their walls and releasing it when and if the body burns the fat. In the end, we have a state of confusion in the form of uncontrollable spikes and dips in estrogen levels that only stand to amplify menopausal symptoms. Of note is the fact that a woman’s metabolism also slows down in menopause. We do not burn the fuel provided by food as quickly or efficiently and that can lead to weight gain. 

How much you drink makes a big difference as well. It’s one thing to enjoy a glass of chardonnay on a warm summer evening, another to down the entire bottle. 

Studies have shown that moderate drinking (defined as one 5-ounce glass of wine per day) can actually have beneficial effects on women’s health including a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and stroke. However, increase the amount you imbibe and your risks also increase drastically. According to a recent Healthline article, heavy drinking during menopause can increase a woman’s risk of developing cancer, heart problems, liver disease, and osteoporosis. A more specific study by Jasmine Lew, a researcher at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, found that alcohol consumption did indeed increase the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women and the risk is dose dependent: one drink per day increases a postmenopausal woman’s risk of breast cancer by 7%, whereas three drinks per day up the risk to a whopping 51%.2

In the end, anecdotal reports find that some women feel happier having a drink at this stage in their lives; others find that alcohol immediately triggers hot flashes and sweating. Still more find that regular alcohol consumption impedes their ability to maintain healthy sleep habits. As with anything in nature, we are all unique. Find the right balance for your body and do your best to stay rested and comfortable during this physically tumultuous time.

Contributing writer Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com

References: 1) Byrd-Bredbenner, C., Moe, G., Beshgetoor, D., & Berning, J. (2013).   Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition (9th ed.). p 258-259 New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill Education; 2) Barnes, Mary Ellen, PhD, and Ed Wilson, PdD,MAC. “Menopause and Alcohol Abuse.” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. EdwardWilson Ph.D., MAC, 2008. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

As published in Desert Health News

Natural Remedies for Dry Skin

By: Pam Salvadore

Traditional Chinese Medicine remedy of poached pear and honey

Skin is the largest organ in our bodies. It’s what holds our muscles, bones, and tissue intact and also provides a barrier, keeping the bad organisms out and absorbing the good. Skin helps regulate our body temperature by absorbing and releasing heat and helps flush out toxins. Amazingly, skin also regenerates and heals itself. So, it’s no surprise that the first signs of difficulty within the body appear on the skin in the form of dry skin, rashes, hives, and eczema. 

Desert dryness can lead to itchy skin.

Perhaps the most common skin problem is the tight, itchy feeling of dry skin. It sounds innocuous, but dry skin can drive you to distraction and, in some cases, become a serious problem. From chapped lips to cracks on your heels, here are a few things you can do to heal skin irritations of all kinds.

Every climate has an impact on our skin and our dry, hot environment contributes significantly to skin irritation. First, there is little moisture in the air for the skin to absorb. Secondly, as a cooling mechanism, hot weather causes us to sweat out any moisture we do have. Lastly, the moisture we imbibe gets distributed internally to our organs, intestines, and muscles first, leaving little left over to nourish our skin. Dry skin can be a sign of dehydration. Drinking more water, staying cool, and perhaps adding a humidifier to your indoor environment are all good ways to combat the environmental impact the desert has on your skin.

Hormones can also cause dry skin. Estrogen stimulates the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils. As we age and estrogen levels decline, dry, itchy skin becomes quite common. Unfortunately, skin changes caused by hormone depletion are permanent. It is up to us to treat this form of dry skin if we want to keep it healthy. Lotions and body oils are a great place to start. There are many formulas available, but those that contain only a small number of ingredients that are all natural are best.

Skin is a great medium for discovery when something doesn’t agree with you. If you’re allergic/intolerant to something, it often manifests on your skin in the form of an itchy, red rash or hives. Pay attention to these reactions and try to pinpoint their causes. If you can’t find the source, consult an allergist to have a skin test. If allergy skin tests appear negative, you may consider consulting a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist for food intolerance testing. Once you know the cause, avoidance can control or eliminate the breakouts.

Last but not least, our skin helps flush our system of toxins. This is most evident with acne, but can also manifest as little hives or bumps. According to Dr. Diane Sheppard of AcQpoint Wellness in La Quinta, such outbreaks are deemed “weeping” in traditional Chinese medicine, meaning that the skin is purging toxins from your system. These outbreaks are of little concern, but are a good sign that you’re on the right track to eliminating internal stressors. 

Of course, there are more serious skin problems, such as psoriasis and eczema. The jury is still out, but more and more researchers are looking to see if there’s a connection between these more pronounced skin reactions and allergies/intolerances. Then there’s the most concerning skin problem of all in the form of cancer. Most skin cancers are treatable with early intervention, so make sure you get in to see your doctor as soon as possible if you see something abnormal.

Indie Lee’s lavender and chamomile body oil contains natural ingredients that can help relieve problem skin.

It’s important that you take steps to heal irritated skin. Otherwise, your protective layer will only become more inflamed and fail to protect you when you need it most. The most simple cures often work the best. Apply moisturizing lotions or natural soothing oils (I found a good one with chamomile and lavender by Indie Lee), dial down the hot water when you bathe, use a gentle soap, and moisturize immediately after showering or washing your hands to help trap and retain any water on your skin. Limit your exposure to chlorine and use a humidifier to increase the moisture in your home. You can even try the traditional Chinese medicine cure of eating pears poached in water, with ginger and honey. Dr. Sheppard recommended this fix for me which works like a charm! Finally, if none of these home remedies is working, see your doctor to rule out any internal or autoimmune causes and inquire about prescription remedies. 

In the end, your skin is your friend. It will defend you when needed and can tell you if you have a more serious problem lurking beneath it. Take care of your skin and it will take care of you.

Click here to read this article in Desert Health News

A Simple and Nourishing Guide to Your New Year

Eat a rainbow of colors.

By Pam Salvadore

Around this time every year we all make resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, and take control of errant behaviors. This year, take advantage of that January mindset to do just one thing: get healthy. Commit to a fresh start by getting back to basics and all of those other goals will fall in line.

As you may expect, an essential first step is to look at what you’re eating. Make the decision to eat clean by eliminating all of the processed food in your life. Eat whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Choose lean, clean protein like free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. Opt for minimally processed whole grains. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is how we ate before food was made “convenient” and all but stripped of nutritious content. By eating clean, you are giving your body the fuel it needs to function at the top of its game. Your body will begin to purge unhealthy fats and additives, attack free radicals, drop unnecessary pounds, and restore balance to your system.

Now that you know what to eat, figure out how you’re going to eat it by adopting a reasonable eating plan. No weights and measures, just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. This basic approach usually translates to three meals and one or two snacks a day. Eat slowly and without distraction so you can feel when your body is full. After a week or two of eating this way you’ll notice that your body is satiated on a lot less food than what you’re used to, leading to natural weight loss.

Once your diet is clean and portions are appropriate, try adding in a few more healthy items to your plate. Consider your dinner. Can you scale back on protein a little? Perhaps make that piece of meat equivalent to the size of your palm? Can you increase your vegetables? Maybe add a fresh salad to your meal? By upping your vegetable content you are increasing your fiber, which works to eliminate toxins from your system and helps you feel full longer. Salad is also a way to increase your vegetable diversity and help you eat a rainbow at every meal. Not only is it tasty, but it’s a guaranteed way to be sure you get a broad spectrum of nutrients. Aim for one quarter of your plate filled with protein, one quarter with grain, and the other half full of vegetables. Add fruit for dessert, and you’ve just satisfied most of the nutrient needs in your body.

Get out and walk.

Now that you know what you’re putting into your body, focus on what you’re putting out. The word “exercise” can be intimidating, but it need not be. We’re not talking about challenging Rocky to a race up the stairs. We’re simply talking about moving your body more. This can mean going for a walk in the morning, playing with your kids in the park, or keeping your cart on the path during golf. Most of the things you do on a daily basis can be converted into exercise. At the market, grab a basket and carry it around instead of pushing a cart. The weight of your basket and lack of support provided by the cart will engage your muscles and challenge your balance. At the mall, park your car once and walk to all the stores you need to visit. Stop moving your car and move your feet instead. This all counts as exercise. Do more of it and your body will respond with healthy rewards.

Now indulge your lazy side. Sleep as much as you can. Let those droopy eyelids call the shots and go to bed when you’re tired. Aim for 7-9 hours a night. REM sleep is how your body restores and resets itself. It’s also how your memories are processed and retained in your brain. Turn in earlier than usual for one week. By the end of that week, if you don’t need your alarm clock to wake up on time, you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you.

Focus on your whole being - mind, body, spirit and soul.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, laugh! Pay attention when the littlest one at the table has a silly joke to tell. Really hear your spouse when he/she describes their daily giggle. Laugh with others and enjoy the happy things that surround you. There will always be a list of the negatives in our lives. By taking the time to laugh, you prioritize happiness. Being happy is one of the most rewarding health benefits of all!

Hopefully these ideas provide some basis for a calm, rational, and healthy approach to your New Year. Whatever you do, don’t use the concept of resolutions to beat yourself up over your shortcomings. Use your resolutions to be kind to yourself, and the benefits you reap will become not only part of who you are but also who you want to be.

 

Click here to read this post in Desert Health News.