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Abhyanga is the Sanskrit word for oil massage. In ayurveda, massage strokes and special medicated oils called taila are chosen to balance the client's dosha constitution or promote detoxification.

A Brazilian fruit that is high in nutrients and antioxidants that may be used in treatments to slow the signs of aging.

The natural acidic mantle of the skin that helps prevent bacterial invasion.

A solution of water and lemon juice or vinegar.

Pre-cancerous growth that may occur because of repeated sun damage.

Small tumor of translucent appearance, originating in the sebaceous gland.

A substance that is used to neutralize acids and is used in the soap making process.

A person who has no pigmentation in the eyes, hair, or skin.

The terms algae and seaweed are often used interchangeably, which causes some confusion. Seaweeds are algae that have a particular growth form, but the term algae also includes a wide range of other terrestrial and aquatic organisms with different evolutionary histories. Algae occur in all marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the world wherever there is water.

The application of thin layers of heated seaweed to the skin to reduce pain and inflammation. Infrared lamps maintain the temperature of the seaweed. Primarily brown seaweeds are used in algotherapy. After being washed and rinsed, the seaweed is processed and preserved to retain all active ingredients. The function of algotherapy is to reduce pain and act as an anti-inflammatory procedure. (Adapted from www.day-spas.org.)

A skin disease that results in baldness or very thin hair.

Naturally-occurring acids found in sugar cane and citrus fruit. AHAs include lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, and pyruvic acid. Glycolic acid is the most popular of the AHAs, because it has the smallest molecular structure and most easily penetrates into the skin’s surface. AHAs have the ability to remove and loosen cells from the stratum corneum (skin surface), causing the skin to look smoother and making wrinkles less noticeable. The use of AHAs also helps retain moisture in the surface layers of the skin.

A rapid and interrupted current, flowing first in one direction and then in the opposite direction.

A substance that is used to adjust pH levels in cosmetics and skin care products.

The early phase of the hair cycle when hair synthesis takes place.

Liquids, like water based skin care products, are forced into the skin from the negative or positive pole of a galvanic current machine.

Treatment in humid or dry caves where temperature is determined by the environment.

An agent that prevents or arrests the growth of microorganisms.

A natural skin lightening agent composed of glucose and hydroquinone. It is extracted from bearberry plants.

The use of essential oils for healing body, mind, and spirit.

A device that breaks down a water product into a fine mist for spraying onto the body.

The five thousand year-old medical system of India. It is also a philosophy that offers keys for creating harmony and balance in life.


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Spa and skin care products often come in two sizes. The larger size is called the back bar and is used by a therapist during treatment. It is not sold to clients and is not subject to the same labeling requirements as products sold to the public. The smaller size is sold in the retail area for clients to use for home care. Retail items must meet the Food and Drug Administration's labeling requirements for cosmetics.

The ancient use of waters to restore and revitalize the body. It has been used to improve circulation, fortify the immune system, relieve pain, and treat stress.

The ability of the skin to prevent penetration by microorganisms and chemicals that might otherwise damage tissue or enter the circulation. The skin also reduces water loss.

A type of igneous rock formed from the solidification of molten magma. Because magma cools quickly on the earth's surface, it generally has microscopic crystals and a smooth texture. Basalt holds heat better than many rock types, and so is one of the best types of rock for stone massage.

The use of salt, sugar, ground nuts, pumice, or other granular substances in an emollient base to exfoliate skin. Polishes and rejuvenates the skin at the same time.

Any exfoliating procedure using either a dry brush or products such as salt, oatmeal, almond paste, pumice, algae, or gels.

Brushes and salicyclic salt are used to polish the body, producing a fine skin texture.

Brushes rotate at different speeds to slough off dead cells and grime that cling to the surface of the skin.


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Natural or artificial salt baths aid in treatment of fractures, dislocations, and a variety of illnesses. Oxygen introduced into the bath through tubes along the tub bottom has a soothing effect and is useful with hypertension, cardiac disease, and insomnia. Carbon dioxide baths may help slow the heart rate and regulate blood pressure. Recommended water temperatures and soaking times vary according to the specific chemicals introduced.

Application of product to the skin to remove dead or damaged cells of the epidermis, improving skin texture, and decreasing fine lines and wrinkles. The term peel is misleading as the procedure is not intended to remove live tissue, only dead, or damaged cells from the stratum corneum (skin surface). Deeper penetrating procedures with high concentrations of exfoliating chemicals are intended for a dermatologist’s use.

The fear of being enclosed in narrow spaces. During a body wrap, a client may experience claustrophobia and the therapist must always be on hand to remove them the client from the wrap quickly.

A variable group of fine-grained natural materials that is usually "plastic" when moist and are mainly mineral in composition.

Deep, cold water pool plunge causing rapid contraction of the capillaries; stimulates circulation after sauna.

Process that irrigates and cleanses the colon and is reported to aid in detoxification.

A product applied to the skin that includes an ingredient which increases the accumulation of dead cells within the follicles (increased retention hyperkeratosis), leading to blackhead formation and acne flare-ups.

A contrast bath is designed to stimulate local circulation by surrounding parts of the body with water at different temperatures. A contrast bath normally involves two large containers, each large enough to hold two legs. One container is filled with cold water (50ºF-60ºF) and another with hot water (100ºF-110ºF). Treatment is short, with the client first placing the leg or legs into the hot water for four to six minutes, then into the cold water for one to two minutes. Dipping can be repeated for five to ten transfers. (Adapted from Spa Management magazine.)

All types of treatment carried out with mineral water, mud, and vapor.

A product that cools the body area to which it is applied. These products are sometimes used for cellulite treatments and sometimes used for sore muscles, because they stimulate circulation.

The therapeutic application of cold temperatures.


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A spa that offers beauty/salon services, mind-body therapies, massage/bodywork, body and facial treatments, esthetics, and "de-stressing" programs either by the service or pre-packaged in half- or full-day programs, requiring no overnight stay.

A dermatological surgical procedure using a rotating instrument that sands the skin, reducing scarring and some wrinkles. This procedure requires intense pre- and post-operative care.

A spa that offers all-inclusive package programs, including exercise, body and facial treatments, massage/bodywork, mind-body therapies, and "de-stressing" programs, along with luxurious accommodations, amenities, and spa cuisine.

A body cleansing to remove toxins accumulated by over-taxing the body with addictive habits.

The component in autotanning products that causes the skin cells to change color and appear tanned.

A chemical that destroys harmful microorganisms; usually used on inanimate objects such as floors, wall, and countertops.

Dissolving exfoliants are composed of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). AHAs include glycolic, citric, lactic, and malic acids. The most widely used BHA in cosmetics is salicylic acid or its related substances, sodium salicylate, and willow extract.

One of three subtle energies (vata, pitta, kapha) that hold together two of the five elements.

Dry brushing with a massage brush, glove, or a rough towel improves the skin’s circulation. Brushing is performed in a specified manner from the feet upward and leaves the skin slightly red, but not damaged. Followed by hydrating oils or moisturizers. May be used as a precursor to other treatments.

A treatment room in which there is no shower or hydrotherapy equipment. Instead, hot towels are used to remove products from the client's body or clients take showers in a different area.

Powdered dulse seed combined with water or oil is used to scrub the body, eliminating dead skin and leaving a smooth surface. This also serves as a vitamin/mineral treatment. Gentle enough for sensitive skin.


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Firm or light soothing, stroking movement that doesn't drag the skin; employed in massage, using either padded parts of fingertips or palms.

A substance that softens the skin by slowing the evaporation of water.

A mixture of two or more liquids in which one is present as microscopic droplets distributed throughout the other.

Exfoliation that relies on biological action rather than physical abrasion. This type of exfoliation is applied to the skin and then rinsed off. The enzymes used dissolve keratin in the skin, thereby removing dead cells and supporting the natural process of exfoliation. Papain from papaya is an example of one of these enzymes.

A body exfoliation treatment that uses ingredients such as protein enzymes or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that chemically dissolve dead skin cells without the surface abrasive action of other body exfoliation treatments. AHAs are naturally-occurring acids found in sugarcane and citrus fruit. Glycolic acid is the most popular of the AHAs because it has the smallest molecular structure. The enzyme peel is typically applied as a body mask and provides a period of relaxation for the client until the treatment is rubbed or washed off, depending on the product manufacturer’s instructions.

Volatile plant oils, extracted from certain aromatic plants, that have both physiological and psychological effects on the human body.

The application of various techniques to the epidermal layer of the human body. Application of esthetic techniques may include, but is not limited to, facial steaming, exfoliation, waxing, pore cleansing, extraction, and chemical peels. This may also include instructing the client in maintenance skin care and how to apply makeup skillfully to conceal scars and imperfections. The use of creams, lotions, wraps, clay or gel masks, etc., may also be included, as well as use of the electric pulverizer, spray machine or atomizer, brushing machine, galvanic current, microdermabrasion, and other device driven noninvasive cosmetic procedures. Esthetic practice specifically excludes diagnosis, prescription, or any other service, procedure, or therapy that requires a license to practice dermatology or any other profession or branch of medicine.

Improving circulation while removing dead skin cells. Pressure used in the process can contribute to relaxation.

The process of removing sebum, bacteria, dead cells, and other waste from the skin follicle.


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Deep cleansing of the face with steam. Facials may include exfoliation, extraction, or the application of creams, lotions, cleansers, masks, peels, and massage.

Electric apparatus used to direct a lukewarm vapor mist to the face. Beneficial for softening dead surface cells, opening follicles, and loosening up deposits of dirt and grime, eliminating toxins, and increasing blood circulation.

Administered as a bath or mud pack, using highly mineralized mud mixed with oil or water. In addition to aiding in detoxification, pain relief, and stimulation of circulation, the fango blend softens the skin and creates a soothing warmth. Additional natural ingredients, such as sea kelp and peat moss, may be added to increase warmth and mineral content.

A Bavarian priest who streamlined Vincent Priessnitz's treatments and combined herbal treatments with water cures.

Vegetable oils that are nonvolatile, such as sweet almond or sunflower. Also referred to as lipids or fats. They might be used as a lubricant in massage or as a carrier for essential oils.


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A machine used by estheticians in facial treatments. It has two different uses depending on the polarity of the current that is used. When the working electrode is the negative pole, it is used with a disincrustation solution to soften blocked sebum in pores. When it is set on the opposite polarity (positive pole is the working electrode), it is used to soothe the skin and encourage the absorption of a water-soluble treatment product.

The use of long massage-like strokes to apply creams that cleanse and rehydrate the skin. Gommage offers many benefits, as it removes dead cells and toxins that have accumulated on the surface of the skin. Gommage works to cleanse the skin, stimulating cellular regeneration and blood circulation, and increases effectiveness of skin products by enabling them to penetrate the skin with ease. (Adapted from www.day-spas.org.)


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An Islamic bath characterized by a vaulted ceiling and a raised, heated marble platform called a hararat, which is used for massage or exfoliation.

Specifically blended to suit the client’s needs and skin type, herbs are added to individualized baths in the form of sachets or extracts. The hot water disperses the herbs’ healing qualities to the skin.

Herbs steeped in water to produce an infusion. Sheets, bath towels, or hand towels are soaked in the herbal infusions and applied to the body for therapeutic purposes.

The body is enveloped in warm linen sheets that have been soaked in a special blend of herbs. The herbs induce perspiration to draw toxins from the skin. Relaxation is promoted by the deep heating action. Herbal wraps usually last fifteen to twenty minutes and are often followed by a brief Scotch hose spray to lower the body temperature and tonify tissue.

A Machine that generates a rapidly oscillating electrical current that is transmitted through glass electrodes. The current produces heat in the skin, which stimulates circulation. It also produces ozone, which acts as a germicide to kill bacteria.

Alternative healing method developed into a system by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s, and based on a "like cures like" principle--that is, if a substance can cause symptoms in a healthy person, then it can stimulate self-healing of similar symptoms in a sick person.

The body's ability to maintain a relatively constant internal environment despite changing external conditions.

A variety of treatments that take place in or with water, including underwater massage, herbal baths, balneotherapy (fresh or mineral water), thalassotherapy (sea water), Kneipp therapy, Vichy treatments, Scotch hoses, and Swiss showers, and bubbles or jets. See underwater massage.

A special tub equipped with high-pressure jets and a hand-manipulated hose designed to deliver underwater massage and therapeutic baths.


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Hot vapors or steam mixed with eucalyptus or other essential oils, inhaled to decongest the respiratory system; breathed through inhalation equipment or in a special steam room.


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An ayurvedic dosha that is a combination of the elements of earth and water.

Active or passive movement of body parts to aid in improved circulation and muscle tone. Also referred to as physiotherapy.

Kneipp therapy consists of a series of cold or alternating hot and cold water treatments on various parts of the body. Herbal extracts are combined with water in an assortment of bathing methods to energize the system and soothe the mind. Certain herbal remedies are used for detoxification.

The German word for cure. “Taking a kur” in Europe has always meant to spend time for therapeutic and restorative purposes.


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A response that occurs when an odor is paired with a person, place, or thing and a memory link is formed.

The loofah is a coarse, natural-fiber sponge used to slough off rough and dead skin. Body scrub treatments are given using loofahs with gels, herbal soaps, or exfoliating lotions. A loofah scrub can be a dry scrub or a product scrub done with a loofah. The treatment may begin with a gentle, full-body massage using a blend of almond meal, almond oil, or sea salt to lift dead skin cells and stimulate circulation. This gentle massage is followed by a full-body scrub and shower treatment that leaves the skin revitalized, healthy, and radiant.


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An Indonesian ritual bath of milk, buttermilk, or yogurt.

A physical process in which the body is rubbed with an abrasive product or with a coarse handheld item such as a loofah.

A spa menu is like that at a restaurant. It lists all of the services that a client can order when visiting.

A bath usually drawn using a natural mineral spring supply of water at very specific temperatures with recommended soaking times. Minerals vary from spring to spring and determine the action of the bath on the body.

Naturally occurring substances that play a crucial role in the body's metabolic processes. They are required by the body to function properly.

A low-moor peat from the Neydharting Moor in Austria that is well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. It is regularly mined and shipped to the United States for spa treatments.

This treatment may be administered as a bath, cloth, or pack, using a vitamin, mineral, and protein-rich peat preparation.

A gelatinous substance found in plants and animals that is extracted for cosmetic purposes from plants such as seaweeds. It is composed of protein and polysaccharides and is used to give cosmetics a creamy substance and to moisturize and protect the skin.

Mud baths are similar to mineral or seaweed baths in terms of temperature and duration, but have their own unique action on the body determined by source of mud and mud contents (usually both mineral and plant materials).


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Olfaction is the sense of smell. An olfactory response includes the mental, emotional, or spiritual changes that may be elicited by an aroma.

Also, called Enriched Oxygenated Aromatherapy. Use of humidified oxygen infused with aromas and flavors for therapeutic purposes. Oxygen is delivered via tanks or a machine that extracts it from the atmosphere.


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Parafango, a mixture of volcanic ash (fang) and paraffin, is heated and molded to portions of the body that are sore, tight, or in need of increased circulation. Clients are then wrapped in a sheet and blanket to rest and relax. Parafango has the ability to retain warmth for approximately twenty minutes at a consistent temperature, which allows the body to experience deep heat and relaxation. This treatment may be followed by a back and shoulder pressure point massage that leaves the body totally at ease.

Warm liquid wax used to ease pain and/or rehydrate the skin. Often the wax is infused with substances such as aromatherapeutic oils.

Partially carbonized organic tissue formed by decomposition in water of various plants but mainly mosses from the genus Sphagnum.

The therapeutic use and application of muds.

The technique of tattooing cosmetics, including eyeliner, lip line, eyebrows, eye shadow, etc., permanently on the face permanently. This technique is also used in restorative applications and/or to help correct flaws and scars on the face and body.

Measures the acidity of a substance. Neutral pH is considered to be 7.0 (the pH of pure water). Substances with a pH of less than 7.0 are acids; pHs higher than 7.0 are bases. The lower the pH the stronger the acid. The higher the pH, the stronger the base. Very high pHs or low pHs are irritating to the skin and may cause acid or chemical burns.

An ayurvedic dosha that is a combination of the elements of fire and water.

Usually a cloth filled with heated herbs, clay, or a medicated product spread on a cloth and applied to wounds or an injury.

In Ayurvedic medicine, a reference to the constitution or inherent characteristics of a person, including his or her physical type, mental type, and emotional type.

The price the public will pay for a retail item. The business must choose how much of a markup they will add to retail items. This marked up price becomes the price point.

The kinesthetic sense in which sensory receptors receive information about rate of movement, contraction, tension, position, and stretch of tissue. This information is processed in the central nervous system, which sends motor impulses back to muscle, causing it to contract, relax, restore, or change position.


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A process that occurs when the action of one compound in an essential oil is suppressed by another compound, thereby making the oil safer for use.


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A naturally occurring atmospheric gas that is radioactive and is released as uranium as rock and soil break down. It is used in trace amounts in Europe for the treatment of arthritis and asthma.

Steam bath to flush toxins from the body.


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Latin abbreviation for solus per aqua or “to enter by means of water.” Can also be interpreted as “health through water,” hence the modification to the English word spa.

In a salt scrub, a paste made from sea salt and essential oils or water is vigorously massaged all over the body to remove the outer layer of dead skin and clean pores. A fresh rinse and body moisturizing follows.

The Scotch hose is the alternating use of hot and cold water sprays to massage a standing client. It is a relatively high-pressured hose, used at a certain distance, providing a very specific hydromassage of the body.

Multicellular marine-based algae that fall into one of three main groups: green algae (Chlorophycota spp.), brown algae (Phaeophycota spp.), and red algae (Rhodophyta spp.).

After a light massage with an essential oil, the body is painted with a seaweed mixture and then may or may not be wrapped in a plastic sheet. Usually no heat is applied, but of a specialized electric blanket that is programmed for targeted zones of the body may be used. The wrap is maintained for twenty minutes to enhance perspiration and detoxification. The client is then given a shower treatment and an application of marine lotion for maximum skin-tissue remineralization.

An ingredient added to some skin care products, and found naturally in seaweed, that binds water to skin and gives the product a silky feel

A bath of extremes, in which water (either as low as 46ºF or as high as 104ºF) will be briefly applied to the mid-portion of a client. Taken in the sitting position that covers only the hips and buttocks, this bath may be used for either healing or hygiene purposes, and the water may contain medication. Sitz baths are often used to relieve pain, itching, or muscle spasms. For example, the baths are often recommended to soothe pain and promote healing after hemorrhoid surgery or an episiotomy. (Adapted from www.nlm.nih.gov.)

A genus of mosses that grows only in wet acid areas where their remains are compacted over time (sometimes with other plants) to form peat. Peat is therapeutically useful for skin and musculoskeletal conditions.

These are highly therapeutic heated rooms (moist and dry, respectively) and are often utilized prior to a scrub, wrap, massage, or hydrotherapy treatment. Temperature in a sauna should not exceed 180ºF–190ºF and steam should not exceed 120ºF. Exposure should be limited and monitored.

The outermost layer of the epidermis of the skin that provides the skin with its barrier function.

A chemical element that is an important constituent of many proteins and is often found in thermal pools and in some therapeutic muds. Sulfur is believed to reduce oxidative stress on the body and is used to treat arthritis, sore muscles, skin diseases, and other conditions.

A Swiss shower is one in which fresh water is sprayed over the standing body from both overhead and side-positioned, needle-like jet valves at varying heights. A massaging and invigorating effect is created by varying the spray velocity and temperature, thus increasing circulation.

When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and those parts are mutually enhancing.


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Medicated massage oils that are made by cooking herbs into a fatty base such as sesame or coconut oil. These medicated oils are used in ayurvedic medicine and for external treatments like massage.

Thermal bath. From the Greek therme meaning heat, and thermai meaning of or related to hot springs.

Derived from the Greek word thalassa or “sea,” this is a hydrotherapy treatment incorporating nutrient-rich seawater and marine by-products with restorative properties.

Mud that comes from an area around hot springs. It can be applied at the site while still hot from the spring water, or it can be extracted and heated for later application elsewhere.

The therapeutic application of heat.


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An herbal paste used in ayurveda to support detoxification and smoothe the skin. It is applied externally to the body.

Sometimes referred to as "aging rays," these rays from the sun penetrate deeper into the skin than ultraviolet B rays and cause photosensitivity reactions.

Also known as "burning rays," these rays from the sun are the primary rays associated with skin damage and cancer from the sun.

Underwater massage is performed in specialized tubs filled with warm water. The client first relaxes by floating on a continuous stream of air bubbles arising from the bottom of the tub. There are underwater jets to massage the neck, shoulders, feet, calves, thighs, and hips, and to induce relaxation. The client is then massaged underwater with a high pressure hose attachment with optimal pressure used to work on specific problem areas. This form of hydrotherapy is a particularly good treatment for increasing circulation, relaxing sore muscles, and stimulating the heart and other organs in the elimination of toxins.

The policy of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on blood and body fluids, which are potentially infectious sources of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C viruses, and other bloodborne pathogens.


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An ayurvedic dosha that is a combination of the elements of space and air.

Needle-like showers of alternating cold and hot water are directed from overhead as the client reclines on a table. It is usually followed by a body scrub. European Vichy treatment consists of a very fine shower of lukewarm water over the body, along with a full-body massage done by the therapist in wet room attire. In the United States, the Vichy shower is mostly used to rinse off body scrub or wrap products and not generally used therapeutically.

In ayurvedic medicine, an individual's diet, environment, work stress, mental or emotional trauma, relationships, or physically injury may cause their prakriti (dosha constitution) to become unbalanced. The unbalanced state is referred to as a vikriti state.

An Austrian farmer who became famous for the cold water cure, which consisted of drinking large amounts of cold water, and applications of cold water by packing, immersions, and douches.

The rate at which a compound turns from a liquid to a gas at room temperature (i.e. when it evaporates).


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Used as an esthetic hair removal procedure, warm wax is applied to the skin. Once the wax is firm, it is pulled off. There is momentary pain on the surface of the skin as the wax is removed.

A treatment room that contains specialized hydrotherapy equipment, such as showers, that removes spa products from clients' bodies; may include hydrotheerapy tubs and scotch hoses.

Milium (sometimes called acne albida).