At this point, most of us have experienced a massage or two – on a cruise or as part of a spa visit – but sometimes it can be a little intimidating deciding what style of treatment to choose, what to wear and what to take off in the room.

These days it is accepted that you completely disrobe and get under the blankets naked, but wear underwear if it makes you feel more at ease. It is all about the relaxation and you need to be comfortable. Always wear loose clothing to the massage. Wriggling in and out of tight clothes spoils the whole ambiance of the treatment.

Let’s do a quick recap of the most popular massages:

Swedish Massage – this is the most common type of massage. It is a good starting point for newcomers and a great stand-by for overall tension release. Long strokes knead the muscles and increase the blood circulation.

Deep Tissue Massage – is a Swedish massage with a lot more pressure.  This intensity can result in a couple of days of soreness following treatment but is really good for athletes because it gets rid of lactic acid build-up in the muscles.

Sports Massage – involves more stretching and rocking and tends to be performed at a more vigorous pace. It is also a great massage to get when treating an injury.

Thai Massage – often referred to as ‘yoga for the lazy’ and performed on the floor, this massage mixes acupressure, shiatsu with stretching and yogi asanas. It provides pain relief and increases flexibility. Great for serious golfers! Wearing baggy clothing for this treatment is a must. (You keep your clothes on).

Reflexology – the principle behind reflexology is that every organ has a corresonding point on the bottom or top of the feet, ankles and hands. The technician will thumb press these points to release stress, pain and tension in the body. The technique can also be used on the ears. At SkinSense we have used reflexology very sucessfully to bring relief to late stage pregnancies.

Prenatal – and talking of pregnancy, expectant mothers experience unique physical and emotional changes. Prenatal massage is specially designed to reduce swelling, soothe neck and back aches, improve muscle strength and relieve fatigue. First time mothers are advised to avoid massage during the first trimester but after that, massage is very helpful.

Hot Stone – for deeper relaxation, heated stones are placed on the body, between the toes and on the chakra points to melt away tension and allow deeper penetration of the muscles during treatment. This is a wonderful gift to give someone you care about.

Obviously all these protocols have something in common and sometimes use similar techniques. All will lift your spirits, refresh the mind and re-energise the body. Never be afraid to tell your therapists where your body hurts or where you feel the most tension and let them know if the pressure suits you as the treatment progresses. For best results, it is a good idea to mix massage types. Get treatments every two to three weeks, or weekly when treating an injury and always drink plenty of water following every massage.

In Southern California, because of our year-round sunny climate, we don’t have the option of hiding our legs and arms under extra clothing and letting our body hair grow out in the Winter months. So regular waxing treatments are imperative. It is therefore essential to find expert technicians who can deliver optimum results with a minimal amount of pain.

Depilatory waxing is an age-old method of removing unwanted hair. At SkinSense we use a soft, warm resin wax for the larger areas of the body and a green, hard wax for Brazilian and some facial waxing. Both waxes are comfortable, hygienic, efficient and suitable for sensitive skins. Because hair grows in three stages, waxing has to be done more regularly for the first few visits to regulate and to some extent, weaken, the growth pattern. Here are a few important waxing tips that will make your waxing experience with us more enjoyable.

Avoid sun exposure, hot showers/baths immediately before and after treatment.

Always exercise before getting waxed.

Leave waxed areas free of perfume and fragranced body wash/soap 24 hours after treatment.

Avoid intake of caffeine and alcohol before treatment. If you have a low pain threshold, a mild painkiller without aspirin is recommended 30 minutes before treatment.

Avoid waxing just before menstrual cycle. Waxing can be more painful at this time. Many clients wax during their cycle depending on their comfort level and pain tolerance. We as technicians don’t mind either way.

Clients who are severely hypoglycemic or diabetic should not wax. Any clients using Retin-A, Tazarac, Accutane or any other Tretinoin-type topicals should also avoid waxing. Always inform your technician of all the topicals you are currently using before waxing the skin and any prescribed oral medications that you might be taking.

When switching from shaving, allow the hair to grow 2-3 weeks before your first wax. This allows for the right amount of growth for a successful result. Have your technician advise you about aftercare protocols and at-home products to avoid ingrown hairs, especially in the bikini area.

One final word about BROW WAXING. Having well shaped and tidy brows can make all the difference to your facial appearance. This applies to both men and women. Once the initial shape is in place, monthly maintenance is all that is needed for that completely groomed look.

I can hear all of you going “Eeeeww!” But there is an important message attached to this story, and I hope you will learn from my mistakes.

Two years ago, I noticed that the nail on my left big toe seemed flaky. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s a frequent indicator of a fungal infection. Now, not only had I just read an article about laser treatments for toe fungus, but two of my clients had recently had sessions with their podiatrists to get rid of fungus on several nails. So, off I went to the doctor’s office to see, first of all, if I did actually have a fungus on or under my nail and, if so, whether the laser treatment might work for me.

After looking at my feet and particularly my left big toe, my podiatrist said “yes” to my questions: In her professional opinion, I did have a fungus, one she felt would respond well to the laser treatment because it wasn’t a bad case. She said I would see results with just one session.

So I returned to her office the following week and had my first laser treatment. The technician – a registered nurse – gave me goggles to protect my eyes, then systematically covered each toe with the laser beam in a linear pattern. (Every toe has to be treated, regardless of how many are affected with fungus.) It got a little uncomfortable when the laser beam reached the nail quick, but apart from that the treatment was painless.

I then went home and threw out my socks, bath mat and slippers. I bleached the tub and changed out the towels. I also purchased a pair of electric shoe inserts that sterilize the inside of each shoe, particularly the toe box. I even bought a few pairs of new shoes—any excuse!!

Then…I waited. I wore no polish for a year, applied an antifungal treatment daily and had regular pedicures to keep the nails short.

One year later, I was back in the podiatrist’s office. We both came to the same conclusion: the results had been minimal. My toenail was still flaky on one side, indicating the fungus had not cleared. The podiatrist explained that there are different kinds of fungus and some are very hard to treat. So I received a second laser treatment. I also ordered another topical treatment from a compounding pharmacy. By this time I had spent about $2,000.

Far from helping, it seemed the additional treatment only made things worse. The flakiness spread over the whole nail, which then began to lift. As you can imagine, I was very frustrated! And so, during a visit to my dermatologist a month later, I asked him if he treated toe fungus. He told me it was a large part of his business. He looked at my toes and said he would…take a culture! It was an ah-ha moment.

Two weeks later, I received the results. All the tests came back clear; I did not have fungus at all. I had simply damaged my nail – so easy to do during exercise and when wearing  glamorous shoes – and the only “treatment” needed was to cut the toenail short and leave it alone to recover. I could even wear toe polish if I chose.

So what are the lessons? First, if you suspect you have a toe fungus, a culture should be taken on your first visit to the podiatrist’s or dermatologist’s office. In a couple of weeks, either you and your doctor will know what type of fungus you are up against, or the test will have ruled out a fungal infection, so you can begin looking for other causes and treatments. Had this been done, I’d have been able to save a great deal of time and money.

Second, just because you’ve read about a treatment you think is the answer for your problem, don’t ask for it first thing. It’s possible that, had I not gone to my podiatrist with my mind “settled” on a laser treatment, she would have explored other, less costly treatments first. And perhaps, seeing that those treatments weren’t working (on the fungal infection I didn’t have), we’d have come to the right conclusion.

And third… never be afraid to seek a second opinion!