To select the right spa gift, you may need some tutoring in spa-speak:
In a basic one-hour facial ($50 to $100), the face is cleansed, exfoliated (stripped of dead skin cells), steamed, toned, and moisturized. Add-ons include collagen, meant to firm the skin, or vitamin C to help diminish scars and fine lines. Other types add oxygen or a combination of vitamins.
Most common is the relaxing Swedish type, in which a masseuse works your muscles with oils and lotions. For those who prefer to stay clothed, there's shiatsu to unblock energy points in the body. A more aggressive sports massage might be a better bet for a sore athlete. Exotic varieties include watsu, done in a pool, or reflexology, where a therapist applies pressure to the soles of the feet. If you want to relax, skip this; it can hurt.
Here, the whole body gets wrapped or immersed in a beneficial substance. Seaweed paste can provide a pick-me-up; mud draws out impurities; green tea is meant to be calming, while eucalyptus is said to energize.
If choosing services sounds daunting, buy a gift certificate for a dollar amount and let the recipient do the picking. You can also go to spafinder.com, which offers certificates accepted by 700 spas.
By Anne Field