I'm no expert but I have been lucky enough to visit my fair share of spas in recent years. There's always been a common theme. The locations are glamorous (mostly five-star hotels), the decor is super modern and glossy (there's always a lot of marble) and the price lists, especially in London, are often extraordinary.
My latest experience, however, was a welcome change. I recently went to Being Content, a beauty and wellbeing store, in Marylebone. As well as stocking the best range of organic skincare I have ever come across, the shop is also home to a beauty salon. It's not exactly a spa, but Being Content offers beauty treatments from facials to manicures plus complementary therapy and nutrition advice.
I was there to try the Bodywork Massage - a full body treatment using flower essences and aromatherapy oils. After waiting for my therapist upstairs in the shop - the variety of beauty products is really quite distracting - I was taken down a windy staircase into one of tiniest treatment rooms I've ever been in.
Anyone who has a habit of judging places on appearance would probably start doing so here. They would also be proven completely wrong. Yes, this treatment room looked basic and yes, I could hear the footsteps of clients in the salon upstairs but that didn't matter. In fact, it didn't impact on my massage in the slightest.
My therapist was one of the most attentive I've met. She asked me how I was feeling and which of the three essential oils would suit my mood best (inspired action, inner peace or pure energy) and asked me to drink half a cup of water with a few drops of my chosen oil in it.
For the next hour, I experienced the best body massage I've ever had - without any annoying panpipe music or fussing from the therapist.
The bed wasn't heated - I was tucked up under a quilted blanket for warmth instead and the therapist used only one product, the inner peace oil, throughout the treatment. In comparison to one massage I've had where showers were switched on to imitate a "rainfall", this was totally stripped back and straight-forward. It was surprisingly refreshing.
In spas you're offered endless cups of herbal tea and sometimes even cake as you wind down in the designated relaxation rooms. Yes, it's all part of the experience but my visit to Being Content was a reminder of the most important thing about beauty treatments - how they make you feel. It's a simple requirement but it's at the heart of what Being Content do.
I'm all for a bit of indulgence every now and again but perhaps it's time spas and their treatments went back to basics. Sometimes a brilliant massage and a few essential oils are the only things you need to feel totally relaxed.