How many of us got a beauty treatment voucher as a Christmas present this year? Are you looking forward to a relaxing massage or already stressing about whether you'll put the paper pants on the right way?
We all know that spas and salons are supposed to be havens of calm but they can also pose an etiquette minefield.
Are you supposed to chat? Are you the hairiest/fattest/ spottiest person they've ever seen? What on earth are you supposed to say if you accidentally fall asleep?
In a bid to put us all at ease on the treatment table, we asked the experts.
* What's with the paper pants?
First off, don't feel daft about not knowing the back from the front. Carol-Anne Bolger, spa manager for The Buff Day Spa, Dublin (thebuffdayspa. com), explains: "With most standard knicker-style pants, there is no front or back." The G-string paper undies can be worn different ways, depending on the treatment.
"When waxing, the thicker side is worn to the back whereas for a spray tan it's usually to the front," advises Elaine Butler-Doolin, owner and therapist at Bespoke Beauty, Donnybrook (bespokebeauty.ie), Dublin.
Generally paper pants are there to protect your modesty, but you're totally welcome to keep your own undies on or, in the case of some waxes, forgo pants altogether.
"The funniest thing is walking into the room and finding the client is wearing the paper pants on their head saying 'you need bigger hairnets'," laughs Sinead Halpin of New Age Laser, Skin and Beauty Clinic, Lucan (newageclinic.ie), Dublin.
* Chit chat
Agh, the stress of trying to drum up enough small talk to sustain the duration of a full leg-and-bikini wax . . . but lying mute makes us feel strained and awkward -- what to do? According to the experts, silence is golden.
"We would never think a client was awful if they didn't want to talk!" says salon therapist Katie Elliot from Skin Medi Spa, Belfast (skinmedispa.co.uk). "Sometimes treatments are the only peace some clients get, so not wanting to talk is entirely understandable."
* Nodding off
Ever dozed off during a facial and woken up mortified? Don't panic, it's actually seen as a bit of a compliment.
"Rather than being terribly embarrassing, it's actually a lovely thing for a therapist to see," says Carol-Anne. "It shows us you're relaxed and at ease with us."
"I find it more rewarding," agrees Katie. "It lets me know I've done my job well."
Even snoring can be dealt with. "The 'mouth wide open, tongue curled to the side' is a frequent one with facials and can lead to snoring," says Sinead.
If you watched that bit in the film Bridesmaids, you know where they start talking about "perfectly bleached a**holes", and thought "woah, is this something everyone else is at and I should be doing??" then fear not. "I think it's something that has become popular in America, but it hasn't really become a popular treatment here yet," says Elaine. But Paula Cuddihy, director at Urbana Hair Removal Clinics in Dublin and Drogheda (urbana.ie), reckons we should brace ourselves: "If it's big in the United States, then it's only a matter of time before it hits our shores."
* Is it really prudish to want a female therapist?
"No, having a treatment should mean just that, you should look forward to it and come away feeling better than before," says Paula. "That means having the treatment carried out the way you want."
* What's a 'normal' amount of hair (down below)
"Most people who wear a thong or G-string will opt for a Brazilian (a tiny strip or a triangle) or a Hollywood (everything gone), while others stick with a bikini tidy or Californian (high bikini)," explains Elaine.
"But Brazilians and Hollywoods are the norm now and definitely on trend," says Paula.
"Plenty of people have their bums waxed too," adds Katie.
* Getting too relaxed
"It's to be expected with some treatments that as the body relaxes, it sometimes releases air!" laughs Elaine.
Carol-Anne says something most therapists a familiar with. "Personally, I think it is worse to ignore it so the best thing to do is just have a little giggle with your therapist and then move on."
You're totally skint but you've managed to top up the voucher to get an extra treatment -- is a tip expected?
"It's funny how tipping is almost compulsory in hair salons but not as much in beauty salons," says Elaine. "Tipping is entirely up to the individual."
Reassuringly, Paula reckons therapists appreciate that tipping is "a luxury not a necessity". "Skint or not, a client should never feel under pressure to tip," she says.
"Staff in salons are paid like any other job," she adds, and Carol-Anne agrees: "We'd rather you come in for a treatment and enjoyed it rather than be worrying about a tip."
* The fear of being weird
"People are way too self-critical," says Paula. "We've been doing hair removal for seven years and have seen our fair share of bodies, all different shapes and sizes. "On a daily basis we see hair on women's faces, men's unibrows, nipples, bums, bellybuttons, feet and fingers -- people think they are the only ones with it but rest assured, they're not."
"In my 23 years of experience, admitting to unwanted hair on the face, neck or chest is something that every woman who suffers from this feels embarrassed about," agrees Elaine.
Katie adds: "When we say we've seen it all before, we really mean it! But as professionals, we always keep it to ourselves."