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What is the Difference Between a Salon and Spa?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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The terms salon and spa are frequently used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two distinct types of businesses. Though some of the services offered at salons and spas may overlap, each offers a unique experience. The primary difference between a salon and spa is that a visit to a spa tends to be an all-day experience, whereas one might visit a salon simply for a single service, such as a haircut.

The differences begin when arriving at a salon or a spa. A salon is typically much smaller than a spa, and while it may have a few private treatment rooms, most of the services take place out in the open, in the main room. A spa will typically be a much larger facility with a number of private treatment rooms. In addition, a spa will likely have areas for water therapy, including a whirlpool tub, showers, and possibly a pool, as well as a sauna. Visitors to a salon will generally remain in their street clothes, while clients at a spa will often switch into robes.

Some of the services that may be offered at both a salon and spa include haircuts and other hair styling, facial treatments, waxing, manicures, and pedicures. Some salons might also offer spa treatments, such as a massage. A spa, on the other hand, will frequently offer all of these, and many more treatments.

These may include full-body wraps, a number of different skincare treatments for the face and body, and different types of massages. A spa may offer products from multiple skincare lines, to allow the customer to choose. Typically, the services found at a spa are much more varied than those found at a salon, and the visitors to a spa tend to purchase multiple services during a single visit.

A trip to the spa is meant to be a relaxing experience that lasts all day, or at least for a few hours, so many spas offer refreshments such as appetizers, beverages, or even a light lunch. The food found at a spa is typically very healthy. A spa may also offer alcoholic beverages such as champagne or wine.

Another difference between a salon and spa is price. Even if the services offered at each location of a salon and spa are exactly the same, a spa will generally be much pricier than a salon. However, some spas offer visitors the option to stay for a few days, and guests can sometimes then purchase spa packages, which will allow them to receive a number of services for one price. Keep in mind that when a spa is referred to as a day spa, it is only open during the day; spas that accommodate overnight guests function more like resorts.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Mar 21, 2014

For me, a salon is more for everyday needs and for basic relaxation. A spa is more like therapy or treatment.

My salon gives manicures, pedicures, does waxing and facials and even hand massages. These are basic needs for women and men and need to be done on a regular basis. So people go to salons frequently and try to leave quickly. But spas are a different experience. Most of us don't go to spas very often and when we go, we want to stay for a long time and we want the experience to be therapeutic.

I go for a deep massage at a spa about every six months. It's like a treat for me, I think of it as therapy.

By fify — On Mar 20, 2014

In the beginning, I think that salons and spas used to offer different services. But because customers demand more and more services from each business, the services are starting to overlap. Eventually, I think that spas and salons are going to look more and more like one another. I won't be surprised if we start seeing "spa-salons" where every type of service is offered.

By serenesurface — On Mar 20, 2014

@Glasis-- I completely agree with you. Similarly, if I just want a manicure or a pedicure, I will go to a salon and not a spa. As you mentioned, and as the article mentioned, some salons and spas offer the same services, but most people prefer one or the other depending on the kind of service they want.

For example, if I want a massage, as well as a manicure, I will go to a spa so that I can have them both done at the same place. But if I just want a manicure, I'm not going to go to a spa because the specialty of spas are different and the manicure might cost more.

By Glasis — On Mar 19, 2014

Most people know when they book time at a spa that they are not going to get a hair cut, wax, tan or a manicure, etc., like they would in a salon.

Although higher end salons do try to pamper their customers as much as possible and may offer specialized facials and massages, like spas do, a spa is expected to be a luxury indulgence, where a trip to a salon is considered a necessity to keep up with everyday beauty needs.

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