It’s almost 30 years since I first read about Canyon Ranch, at the time a recently opened “wellness spa” located in Arizona. At the time, the blend of fitness classes, healthful diet, and beauty treatments in a resort setting was unusual in North America.

However, spas are centuries old; people have flocked to towns like Spa in Belgium to “take the waters” since the Middle Ages. Originally referred to as a “water-cure”, the spring water at Spa is high in chalybeate, which was used to treat iron deficiency. Bathing in mineral-infused waters is also an ancient practice – the father of medicine himself, Hippocrates, recommended bathing in spring water to treat sickness. Natural hot springs have been particularly popular for this purpose. Famous spa towns include Bath in England, Baden-Baden in Germany, Teplice in the Czech Republic, Tequisquiapn in Mexico, Berkeley Springs in West Virginia, Acqui Terme in Italy and Daylesford in Australia.

Resort and destination spas in the United States and Canada tend to be very expensive, costing thousands of dollars for stays ranging from three days to three weeks. But the amenities and programs are fabulous and wide-ranging; fitness classes of all types, seminars, gourmet meals (low-calorie for those who wish), medical assessments, personal nutritional counseling, cooking classes and beauty treatments.

Most of us can only dream about enjoying the spa-resort experience. But thousands of day-spas have popped up all over the world to give the average person a chance at a day of relaxation and pampering at a more affordable price. For a couple of hundred dollars, one can spend a day having treatments such as facials, massages, body wraps, manicures and pedicures, usually accompanied by lunch.

Some of these can be quite luxurious, such as the Chocolate Escape Package at The Spa at the Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania. Over the course of three and a half hours, you will enjoy a Whipped Cocoa Bath, Chocolate Sugar Body Scrub, Chocolate Fondue Wrap and Cocoa Massage. A full-day package offers a facial, massage, manicure, pedicure and scalp treatment along with lunch.

Taking a beauty break doesn’t have to involve a huge outlay of cash. It can be as simple as finding a few hours alone to put on a treatment masque and giving yourself a manicure and pedicure.

Vacations are ideal times to refresh and revitalize. At the beginning of June, I was home for a week recovering from minor surgery. Each day, I gave myself a different treatment. Day one, I started with a home microdermabrasion kit (I used a now-discontinued product from NeoStrata, a Canadian company). Day two, I used the Avon Anew Home Peel Kit, following it with an avocado and clay masque from Göt2Be on day three. I then repeated the process twice before I went back to work, with clear, glowing skin.

If you don't want to go it alone, have a girls’ night or weekend with some of your friends, trading treatments. Bring your favorite products to share, order in your favorite takeout, and take along your makeup to share make-over tips. If you are worried about cross-contamination, disposable applicators are available at drugstores or beauty supply stores.
Even a short, inexpensive beauty break can leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed – and what’s more beautiful than that?