The Pampered Man

No need to be embarrassed -- now guys have their own salons for facials, manicures and waxing.

April 07, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

It had been a tiring week for Daryl Cochrane, a period filled with long, busy days at work and not much time for sleep.

So, when Saturday finally came around, he and good friend John Morrison decided to treat themselves to a few hours of quality relaxation.

Instead of ordering pizza, grabbing a six-pack and spending valuable couch time in front of the TV, Cochrane and Morrison headed to Nickel, a new men's spa in lower Manhattan. There, they passed the afternoon catching up on each other's lives over manicures, facials and glorious Swedish massages.

"Men are catching onto women's secrets -- we need to pamper ourselves, too," said Cochrane, 29, a community representative for U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler. "Before, it probably was seen as not masculine, but now it's just seen as taking care of yourself."

It used to be that women were the only ones buying beauty products and flocking to salons and spas for the myriad body treatments that aid the quest for youth.

Today, however, the new spa and grooming customer is of the hairier sex.

With American society placing greater importance on youthful looks, and lives becoming more stress-filled than ever before, men gradually have been discovering the pleasures and benefits of spa treatments and grooming products. Last year, 28 percent of all spa visitors were men, according to the International Spa Association. That's an increase from 23 percent just three years ago.

And companies and entrepreneurs are responding to this trend. In recent months, two spas just for men have opened in the country -- one in Manhattan and the other in Washington. The shelves of stores like Sephora and CVS also are featuring more beauty products targeted at men, from the high-end Anthony Logistics to brands like Neutrogena and Nivea, which both recently launched men's skincare lines.

Pushed by women, at first

"Traditionally, we haven't thought of men as being concerned about their looks, especially being concerned about aging because it's just not a cultural issue for men," said Kristin Perrotta, beauty director for Allure magazine, which began covering men's grooming products last year after spotting the growing interest.

"But we have evolved into a society that places an extraordinary amount of emphasis on looks," she added. "There have been many studies published that indicate that success in your job sometimes, unfortunately, is due to what you look like and the appearance of youth. Particularly for men who work in competitive fields, there is now this need to look young to remain competitive and viable."

Spa and beauty industry observers say they first began noticing the trend a few years ago, when a trickle of men first began showing up at salons for treatments. Often, the initial impetus came from their significant others.

"Women have long understood that their looks can be improved through beauty products, but a lot of men are oblivious to the fact that their skin is covered by an oil slick," Perrotta said. "It's difficult for a lot of women to lie next to the love of their life, look over and see blackheads on his nose and not say, 'Hey, you could use this cleanser and the problem would be gone.' "

Pop culture also has nudged the trend along. Philippe Dumont, founder of Nickel, said he opened his first spa in Paris six years ago because "there was no place I could have a facial without being embarrassed."

When his first store opened in 1996, men seeking facials still were rare, but that gradually changed as some of the France's celebrities, including high profile soccer players, began publicly paying more attention to their looks. In the U.S., Dumont attributes the recent increased interest to the media. He decided to open his first U.S. store in fall after noticing that men in New York seemed more attuned to taking care of their bodies.

"There were more magazines about men and more exposure on men's bodies and people started thinking that men can be beautiful as well," said Dumont, who used to be a cosmetics consultant to Chanel and Christian Dior. "You see so many men going to the gym and taking care of their bodies and [spas] are part of feeling good with your body and feeling good with yourself.

"A facial should be a normal part of life if you live in New York," added Dumont, whose Nickel skincare line has been popular for years among both men and women. "Who doesn't need a facial in New York?"

Making spas more welcoming

In some cases, men already were interested in facials, cleansers and moisturizers, but they just were shy about venturing into traditional female territory.

"My really masculine, football-loving, beer-drinking friends would always come up to me and go, 'Can you buy some moisturizer for me?' " said Michael Gilman, co-founder of The Grooming Lounge, which opened last month in Washington. "I would say, 'Well, why can't you buy it yourself?' and they would be like, 'There's an attractive woman behind the counter. I feel stupid going up to her and asking for moisturizer.' "

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