The Spa-Going Male

This article first appeared in the December, 2006, Outpost Exchange Magazine. Reprinted with permission of the Exchange and the author.

If a trip to the spa doesn't seem like the typical male destination, think again. Men account for the fastest-growing segment of the spa-going population and it's a trend that shows no sign of slowing. Not only are men visiting spas and high-end salons, they're increasing the demand for more services and skincare products that were once solely part of the woman's realm. Industry is responding, catering to the modern, post-metrosexual male.

If you build it ...

Many spas and salons now offer special services catering to male clientele. Though men have been patronizing these businesses since they opened, it has only been in the past few years that men have been specifically targeted. Certainly men have always gone for haircuts, but the difference today is the variety of additional services offered just for men. "Men are asking for more," Jean Kolb, director of wellness business and product development at Kohler Waters Spa in Wisconsin notes.

Alissa Hubertz, salon director of Azana Salon and Spa, comments that a few years ago salons realized men are a large part of the industry, so they set out to make them feel comfortable in the salon environment.

"If you're going to be successful in the salon industry," Michael Haessly, director of marketing ant Neroli Spa and Salon says, "you need services with men in mind."

No longer just stopping by for a haircut or shave, men are now stepping into salons and spas for massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures. What has caused this trend? It's related, in part, to how these services are offered. While it's acceptable, at times almost expected, for women to spend time at a spa, men are just beginning to overcome taboos that have prevented them from going as well. To make the experience more inviting for men, spas are getting creative. The August issue of American Spa Magazine cited the 316 Club Barber Spa in Chicago as one example. Here men are welcomed into a "guy's club" atmosphere, complete with leather chairs, a pool table, and sports playing on flat-screen TVs, with a liquor license in the works.

What's in a name?

Spas are also getting creative with services offered. The Kohler Waters Spa which sees a significantly large amount of men due to its golf courses at Destination Kohler, offers selections like Golfer's Foot Renewal, the Golfer's Massage, and the Executive Head Trip. Other themed spa offerings include a Draft Beer and Pedicure package at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in Miami and a package at the Spa Bellagio in Las Vegas that includes a private boxing lesson with a former professional boxer, followed by a massage, manicure, pedicure and shave. According to Kolb, both the name and the description of the service must appeal to men. Buzzwords emphasize re-energizing over pampering or luxuriousness, focusing on the treatment's benefits. "He wants to know what it does," Kolb says.

As men slowly but steadily explore the spa experience, only one difficulty for spa owners remains: getting men through their doors. While many men are increasingly taking an interest in spas as a way to maintain healthy skin and a professional appearance, some men might still harbor visions of fluffy white robes and scented candles.

Behind every good man ...

While many men first explore a spa through a business colleague's referral, others are introduced to the experience by the women in their lives. Many men go for treatments with their significant others during the holidays, such as Christmas or Valentine's Day, while others use gift certificates from their mates. Whatever the source, once they actually experience a massage of facial, or see the benefits their female partners receive, they see what the fuss is all about -- and they come back.

"The initial thing is to get them through the door, to actually have a massage or pedicure," Hubertz explains, "Then they come back and they love it." The salon or spa owner's goal, according to Hubertz, is to convey to men that "we're going to make this about you, and if you need to feel masculine, that's what we'll do."

Many men first patronize spas for massages and soon grow curious about what else the spa has to offer. Beyond haircuts and massages the most popular treatments are facials, manicures and pedicures. Being only the beginning of this trend, industry experts predict that many more adventurous treatments will be added to the spa menu for men, such as microdermabrasion and other forms of nail care.

Manly cosmetics?

Men also have more numerous options in the grooming department. Skincare companies like Menaji offer moisturizers, exfoliators, masques, facial bronzing gel, antishine powder, and concealer just for men made from natural and organic ingredients. The Web site boasts an impressive list of celebrities who have used the products, including Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Kid Rock.

Aubrey Organics also recently launched a line for men featuring everything from eye cream and deodorant to hair-thickening shampoos to aftershave.

Aveda features a line of products for men, including a body shampoo bar and shaving products.

Joe Grooming is another company offering thickening shampoos and styling products for men, also made or organic and natural ingredients.

VitaMan, based in Australia, shuns artificial colors, fragrances, and synthetic chemicals in favor of plant, fruit, and herb extracts native to Australia to offer products like Desert Muscle Rub, Foot Recovery Gel, and a variety of shampoos and skincare products.

All of these companies carefully market their products, offering manly scents like Aubrey Organics' "north woods," "spice island," and "city rhythms;" or by focusing on their benefits in such a way to appeal to men ("Knock out that oily look!" "Reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores. Turbo charged!").

With today's overall pursuit of a youthful, healthy appearance, both men and women alike are searching for ways to achieve this look. Some seek it in a bottle, others in a spa experience. As today's busy lifestyles only get busier, many people are looking for a way to de-stress and feel good about themselves and how they look. And that's something everyone, both men and women, can understand.

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