Men Pamper Their Inner He-Man at Spas

No one ever went broke overestimating consumers' appetite for being pampered — at least if the state of the spa industry is any indication.

Revenue for U.S. spa facilities in 2001, according to the International Spa Association, was $10.7 billion, more than double the $5 billion reached in 1999. Worldwide industry revenue grew by 114 percent during that time. But far more interesting than the growth itself is where much of it is coming from: guys.

Indeed, after decades of serving a mostly female clientele, the spa industry has seen an infusion of testosterone in recent years. Men now make up 29 percent of all spa goers, up from 24 percent last year, says the International Spa Association, which also found that male spa habitués are more likely to indulge themselves on a weekly basis.

"Since women have invaded men's gyms, men are now invading women's spas," says Deborah Evans, general manager of the Red Mountain Adventure Spa in St. George, Utah. Men comprised 10 percent of total guests when the resort opened five years ago; now it's 35 percent, and Evans says fully half of that figure is men traveling alone, indulging in private pampering time. And they're not just signing up for sports massages — they're doing it up with facials, manicures, shea butter rubdowns and seaweed body wraps.

Those figures are being replicated all over, as men increasingly get out of the sports bar and into the treatment room. Drawn by the opportunity, a few male-only spas are starting to open their doors.

In its first year of operation, the Nickel spa for men, a hip, modern, men-only spa in downtown Manhattan that opened in early 2002, saw revenue of $1 million; this year, owner Philippe Dumont expects that figure to more than double due to the popularity of the spa's services. These include five types of facials, three types of massages, manicures, pedicures and waxing — back, legs, arms, torso, eyebrows, even cheeks.

The Grooming Lounge, a Washington, D.C., men's spa, opened its doors in March 2002; co-owner Michael Gilman says business is up 60 percent this year, serving up manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and waxing treatments, all provided in a wood-paneled, clublike environment that Gilman says is designed to be a combination old-fashioned barber's shop and modern spa.

Gilman, a former public relations executive, knows the power of publicity: The Grooming Lounge was recently featured on K Street, the new, inside-the-beltway docudrama from Time Warner's HBO division.

Traditional, coed spas are getting in on the action, too: New York- and London-based Bliss has added several men's items to its menu of services, including the "Manlycure," a manicure "for the person who wants to be well groomed without being too obvious," says a Bliss spokeswoman. No polish is applied, but guys get a hot cream massage, paraffin treatment, cuticle treatment, nail shaping and nail buffing.

In its London spa, Bliss recently started hosting "Macho Sundays," men-only days that feature manly details like cold Coronas in the locker room. Other new additions to the menu include the "Homme Improvement" facial, a standard facial that includes an anti-ingrown-hair follicle calming mask; and, for a recent episode of General Electric's cable network Bravo's runaway hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Bliss created a new treatment, "Balderdashing," a buffing of the bare scalp — with choice of matte or shiny finish.

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