Men Pamper Their Inner He-Man at Spas

Even the stately Four Seasons Hotel chain has jumped on board. New treatments include the "Man O Cure" and the "Gentleman's Barber Facial," to debut at the chain's Jackson Hole, Wyo., location when it opens in December, as well as the "Soothing Executive Men's Facial" in Los Angeles. Then there's the "Handsome Man" offering at the chain's Punta Mita, Mexico, location: a $230, 150-minute rubdown that includes a papaya salt scrub, a full-body massage using tequila and sage oil, and a cleansing facial intended to neutralize the effects of sun, stress and sports.

Industry watchers say the trend is simply a result of men paying more attention to their appearance, something Nickel's Dumont attributes to the surge in men's magazines featuring toned abs and groomed bodies on the cover.

"There was this huge boom of the male body being exposed in magazines, and suddenly there was a need to take care of your skin and body, and there was no place to go to be comfortable," says Dumont. "If you went and asked to get your back waxed, the woman at the counter would think you were some kind of pervert."

Others say it's an extension of the advertising industry's recent discovery of the "metrosexual," the hip, urban male who likes women but also likes flat-front pants and expensive facial products.

Spa owners point out, though, that men are not content with standard spa services originally designed with women in mind. Most spas offering services for men have had to take special steps to make men feel comfortable.

At Nickel, for example, men can cancel at any point up to the service; they don't have to give a credit card to hold the appointment; and if they arrive 10 minutes late, they can still be treated.

"Men are not organized," says owner Dumont. "They hate making bookings two weeks ahead of time, and they are always late. They like that we don't put pressure on them."

Treatments at Nickel, therefore, are limited in number and are described in language that's simple and easy to understand: There are two types of massages and three kinds of facials. "Sometimes there are 20 pages of services," says Dumont. "If you're a guy and it's your first facial, you're lost."

At the Grooming Lounge, there are men's magazines in the waiting lounge, along with televisions running CNN and ESPN. "It gives guys less of a complex," says Gilman. Language, too, is critical. Manicures are called "business manicures," pedicures are "foot treatments," and the word "salon" is never, ever used.

By most accounts, the trend shows no sign of slowing. Bliss in New York had booked 60 appointments for the "Homme Improvement" facial within a week of introducing the service. Dumont is opening a Nickel in San Francisco by the end of the year, the next of what he sees as five eventual U.S. locations. Gilman of the Grooming Lounge is working on a mail-order catalog of men's grooming products that will go out next month.

Meanwhile, guys like Andy Slater, a New York-based national sales manager for a radio station group who gets a facial every ten weeks, are continuing to fuel the growth in the spa market.

"I think it's OK for a guy to be a little pampered," says Slater, who frequents the Fodera salon at New York's St. Regis hotel, a Starwood Hotels property. Sometimes Slater springs for a manicure too. "I'm in sales — people see my hands," he explains.

Would he also consider Botox? "Please," Slater says. "I'm not that vain."

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