Moisturiser and facials were once a woman’s domain – bar a handful of image-conscious dandies. Times change though, and today such products and services for men are big business, with the male grooming market estimated to be worth US$21.4 billion globally according to online statistics portal Statista. More than half of men (52 per cent) consider their appearance to be either important or very important, and 29 per cent touch up their looks throughout the day, according to Datamonitor Consumer’s Global Survey 2014.
“Men are putting higher stock into looking good. It’s about self-confidence as much as anything else, and the desire to feel more attractive, more successful and, increasingly, more youthful,” says Chris Bonnefoy, director of male grooming space Gentlemen’s Tonic (gentlemenstonic.com), which has seven locations globally including London and Delhi in addition to Hong Kong.
There has been a pivotal shift in male pampering culture during the last decade, he adds. “Men’s toiletries used to consist of shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream and not much else. But now many bathroom cabinets are full of moisturisers, facial cleansers, eye serums, bronzers, anti-agers and even mud masks – all designed specifically for men.”
Anti-ageing is one of the big trends within the market, and the salon is launching an Advanced Derma-Care line to meet this growing demand. “The men who started this wave in male grooming in the late 1990s are now reaching their 40s and 50s and are looking for topical, non-invasive ways to maintain their youth,” Bonnefoy says.
Beverley Cappleman, founder of hair and beauty salon The Strand (thestrandhk.com) – which has a floor dedicated to men’s grooming – agrees that male clients are becoming increasingly mindful of their appearance. “They are taking care of their bodies, face and hair regularly – it is not an afterthought but a routine. They are also very open to the various treatments that were formerly only thought of for women. In recent years, men have moved towards making time to enjoy treatments that achieve good results.”
Offering everything from traditional wet shaves to eyebrow tinting from its upscale location in Central, Gentlemen’s Tonic also operates the spa at The Pier First Class Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, where it will soon be introducing facials alongside existing massage services, says Bonnefoy.
The high levels of pollution and extreme humidity found in many parts of Asia can play havoc with skin. To combat this, clients come in for hydration, rejuvenation and detox facials, with 30-minute express treatments including Indian head massages and foot treatments also proving popular with time-pressed customers. “As constant travel leads to dry skin which is more prone to breakouts, congestion and blemishes, we recommend a bimonthly facial to cleanse, scrub and hydrate and a multivitamin or steam facial to remove the excess oils and toxins that many business travellers are exposed to during their journeys,” Bonnefoy adds.
More than half of visitors to Mira Spa (themirahotel.com, located in Tsim Sha Tsui) are men, and the spa offers a gent’s treatment line that utilises products from male skincare range The Refinery, including an “Ultimate Face and Body Treatment”. “The majority of our business traveller guests also take advantage of complimentary access to our heat experience zone, which includes a heated flotation lounge, sauna, steam bath and Jacuzzi to relax after a long flight or a busy day of events in the city,” says the hotel’s general manager Gerhard Aicher.
One of the most common problems Mira Spa encounters among male clients is facial skin irritation, says Aicher. “Men tend to prioritise aftershave and styling products and neglect to properly nourish and hydrate skin, or ensure proper protection from external factors. Women who wear make-up are shielded by an extra layer of foundation, plus creams and other skincare products. Many of our guests [also] come for a massage and facial on a weekly basis. Our ‘Muscle Melt’ massage, which combines warming essential oils with deep manipulation of muscles, works magic on the circulation.”
Tamara Hockly, senior beauty therapist at The Strand, says more and more men are looking for non-invasive anti-ageing facials such as its Caci microcurrent series for defining the jaw line and lifting the areas noticeable around the jowls and eyes. Hockly says that she sees a lot of tired eyes and stiff shoulders from long hours at a screen and dehydrated skin from too many flights. “Massage is a great way to avoid jet lag, ease the aches and pains of flying and aid sleep regulation. If the client has a busy schedule, a facial twice a month would be optimum but the most important thing is to make sure
you follow up with a good homecare routine and regular use of products to maintain the results of your facials.”
With décor inspired by 1930s Shanghai, The Mandarin Barber at Mandarin Oriental (mandarinoriental.com) in Central has the air of a private gentleman’s club and there’s a VIP room where guests can have a shave or haircut in private. One of its most popular treatments is the traditional wet shave (see box above). “Beard trims and shaves are becoming very much the norm for the male grooming regimen [as men begin to] understand that facial hair needs as much attention as normal hair,” says Mandarin Oriental director of spa Karen Aleksich.
Rushing a shave and using ineffective products can leave men with a less than clean-cut look, and to combat this, Aleksich suggests using shaving oil before and after to get the best results. “Being able to do a close shave at home, replicate [salon] hairstyles and maintain the skin’s condition are key to looking your best. Our specialists give advice so guests can look good every day, not just after they leave the barber or spa.”
Male manicures and facials are also growing in popularity, she says. “Facials are definitely becoming part of a regular spa regimen for our male guests, be that for general relaxation or anti-ageing treatments.” Dry cuticles and ragged nails are also becoming a thing of the past as manicures are worked into grooming routines. “Hands are like shoes – everyone notices them when they are not polished,” notes Aleksich.
Restoring hydration levels by doing a mini-detox at the Mandarin Spa also helps you to get on local time, says Aleksich. “Steam in our Chinese herbal steam room for ten minutes, drink a green smoothie, then book in for the 30-minute ‘Facial on the Run’ and 50-minute reflexology session. Foot reflexology is a must after flights as it reduces swelling and stimulates the body’s inner processes – besides being wonderfully relaxing.”
A close shave
For most men, the daily shaving routine is a rushed five-minute affair with a safety razor before heading to work, but enter the classy, art deco entrance of The Mandarin Barber in Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, and a vastly different experience awaits.
A woman takes your jacket, seats you in one of the plush, red leather armchairs and offers coffee or tea. Interesting books line the walls, but soon you’re shown past a coloured glass screen and seated in one of half a dozen traditional old barber chairs in black leather, attended by a uniformed master barber. Smooth vocal jazz plays in the background.
First, sideburns are cut to your preferred length, then you’re tipped back into prone position; a warm towel is placed over the eyes, then a hot towel over the area to be shaved, softening the bristles. Lemongrass scented Refinery pre-shave oil is massaged in, then classic shaving cream from Truefitt & Hill is worked into your stubble.
With cutthroat razor expertly held, the barber begins on the upper lip, using short, precise movements – there are no broad shaving strokes, he focuses carefully, sectioning the whole face off into areas to be worked on methodically. The jaw line is next, followed by each cheek then the neck. More oil goes on, fingers searching for errant bristles growing in different directions, then some final fine-tuning strokes and the blade disappears.
A pleasant aftershave balm (Refinery again) is applied, exuding an old-fashioned manly smell, then on goes a very hot towel and a finger massage erases any tension that might have occurred while the cutthroat razor was poised at your neck. A final dose of aftershave soothes away any prickly feeling, and the process comes to an end with a cold towel to wipe off excess oil. The whole process has taken exactly one hour – and turns a mundane chore into a highly pleasurable experience.
A wet shave with a master barber costs HK$420 (US$54). mandarinoriental.com