Putting a new face on beauty
THE word from the world of the beauty parlour is that women shouldn't worry if the men in their lives start showing interest in their face creams and asking questions about depilation.
It's normal. So normal that it won't be long before Johannesburg and Cape Town have their own crops of the men-only beauty salons which are popping up all over major international capitals.
"The age-old stigma about beauty treatments being restricted to women is slowly but surely disappearing," says Melanie Garthwaite, owner of one of the most inviting little places in Cape Town, the Chelsea Health & Beauty Clinic in the "Little Chelsea" of Wolfe Street, Wynberg. "More and more men are streaming into what were previously the domains of women for facials, massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, eyelash tints and ear, neck and back waxes."
Hélène Bramwell, doyenne of Johannesburg beauticians, confirms her Mask Skin & Body Clinic in Parkview is no longer the preserve of women. She is considering either opening a salon exclusively for men or dividing her area to provide "separate spaces for female and male clients". She believes more men would visit beauticians if the image and territory were more male.
In London, where hotels such as The Berkeley and The Dorchester have set up separate facilities, the men-only salon in department store Dickins & Jones nestles discreetly among the men's suits and overcoats, far from the frivolity of women's fashions. Tatler magazine reports one of the most popular treatments is waxing.
"There are few places a man can safely go without feeling a like a wuss," says the man at the helm of this salon. "The average guy with hair on his shoulders hates walking into a ladies' salon. We give him a safe place."
Garthwaite says the number of men she and her assistants attend to has tripled in eight years. "They are my most devoted clients; they're punctual and quick to take advice - even on the girlfriend front. Most fall asleep during the treatment, with the occasional grunt, while others purr like tomcats who've never been stroked."
Garthwaite says the best way to introduce skin care to men - especially those who find it difficult to set aside stereotypes - is to position the treatment around their everyday shaving routines.
"Wives book treatments for their husbands, especially those who are high-profile businessmen who travel regularly and have to maintain expertly groomed appearances."
Pick 'n Pay vice-chairman Rene de Wet and Investec Bank chairman Hugh Herman, who is based in Cape Town but spends most of the week in Johannesburg, are among such clients.
Bramwell recalls that one of her male customers, a stockbroker, once brought a client to her salon for a facial and massage instead of lunch. "They couldn't have got a better short-term stress fix at about the same price as a boozy lunch for two."
After all, pleasure has always seemed to be the overriding factor in visiting a beauty parlour, as anyone who has spent time being cleansed, buffed, moisturised and massaged will agree.
Bramwell says the Mask has also witnessed a boom in back and other waxes for men. "Bodybuilders like the smooth look and cyclists believe too much hair on their legs slows them down."
But it is clear, especially in conversation with Allie Coetzee, manager of the splendid health and beauty pavilion at the Garden Route's Fancourt Estate, that SA men would still rather sit in the bar than be pampered by a facial. "While European male clients flock to us for massages, manicures, pedicures and even facials, we see only the odd South African and it's practically always for a massage."
So don't worry, girls. If your man is already sneaking the odd dollop of anti-wrinkle cream after a day on the golf course, he's still a long way off prancing around the bedroom with his face in a mask, gently massaging his cuticles with rose oil. ý Linda Stafford is a senior editor of the Financial Mail