Do you enjoy a good massage or does the whole thing rub you up the wrong way?
For Valentine’s Day, Mrs Man Scape and I were really pleased to be invited for a romantic His ’n’ Hers massage.
Isn’t the whole experience – the scented oils and oh-so-quiet voices, the tinkly-dinkly music, the drapes and pillows – all a bit anti-man.
The massage at Melbourne's East Day Spa was really nice and in a funny kind of way romantic too, but there was one small incident that got me thinking.
Before our transit from the relaxing foot rub’n’scrub to the sanctuary of the double massage-bedded treatment room I was presented with a pair of ‘one-size-fits-all’ sandals. Well, believe me, one size does not fit all. I’ve got large feet sure, but not freakishly big in a Coco the Clown way. And these sandals barely covered my toes!
Going barefoot was the obvious solution so we got on with things (for what we thought of the experience, see Mrs Manscape's beauty beat blog) but the skimpy sandals got me thinking. If their footwear didn't fit me - did I really fit there?
I’ve been to a few spas in my time and there’s always a niggling thought at the back of my head. Are these the sort of places I should be visiting?
Do spas really cater for men as well as they do for women? Isn’t the whole experience – the scented oils and oh-so-quiet voices, the tinkly-dinkly music, the drapes and pillows – all a bit anti-man.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good massage, and I enjoy the whole spa experience, but I sometimes think I’m a bit of a fish out of water. I’m sure I’m not alone and I’m also sure that spas would be wanting to get more men through their doors. So what are they doing about it? I asked around and it seems they’re all trying their hardest to get their hands on more males.
Do men feel comfortable in spa surrounds?
DR ALICIA TESKA from Skin Temple in Melbourne: There is no pink in our spa at all. The interior design and colour palette of our spa was designed specifically to not alienate one sex from the other.
INA BAJAJ of East Day Spa: We deliberately made the decor gender-neutral so it appeals to both sexes. It’s not a ‘girly’ spa, it’s got an eastern ambience designed to appeal equally to men and women
KRISTY HINES, from the Aveda Mineral Day Spa in Sydney: The neutral surrounds of our spa ensures that men feel comfortable to come in and have a treatment. For some, the initial visit can be a little out of their comfort zone, however they always feel completely comfortable by the time they leave.
What treatments do men favour? Body scrubs? Massage?
TESKA: In the spa, the hammam and massages are popular. In the clinic, we have a lot of male clients having treatments for acne, tattoo removal, ingrown/unwanted hair and facial capillaries.
HINES: Facials, massages and hand and feet treatments are the most popular services for men. The male clients who frequent the spa more often tend to book in for other body treatments as well such as masques and scrubs.
BAJAJ: To cater for the growing demand for men’s spa treatments and therapies, we devised a spa menu especially for men that offers waxing, eyebrow threading, manicures, pedicures and facials. Massages are consistently popular for their rejuvenating benefits – but men are increasingly seeking appearance-enhancing treatments such as facials, manicures, eyebrow threading and body hair removal.
What sort of men do you get?
HINES: Our male clientele is such a broad spectrum: professionals, tradesmen, dancers, actors and wealthy retirees. Half of our male clients are regulars with appointments in facial and massage treatments, the other half come for special occasion occasions. Spa treatments are becoming increasingly popular as gifts, such as for Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and birthdays.
BAJAJ: Our male clients are very interested in treatments that relax them and make them feel better and treatments that make them look better. We see a lot of professionals and executives who know that being well-groomed is essential in the corporate environment. We also see a lot of sportsmen and tradesmen who come in for relaxing massages after a long training session or day on the job. One of our best customers is a construction worker who works on a building site; he visits several times a week.
TESKA: We have had all kinds of men here: politicians, barristers, businessmen, real estate agents, tradesmen, actors and students. Metrosexual men who are interested in grooming and relaxation love it! Sometimes they are brought in by their spouse or given gift vouchers for a special occasion. Sometimes their mothers will send them in, sometimes it’s their secretary or personal assistant. Often they are nervous about the initial experience if they haven’t done this kind of thing before, but the feedback at the end of the treatment is that the procedure was well worthwhile, and why not?
So spas are perhaps tapping into an unrealised market and, with more man-themed treatments and non-girly surrounds, making an effort to keep them. As Bajaj told me, “Men are very precise and loyal. They find a treatment they like and they return for it time and time again. They never opt for the mini-treatments, they prefer the 60- or 90-minute sessions. If they’re going to make the effort to come to the spa, they make the most of their time here.”
There’s a cultural dimension here too, according to Bajaj. European men are the most adventurous – they’re prepared to give new treatments a go. Australians love massages but they’re not as willing to experiment. But, as Bajaj admits, that’s something they’re working on – like most spas, it seems, they are actively trying to get more men to come in for an hour or two. And it’s probably no bad thing for men to take some time out for these sorts of things.
When it comes to relaxation, a massage is certainly a healthier way to forget the cares of the day than a bottle of whisky or some lonely late-night TV. As Teska says: “Men suffer from tension and stress just as much as women, so having some time to de-stress is important for everyone.”
What about you? Are spas special, are treatments a treat or are you the type of man who’d run a mile before getting a massage?
*The author was a guest of the East Day Spa at Melbourne’s Hotel InterContinental.