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The Modern Man: Male Grooming and the Übersexual

Gentlemen's Tonic1Men face more pressure than ever to look good. Exclusive grooming salons are answering their call by offering spa treatments that are redefining what it is to be male.

Masculinity is changing – facials and manicures are becoming part of the modern man’s regime. Spas are offering treatment menus specially designed for men striving to meet expectations to be well groomed. It’s now the age of the “übersexual”.

“It’s not metrosexual and it’s not macho. Übersexual is a man making the most of himself in all aspects,” says Deborah Gayle, managing director of men’s salon The Refinery in London’s Mayfair. “Metrosexual vs. macho has gone out the window. What men do and what they stand for has changed massively.”

Olivier Bonnefoy, founder and managing director of the men-only Gentlemen’s Tonic, has seen the male grooming sector grow over the past few years. Its first site in London opened in 2004 but the brand has since expanded to Asia and the Middle East. Plans are also in place for new sites in Doha, Moscow and New Delhi. “We started with one almost ten years ago and we’ll hopefully finish this year with seven sites globally. I think that’s testament to its popularity,” Bonnefoy says.

The rise in male grooming services is simply meeting the demand. A 2013 report by marketing firm JWT found that 76% of British and American men think they face more pressure than ever to keep up appearances. And 32% of those aged between 18 and 34 thought it was acceptable to get facials. SpaFinder president Susie Ellis said in the JWT report that men now account for about 30% of US spa visitors.

The Refinery’s Deborah Gayle says there was once a stigma attached to male grooming but that has gradually disappeared. “Men at one point would have never admitted to having grooming done. I think the biggest change is that they’re now happy to refer their friends. Men’s grooming has become a more popular discussion,” she says.

Alfred DunhillTreatments available to men include pedicures, eye lifts and eyebrow tintings on top of the more traditional shaving and haircut services. Hotel spas and even fashion houses are quickly joining male grooming salons in this market. Spas at the Landmark and Four Seasons hotels in London offer exclusively designed treatments for men. Alfred Dunhill’s Bourdon House in London (pictured, left) has a similar menu of services.

Gayle says one type of treatment is particularly popular at The Refinery. “We do so many facials now and I think a lot of that is to do with education. Men are beginning to understand that keeping your skin healthy is not a girly thing. It’s a matter of good health and hygiene,” she says.

Bonnefoy says anti-ageing facial treatments are popular at his Gentlemen’s Tonic. He thinks attitudes towards male grooming have developed from the days where beauty treatments, in men’s eyes, belonged in the realm of women.

Gayle believes this change in perception started about ten years ago. She says: “I hate to say it but it’s the David Beckham effect. He was manly and sporty but happy to be seen in all sorts of clothes and with all sorts of hairstyles. I think it stirred something up.”

Increasing pressures of modern life have also had an influence. “City guys are often exhausted, their skin is drained of vitamins and they’re staring at computers all day. There’s also the pollution. They’re doing all the things that equate to bad skin,” Gayle says, explaining why so many locations offering male grooming services are in urban areas.

Men may be more open to taking up these remedies nowadays but Bonnefoy and Gayle agree that women are still the ones encouraging boyfriends and husbands to do so. “I would certainly say women have helped – behind any good man there’s a better woman,” Bonnefoy explains.

Gayle says: “Women’s masculine heroes, if you look at them now, are well-groomed men.” These heroes are the new face of masculinity, taking care in their appearance but also having the strength of a traditional male. The road to übersexuality goes through grooming for the modern man.

Continue reading to find out about the world’s best spas offering men’s treatments.