Three men put their masculinity to the test
I received three different phone messages from three different men that sounded pretty much the same: It was great. Interesting. Better than I expected. I’m actually excited to tell you about it. One of the men got wrapped in something warm and slippery with a hint of lemon; another became intimate with tightening lotions; and the third got his toes tickled. Figured it out yet? All three men had spa treatments. These manly men – and I emphasize manly – stepped out of their element and into comfortable slippers and a warm robe in order to find out what lies behind a spa experience. All three of my “subjects” had experienced one, maybe two massages in their lifetime, but never the kind of treatments that often have the social stigma of being more “feminine” – treatments like facials, hot oil wraps, manicures and pedicures. They pushed the limits of their masculinity and journeyed into the land of “other” spa treatments to find out whether they could actually benefit from something like a facial without feeling too uncomfortable.Truth be told, you skeptics out there may find it interesting that many of these treatments are not just for women. They are being requested by more men every year. “The benefits of men experiencing spa treatments enhances their appearance and also is a wonderful way to enjoy feeling pampered. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?” said Tori Cummings, owner of Bellaspa in Edwards. “Getting regular facials and using quality products can be a huge bonus at slowing down premature aging. Plus, good grooming doesn’t hurt with the ladies!”Many spa directors in and around the valley say they’ve always had male clients coming in mostly for more traditional services like sports massage and stone therapy. However, they are seeing an increase in men asking for facials, waxing, body wraps and nail care.
“Men are concerned with aging. Instead of using a bar of soap in the shower, they’re buying a proper skin cleanser, moisturizer, sun block and maybe an age-specific skin care line,” said Mary Gunderson, spa director at Allegria Spa located within Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.Soft skin feels good, even on a manWith only one or two massages under his belt, Peter Sampson, a 48-year old project manager from Vail, volunteered to step outside his comfort zone and try Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa’s salt scrub and facial. “As I was washing the salt and oils off me, I was really astounded at how soft my skin was,” Sampson said. “I never felt my skin so soft, and I was equally surprised at how good it felt. I thought, wow, this is great.”Sampson’s excitement ballooned and so did his curiosity. Typically when you get a body or facial treatment, you slumber into relaxation mode with your eyes closed, allowing your senses to embrace the experience. However, like a man who needs to look under the hood of a car or take apart a hard-drive to see how it really works, Sampson asked to see what he looked like during the facial. “She gave me a facial that included some kind of mask. It would tighten and tighten around my face. She allowed me to look at it,” he said. “I was expecting the old ‘I Love Lucy,’ green mud and cucumbers. It was more of this futuristic clear mask that tightened up so I looked like an alien.”Alien or not, Sampson was sold on the spa experience.”I think this is something I need to schedule in my budget,” Sampson said. “What’s better than feeling great? I’ll be 49 in July. These things actually make me look and feel younger. They’re making my skin look more vibrant by ripping off my dead skin. Maybe that’ll help the old guy not look so old and feel so old.”
Treatments created just for the boysThere are a lot more men like Sampson who have found benefits in spa treatments. According to the International Spa Association, men account for 29 percent of spa-goers. There are also an increasing number of treatments being created just for men.Spa Struck at The Charter at Beaver Creek, for example, offers a package called “A Man’s Essentials” in addition to a “Gentleman’s Facial.” The package combines the most requested treatments: sports massage, a cooling foot and leg massage to help break up lactic acid build-up and a hot oil scalp massage. The facial is designed to help sooth the skin and repair damaged cells from the effects of shaving, sun exposure and neglect.The Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa also offers a “Gentleman’s Facial” that is more or less the same exfoliating procedure as a woman’s facial except they use different aromatic scents. “Instead of lavender, we use more of a spruce, woody scent. We also incorporate scalp massages because men like that,” said Shinji Tsuji, assistant spa manager.”Educating men that they are no different from women and how they care for themselves is very important,” said Cummings of Bellaspa.Wrapping those hard bodies
Thirty three year old, Eric Myers of Vail isn’t a “regular” at the spa but has had sports massages primarily to heal old injuries. This time around, he was pampered with a hot oil lemon wrap and a manicure at Allegria Spa at Park Hyatt at Beaver Creek. He said it was a relaxing way to end a bachelor party weekend with some of his college buddies.”The hot oil wrap was sweet. The manicure was alright,” Myers said. “It was me and the girls, which felt a little awkward because it was a stereotypical salon scene where the girls were gossiping about their plans after work. But the hot oil wrap felt great since it was a little isolating.”Myers’ session started with a light hot oil massage followed by a 45-minute treatment where hot stones are used to warm and loosen his muscles. He was then wrapped in hot towels for another 25 minutes. “It’s completely relaxing. I felt pretty centered,” he said. “Just sweating it out felt pretty good.”Next was the manicure. Myers got high marks on his cuticles, which appeared to be in pretty good shape. He then had his nails buffed to a high gloss, followed by a lesson in hot wax, which if used properly, can make your hands feel incredibly smooth.”She told me to dunk my hand in this container filled with wax. I just put my fingers in,” Myers said. “I didn’t realize she really meant dunk the entire hand.”Overall, Myers was sold on the wrap because he felt the healing element would definitely enhance his workouts but not so much on the manicure.”I don’t think my guy friends would be that excited about having softer, rounder nails. The social stigma would far outweigh the benefits of having your nails done,” he said. “If I got my nails done regularly, I’d never hear the end of it.”
Manly manicureTodd Howe, an audio engineer from Leadville, liked his hands and feet to be “woman-handled” by Cummings at Bellaspa. Initially feeling out of place, he was put to ease after Cummings gave him a professional and friendly run-down of what was to come. He found the buffing block to be much more effective than nail clippers, and was pleasantly surprised at his new found “cleanliness” that lasted a few days.”My hands, especially my nails and cuticles looked noticeably better,” Howe said. “My hands felt cleaner and more trim. This might sound funny, but I almost feel like my hands look more masculine now than they did before. Almost like I could be a hand model.”Howe’s pedicure produced equally good results once he overcame his ticklish tendencies. Overall, his treatment made him feel more “put together,” and afterwards, he suggested men reconsider paying attention to the small details that could improve their appearance and score points with future dates.”It’s not going to turn you into a ‘girly man.’ It feels good and you might actually feel better about yourself when it’s over,” he said.Sampson is so convinced about the benefits of spa treatments, he’s now considering buying a massage table for his wife so they can give each other scrubs and massages. “What really makes you healthy in life is your mental attitude. If it affects you in a positive way, it’s worth it,” Sampson said. Vail, Colorado