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Tuesday January 9, 2007

Get on bod


Facials, spas and slimming treatments ? more men are signing up for help to look good and are not shy to admit it. 

CALL it equality of the sexes – anything women can do, men can, too. Like – oh, you know – going for beauty, spa and slimming treatments. These days, there is an increasing number of places men can get their own beauty and slimming fix.  

They are for guys only – something that soothes the nerves of macho types who would rather be caught with their pants down with Divine Brown than be seen in the same spa and slimming facility as women.  

Or perhaps worse, to be called a metrosexual – a term coined in 1994 to describe an urban male with a heightened aesthetic sense and who spends a lot of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.  

They can do their preening away from the prying – and perhaps, judging – eyes of the fairer sex.  

That’s especially a boon for red-blooded males who – blush, blush – seek treatment for smoother skin and a flatter tummy.  

Names like Urban Homme, Men’s Expressions and For Him, for example, are all men-only spa and slimming centres set up in Singapore by established women’s beauty specialists – Mary Chia, Expressions International and Beyond Beauty respectively. There, men can indulge in treatments like beer belly and love-handle trimming, radio-frequency fat burners, laser face-trimming and even Botox and liposuction.  

Expressions CEO Theresa Chew says her company’s male clientele grew from 20% in 2003 to 35% last year. Although she has offered facial and spa treatments for men since Expressions’s inception in 1990, it wasn’t until 2004 that she introduced a men-only subsidiary chain, called Men’s Expressions, offering treatments like body wraps, blackhead removal and double-chin trimming.  

“Men’s problems begin when they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s. The beer belly, for example, is a tricky one,” says Chew, who runs 10 Men’s Expressions outlets.  

Another women’s slimming specialist, Mary Chia, also decided to reach out to the burgeoning number of weight-conscious male customers by introducing a men-only brand of centres, Urban Homme, in February 2003, offering services like laser face trimming, love-handle trimming and intensive weight vapourisers.  

It started with 100 customers, mainly the husbands or boyfriends of existing Mary Chia customers. Today, its client base is about 700.  

In fact, the response has been so overwhelming that Urban Homme decided it no longer needed the help of its celebrity spokesman, actor Adrian Pang, to lure in customers after the first year of his endorsement contract.  

For Him, founded in September last year, touts itself as a one-stop beauty, spa and slimming hub for the modern man. It prides itself on the Radio Frequency Fat Burner, which uses high frequency waves and deep heat to stimulate body tissue and improve internal circulation and cell metabolism.  

This is said to result in increased skin firmness, less dreaded cellulite and also less centimetres around the waist.  

Still not convinced? You might soon be in the minority.  

Men make up half of the roughly 3,000-strong client base at Elements Spa & Slimming, founded in April 2002 by Singapore national swimmer Leslie Kwok.  

Asked why he was prompted to extend spa and slimming treatments to men, Kwok replies: “I’ve always seen spa therapy as a unisex thing, and not something only for women. Besides, it helps that I am a guy and understand what men want.”  

And over at SPA-lon Beauty & Skin Treatment Centre, 5% of its 50,000 members – that’s 2,500 – are male.  

Connie Koh, director of Beyond Beauty and For Him, saw a market for men-only spas when she, like Mary Chia, noticed a lot of husbands and boyfriends accompanying their wives and girlfriends to their treatments.  

“A lot of them have open pores and acne issues, so seeking treatment is more important than saving face,” she says.  

Its clientele is growing at a rate of 10% to 15% every month, she adds.  

Of course, men don’t deny the fact that society may still view male spa-goers to be a little fey.  

Take Michael Lee, a regional sales manager for a multi-national company who goes for regular slimming treatments at Men’s Expressions and facials elsewhere, but does not like to talk about it.  

Says the 45-year-old: “I would never mention in dinner conversation, for example, that I just came from a spa treatment.”  

But try telling that to David Chan, 32, a sales manager for a semiconductor firm who has been seeking weight-loss treatments at Urban Homme since June.  

The father of one has lost 12kg – from 98kg to 86kg – on Urban Homme’s programme.  

“Men are becoming more comfortable with the idea of spas and slimming centres. Everyone likes to look good and some of the programmes are catered for men, so we feel more confident walking into one of these centres.” – The Straits Times Singapore / Asia News Network  

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