The line between metrosexuality and insufferable vanity is razor-thin. None of the guys I know want to identify with a group of product-obsessed narcissists who don’t like to get their hands dirty, and they’re even less comfortable with the idea of going to a spa. No wonder these otherwise style-conscious chaps continue to scrub their faces with Zest. But guess what? Male skin needs TLC as much as a woman’s does – and four new salons in town aim to give a guy the royal treatment without making him feel like a queen. And if he starts feeling too precious as scented lotions are gently massaged into his temples, he can always ask for another beer.
For the sake of scientific research, I corralled four male friends (all salon virgins), and asked them to sample various treatments and give their opinions about the experience.
THE SHAVE BEVERLY HILLS
Man #1:Matthew Fletcher, keyboard player for the band Satisfaction
Normally women aren’t allowed past the retail area at the Shave, where cologne is sold alongside clothing and cufflinks and selected books like Thomas Beller’s How to Be a Man, but owner Adam Dishell made an exception for me. Photos of the Rat Pack hang on the walls, and the current issue of Playboy sits on a coffee table. With jazz and blues flowing from the speakers, our first guinea pig, Matthew Fletcher, loosened up with a glass of Jameson’s and a shoulder massage. “I’m not used to being pampered,” he said as a redhead in silver sandals worked out the kinks.
There aren’t too many places you’ll hear terms like “beard work,” but you need an expert when you’re dealing with facial hair like Fletcher’s. In this altar to masculinity, shaving is an art form. Jesse, a barber who honed his craft in Hawthorne, began by trimming Fletcher’s Sgt. Pepper ’stache before wrapping his face in a hot towel to soften the hair and open the pores.
Jesse applied shave oil and then hot shaving cream to Fletcher’s face. He shaved him twice: first with a straight razor, followed up with a Mach III. A female aesthetician applied a final cooling gel mask after the shave, and while it set, she massaged Fletcher’s hands. Someone else polished his shoes.
“It’s like plastic surgery,” joked Fletcher as he examined his impeccably smooth visage when it was over. The neck-sniff test revealed a clean, Old Spicey-in-the-best-way scent that was subtle and yummy. The whole thing almost (but not quite) made me wish I had facial hair. However, I did walk out with a wicked shine on my boots. 230 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; (310) 888-2898, www.theshavebeverlyhills.com.
Man #2:Stephen Dean, owner of TK Yoga Studio
With its antique Chinese furniture, trickling fountains, Buddha statues and Buddha Bar soundtrack, Le Colonial is the most femme-friendly of the four salons. In fact, owners Jane Chen and Don O’Melveny are planning to host coed evenings starting this month. Treatment rooms have the air of an elegant boudoir, and the saffron-orange waiting area is the color of monk’s robes.
Yoga master Stephen Dean was signed up for the VIP facial. The Korean aesthetician, Kelly Lee, spoke little English, but she did her best to explain how things worked, like the difference between men’s and women’s pain thresholds when it comes to beauty: “Women: I don’t care, do it. Men: Aaaaahhhh!” A thick, fruity mask was slathered on his face after deep cleansing, gel exfoliation, and massage with cold stones to temper redness. Our guinea pig said he felt like a cake being frosted. As the mask dried, a reflexology specialist came in and did an acupressure foot massage. “This is the high point of my year,” declared Dean. The treatment finished with an application of sunblock, and Man #2 said his face felt looser and more hydrated than ever before, albeit a little product-heavy. As for what he was planning to do that night, he was keeping it simple: “Smile a lot. Look good.” 5474 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 634-0835, www.lecolonialsalon.com.
IGOR SKIN CARE
The only concept behind Igor Royzman’s small West Hollywood salon was to create a space where men could feel comfortable asking questions, buying products and getting treatments. With a 60 percent gay clientele, there’s an extensive waxing menu in addition to the facials, but our man, M. Frank Emanuel, wasn’t really the “Manzilian” type, so we selected microdermabrasion. Before Emanuel changed into a fluffy white robe, he was asked to fill out a questionnaire. “These questions are tough!” he said. “I keep forgetting my ZIP code.” He was pretty certain he wasn’t pregnant or lactating, though. “We love girls here,” said aesthetician Rene Vizueth, “but we don’t get them that much.”
Emanuel’s treatment began with a cleansing and a light facial massage, then lavender-scented steam was misted over his face. Vizueth gently tapped his client’s sinuses, acclimating him to his touch. During microdermabrasion, where the skin is basically sandblasted with tiny crystals through a tube, Vizueth kept it minimal, because Emanuel, who said it felt “like little sparkles,” was new to it. When the procedure was over, Emanuel had a healthy reddish flush, and his skin felt marble-smooth. Really, it did, I touched it. Supposedly multiple treatments can reduce fine lines and sun damage. “So, do I look younger?” Emanuel asked. “I do, don’t I? You’re like, ‘Who is this kid?’” 8733 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-4467, www.igorskincare.com.
SERVICE STATION BARBER & BODY
Designed by Fred Sutherland, the man behind Fred 62 and Forty Deuce, the Service Station takes off with this concept — and you’ll enjoy the ride. In this West L.A. “grooming garage,” racing stripes and stencils of hot rods decorate the walls, while industrial machinery cabinets are repurposed as barber stations, and hair gets washed with a dishwasher’s nozzle. For artist Ricardo Mendoza, who has spent the last six months converting an old muffler-repair shop into live/work studios, the space felt like home. He was booked for hand and foot care (“mani/pedi” is not uttered here), and he willingly surrendered his neglected appendages, settling into a custom-designed chair with fold-out armrests. The Service Station staff is totally germaphobic, so you don’t have to be: All equipment is sterilized in a surgical autoclave. His nails were expertly clipped and filed, his cuticles trimmed, and then his hands were immersed in paraffin to soften every last callus. As oven mitts kept in the heat of the paraffin, our subject soaked his feet in an athletic whirlpool.
“This is getting heavy-duty here,” he groaned, lying back. A warm herbal pack was wrapped around his shoulders, and by the time his feet were pumiced and massaged, Mendoza had gone from guiltily asking, “Damn, do I deserve this?” to wondering, “Why did this invitation take so long?” 2000 Cotner Ave., ?Los Angeles; (310) 268-0333, www.servicestation.net.?