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Making Room for Men

By: Laura Root and James Mason
Posted: June 29, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

During the past few months, spa professionals throughout the industry have all read articles about the role of male clients in the spa, salon and other places in which professional estheticians provide treatments. And yet, despite occasional flashes of insight, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, men are still staying away in droves.

Hoping to bring some clarity to many of these issues, it’s time to take a serious look at the male market with the objective of helping professional estheticians better understand their male clientele, provide more relevant services, and increase the chances that skin care professionals’ abilities and offerings will have greater appeal to men.

Better basics

First, it’s important to look at how men are referred to in the spa industry. There are entirely too many references to “male clients.” The average man wants to be referred to as either a guy or a man. Calling a male person a male person, either to his face or in your literature, is almost the quickest way to shut him down. These are guys. Men. They like guy stuff, and the younger your male target is, the more likely it is that he thinks of himself as a guy. It might seem minor, but look at other terms—such as male nurse or female soldier—and then put yourself in the place of one of those professionals. All of a sudden, being a male client does not sound all that appealing.

Second, consider the environment most guys find themselves in whenever they finally decide to make the attempt at normalizing what, for many first-timers, is a scary place. They are being asked to come into what has traditionally been a woman’s enclave, undress and wear what in many cases amounts to a shorty nightgown in front of other guys they do not know and probably would not typically hang out with while they wait to be called.

Some spa designers have tried sports channels, business magazines and dark woods in an effort to be relevant to their guy clients, and these additions certainly aren’t without their merits. But men also like a certain sense of order, dignity, privacy and certainty. Guy clients really are different from your women clients, and they are especially different when it comes to professional skin care services.

Service cues