By Michaela Gibson Morris
The secret is out.
Women can't claim a monopoly on spa services any more.
Massages are, by far, the most popular spa treatment for guys, but around Tupelo and through the country, more men are checking out facial skin treatment, nail services and other spa services.
“Relaxation is the best part of it,” said Philip Raper, who oversees the therapeutic spa services at the North Misssissippi Medical Center Wellness Center in Tupelo. Once guys try it, “they always go back.”
Clay Garrett is a convert. The 20-year-old Tupelo man got his first taste of spa treatments after he bought a package of Creative Touch spa services for girlfriend Ashley Downs and himself as a Christmas present.
“We loved it,” said Garrett, who had a facial and a massage. “It was so relaxing É I think if more guys would try it, they would change their minds.”
The growth in spa services comes as men want to look and feel better.
“I've gone from men not even wanting to come into a salon to get their hair cut to men coming in for facials, massages, pedicures, manicures, the whole nine yards,” said Sarah McDonald, the owner of Creative Touch Day Spa and Salon, who has been in the business for 25 years. “We're a more visual society now É everyone wants to look more youthful.”
In big cities, the trend has created guys-only spas with ESPN and video games alongside skin and body treatments. Interest in Northeast Mississippi hasn't risen to that level yet, but it's growing steadily.
But guys don't have to navigate a traditional beauty salon to get to spa services around Tupelo. The focus is on relaxation and creating a soothing environment. Facials, massages and many other treatments are done in private rooms. Pedicures and manicures are done in semi-private or private spaces.
“We keep everything gender neutral,” McDonald said.
Incorporating spa services inside the NMMC Wellness Center, which is open to the public, has worked well.
“It's all convenience to them,” said Raper, who sees many guys tacking spa services onto their workouts. “They don't have to explain to anybody why they're there.”
Guys usually get a feminine nudge to check out spa services.
“Usually it's a wife or girlfriend that gets them in,” said Anna Thames, a licensed aesthetician at NMMC Wellness Center Therapeutic Day Spa. “They'll say, Whoa, this isn't at all what I thought.'”
Facials and skin treatments are gaining ground with guys.
“They take care of their body by working out, but if they don't take care of their skin, it's not the total package,” Thames said. “I think men are starting to take better care of themselves.”
In many ways, men often need skin treatments more than women because of the abuse and exposure their skin takes. Shaving irritates their skin and can cause ingrown hair.
“They don't use moisturizer, they don't use sunscreen,” said Anna Hester, an esthetician at Creative Touch.
Although different spas offer a variety of skin services, a facial typically involves a skin analysis, deep cleaning of the face, exfoliating or removing the dead skin, steaming to open pores, extracting blackheads and specialized serums are applied under a mask to address specific skin issues.
It's usually topped off with a face, neck and shoulder massage.
Garrett said he was amazed at the difference made by a facial and a microdermabrasion session, where special crystals and a machine are used to blast away dead skin.
“It leaves you with a new face,” Garret said. “It makes the skin look clearer and really clean.”
Hester, who tries to gently nudge her clients toward a basic daily skin regimen, said most guys appreciate the opportunity to sit back, relax and have their skin taken care of.
“A lot of people don't know where to start there are so many products,” she said.
Hold the nail polish
Never fear. Getting manicures and pedicures doesn't mean signing up for a splash of coral pink or any other color of nail polish.
“They're not just getting their toes done,” said Raper, who regularly sits in the pedicure chair, which is connected to a whirlpool spa.
For a spa pedicure, folks should come prepared to roll their pants up to their knees. Typically they soak in a special foot spa, then get their feet scrubbed and exfoliated.
Calluses and nails are filed down. Cracked heels are moisturized. Feet and calves are massaged.
And don't worry that your toes aren't picture perfect. Many first-timers come in a bit apologetic at the state of their feet, said Sunnie Parmer, NMMC Wellness Center technician.
“I'm here to help them improve the look of their feet,” Parmer said. “I'm fine with whatever they bring me.”
Raper relies on regular sessions to repair the damage running, soccer and tennis have done to his feet.
“I used to get cracked heals all the time,” Raper said.
Likewise, manicures involve a lot of rubbing and soaking, but no girlie stuff for the guys. They are less popular than pedicures among guys, but are gaining ground, McDonald said.
“A lot of businessmen get them because they're out in the public a lot,” McDonald said.