Last updated January 2, 2023
If women can pamper themselves, so can men—right? More and more spas are answering the call as males are the fastest growing market in the spa industry. Read on for insight by a seasoned male spa-goer. Are spas for men? It’s a resounding yes. And here’s what men prefer when going to the spa.
I was the odd man out more than thirty years ago when I first started going to spas in Canada. I would be usually the only male in the relaxation lounge, hot tub or reception area. In retrospect that was not a bad thing to be surrounded by women as a young guy.
Back in those early spa days, many women commented it was admirable. I felt secure in my manliness to go to the spa.
But when I went to a spa in Europe or Asia, it was a different scenario. Most of the destination spas or wellness resorts and retreats I visited were populated by both men and women—and oftentimes there were more men than women.
It’s a lifestyle choice as opposed to the pampering and special occasion type spa-goer in North America. Fortunately, this has been changing in recent years and clearly spas are for men.
I have been a long-time proponent of men and spa-going whether it be for therapeutic, medical or self-care reasons.
Men, too, need to step away from the daily grind and focus on their mental and physical health. Their experiences can teach us valuable lessons on how spas can adapt to attract more men and where everyone comes out a winner—healthier clientele and a more diverse spa environment.
Are Spas for Men? What Men Can Teach Us About Spa-Going
About 15 years ago I was asked by one of Canada’s top destination spas to review how it measured up with the male spa-goer in mind.
To their credit, they told me to be honest and not hold anything back. It was a lovely fieldstone country inn with accompanying cozy cottages set on a 400-acre hillside featuring numerous treatment rooms, spa and dining facilities and a variety of wellness programs.
But the inn’s decor, guest rooms, reading material and retail skin care products screamed an estrogen-filled, testosterone-free spa environment.
Victorian-inspired wallpaper and furnishings and all the latest female-targeted magazines in the relaxation and reception areas won’t entice the male spa-goer.
It would have them racing toward the exit in search of a pub or old-fashioned barber shop. The good news is that they did listen to my “advice” that spas are for men and made many positive changes—and continue to do so.
Two decades ago, men made up only about 10 percent of a spa’s clientele across North America. In the past twenty years, that figure has steadily climbed.
According to the International Spa Association (ISPA) Consumer Snapshot done in 2019 (the latest figures available for such a study) 51 percent of U.S. spa-goers were female and 49 percent were male. Way to go guys!
Spas are now answering the call as males are the fastest growing market in the industry.
Gone are the days when couples would go on vacations and the female would head to the spa for a day of pampering and the male to the nearest golf course and some beers.
Nowadays, it’s not unusual for a couple to enjoy a round of golf and spa together.
New Era of Spa-Going: What Men Prefer When Going to the Spa
I’ve visited spas for more than 30 years in 85 plus countries on six continents. I’ve seen well designed and welcoming spas and others that should be shut down.
Thankfully most of my spa visits have been positive, especially destination spas and wellness resorts and retreats. The spas that earn my gold stars create a gender-neutral spa environment.
How can spas attract the male spa-goer? Here we share what men prefer when going to the spa.
Throw out the thesaurus trying to write superfluous and flowery prose when describing treatments. I have read treatment descriptions that wax on poetically that this hot stone massage will take you to the heavens. Well I am still on earth after many so-called “heavenly treatments.”
Men like it simple. This sports massage will soothe and restore my aching muscles. Enough said.
Some spas will insert the word “Men’s” before facial, pedicure or manicure. But are they using any different techniques or products? We want honesty here. If a spa is doing something different for men then describe how it is different.
Could we please see images on the website and in brochures of males having a variety of body and aesthetic treatments.
Yes, guys like to see the beautiful photos of women but we also want to identify ourselves at the spa. Not all the pictures have to be a Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt lookalike.
Lose the florals and frilly decor. No doilies or over the top Victorian! Lush rainforest setting is fine with its vibrant colors and with people wanting to connect with nature that is very on trend.
To make spas more gender-neutral, Asian spas use a lot of black, shades of gray as well as greens. Blue hues produce a nice calming effect.
Water features, subtle paintings, rainfall and plant installations all appeal to male spa-goers.
This is a big pet peeve of mine. When I enter a spa, I immediately check out the reading material.
If it’s the usual collection of women’s fashion and gossip magazines, it tells me male spa-goers are an afterthought here. A first-time male spa visitor already nervous and uncomfortable can feel emasculated seeing only female-centric magazines.
But I have a simple solution—along with O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Elle and other publications make sure there are magazines such as Men’s Health, Forbes, Golf Digest, Newsweek and Wired.
His manliness will thank you.
When it comes to massage oils, something to consider is that the male spa-goer may have to attend a business meeting or even a sports event after his spa treatment. We don’t necessarily want to smell like lavender.
What other oils could we have with a massage—citrus, wood scents like sandalwood with almond, jojoba and apricot, coconut and vanilla are always popular.
And if someone ever develops it, I’m sure bacon oil would be a great hit with male spa-goers.
I’ve seen this happen over the years especially with bigger males wearing a robe that doesn’t quite cover what it’s meant to. They try to get up strategically from the relaxation lounge chair and lo and behold the family jewels are exposed.
So let’s keep those for home viewing only and give the option of a T-shirt and shorts or make sure to have larger sized spa robes.
Retail Spa Products
Men shop differently than women, especially at the spa. Women browse, deliberate then buy. Men prefer the grab, buy and exit quickly technique.
We are not on a search and rescue mission. Clearly display the men’s skincare products in one section of the retail area.
Typically when men go to the spa for the first time they will have a Swedish, deep tissue or sports massage.
Only when they are comfortable will they try esthetic treatments like a facial and maybe a manicure or pedicure. Even less often a body polish or wrap.
Offer up quick samplers. Have some fun with your treatment names like a “Manlycure” or add on something more appealing.
I’ve had pedicures with a shot of whiskey and a manicure with an organic beer from spas that have liquor licenses.
Men’s Night Promotion
Aren’t spas for men, too? Why can’t we see “Guys Night Out” specials for male spa-goers only where men can feel comfortable trying out various treatments?
Install a large screen TV, put on a game and let the relaxing and cheering begin.
With about a 50/50 split of males and females visiting spas on the regular, male spa-goers should be taken more seriously and treated equally.
Whether going for one day or making spa treatments part of your wellness vacation, take a look at how spas are serving their male clientele with the suggestions pointed out in this article.
Wellness knows no bounds—being male shouldn’t be one of them.
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