O.K., guys. Having herbal masques slathered onto your mug, encasing your hands and feet in heated mitts, and being exfoliated, detoxified, and hydrated may not sound like a good time. Maybe you get the willies thinking about essential oils, isothermal wraps, and French caviar facials. And the idea of lounging among mud-covered matrons, clad only in a robe, may send you fleeing to the steam room at the Y.
But as someone who has broken through the gender barrier, let me tell you that the ladies are on to something. After being rubbed down with sweet-smelling extracts and nutritional balms and having clays and moisturizers patted onto my face in between scrubbing sessions that left no dead cell unscathed, I became a believer. Yolanda Graham, my aesthetician at the Paris Spa by Mandara at Las Vegas' Paris hotel-casino, alternately pampered and tortured my weather-beaten skin into a baby's-bottom smoothness that even my wife envied. A spa visit, I found, is an indulgence well worth giving up even a morning of softball for--and something that would make for a novel Father's Day gift.
MANLY PLUNGE. Actually, growing numbers of guys are finding that a little pampering can help their looks--and outlook. Some 35% of the customers who visit the nation's 900 or so resort, destination, and cruise-ship spas are men, along with about 15% of those at the country's 4,400 day spas, says the International Spa Assn., an industry group. Spas have wooed guys with more gym equipment and changes in marketing: Deep-muscle "sports massages" are offered along with lighter, Swedish massages, for instance. Yes, pedicures and bikini waxes still abound, but a "men's cold plunge"--into invigorating, 55F water--now appears on some spa programs. Expansion into the male market has helped boost visits to over 90 million a year, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Shrewdly, some spas offer package deals for couples, maybe the best kind of Father's Day gift. The Paris Spa by Mandara features a Paris Pour Les Amoureux (Paris for Lovers) package with simultaneous full-body cleaning treatments with salt-based or other creams, followed by an aroma bath (for two) in a whirlpool--and French pastries. Then the lucky couple gets an Aromatique Massage on side-by-side tables. Cost: $225 each for two decadent hours. Want just a solo facial? Try Pour L'Homme, a $100, 50-minute rejuvenation session tailored for shaving-irritated skin.
If you prefer something closer to home, check out luxury hotels. The spa at the Park Hyatt Chicago, for example, offers Enrichment for the Soul of Man. For $292, you get a 30-minute head-and-neck massage, an hour-long deep-tissue massage, a "reflexology" foot rub and pedicure with a dip into warmed wax, and a "sports buff" manicure. To mark Father's Day, its hour-long full-body massage will cost $150 from June 10 to June 30. That's $50 off.
YOGA, TOO. Guys with bigger budgets and more time might choose a destination resort. When a parent pays the $1,915 full price for a four-night stay at Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson during the summer low season, a child over 14 goes for half-price (second child is 25% off). Along with the spa, Dad can hike, bike, play golf, or do yoga. A similar three-night deal at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass., costs Dad $1,566. "You can work out every day," says Mel Goodes, the former chief executive of Warner-Lambert Co. who frequents the Tucson site with his adult children and wife, Nancy. Goodes even 'fesses up to the occasional facial, with his wife's coaxing. Another spot, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, offers special couples' weeks three times a year, for $1,900 to $2,850 a person.
To search for a spa, check out www.experienceispa.com, the official site of the International Spa Assn. You can search by geography or by such categories as "day spa" or "resort/hotel." Look, too, at www.dayspaassociation.com, the site of the Day Spa Assn. Links can bring you to specific spa sites, if available.
Women have warmed to spas more readily than men, spa managers say, because the ladies are more comfortable being pampered. But, boys, once you've been indulged, you may find spas habit-forming. Seaweed facial, anyone?
By Joseph Weber