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Until about a decade ago, office-going men looked forward to their weekends as a chance to have a break from the chore of shaving. Fast forward to today and, strangely, many of these same men are devoting a good part of their leisure time to grooming, albeit through visiting one of the new-age ‘shaving spas' which have sprung up.

The renewed focus on shaving could be to do with the modern-day version of the English dandy being quite a rage on the ramp. Taking a cue from the rest of the grooming industry - which according to data from consumer website packagedfacts.com is valued at a whopping $19.7 billion (Dh72 billion) worldwide - men's age-old shaving ritual today has turned into something of an elaborate art and is being accorded due status.

New-age spas reinvent shaving

Thanks to cut-throat competition, a number of places in Dubai cater to the aspiring well-groomed man. And these specialist male salons offer more than just a close shave - most of these spas offer add-on massages, manicures and facials before and after the client has had a leisurely shave administered by a professional, all in the comfort of a plush reclining chair.

Even for those who don't opt for the ‘clean-shaven' path, there are umpteen reasons to visit the new-age shaving spas - getting the beard or the moustache groomed also qualifies you for entry here!

Aarti Bhatia, managing director of The Signature Lounge in Media City, says a man's presentation can reflect more than just whether he cares about his looks. She believes that a quality shave should not be underestimated. "The first and foremost impression [a man] makes during any meeting is through his face," she says. "A presentable face creates positive perception. Be it a clean shave or a well-groomed beard, a properly shaven man leaves a lasting impression. It also portrays an individual's style and sense of hygiene."

Bhatia - who opened The Signature Lounge last year to cater for the specific needs of men in the region - says she is not surprised by the apparent growth in the male grooming industry. "It has been around for years, but just not talked about openly. "Grooming has always been part of men's lifestyle," she says, pointing out that in old portrait photographs you are unlikely to find an ungroomed man. But she adds that more and more men from all backgrounds are treating themselves to a professional shave once in a while because "it can be hard to get right at home." She explains: "Shaving is an art that every individual has to master, it should not be rushed and it will improve the more often you do it."

But what makes these special shaving spas so different from the old-fashioned barbers men used to visit years ago? Bhatia says it is not the shave - which hasn't actually changed in terms of technique - but the type of service extras provided. "Men from all backgrounds come to the lounge whether young or old, but the one thing they have in common is that they want to be well-groomed and like to have the choice of other services one would never find in an old-fashioned barber shop," he says.

Going for a professional shave is not a new concept - in Fifties America, a close shave was an essential part of a successful businessman's weekly routine. But today's modern men want more than a wet shave in a rather uncomfortable chair - they want luxury and in the UAE that's what they get.

At Man/Age Spa in Jumeirah Beach Residence, men are treated to relaxing massages and quick-fix facials and skin preparation as well as shaving services. At 1847, also in JBR, there are plush reclining armchairs on which to relax while watching TV or listening to soothing music creating an ambience aimed at the discerning gentleman. Each spa also offers expert advice on looking after the skin and treating problem areas as well as selling specialist products. "The range of extras at male spas these days is huge - it is no longer just about a routine shave and haircut for men," says Bhatia.

The professional touch

Dr Anwar Hammadi, a specialist dermatologist at The City Hospital in Dubai, says that shaving is an important technique to get right because male skin can be very sensitive and prone to pimples and dryness. He says, "Many men start shaving in their teens and they will continue to do so about four to five times a week for the rest of their life, so you can see how skin problems can be caused. A professional shave is a good way to learn how to get it right from the beginning."

At Nivea Haus Spa in The Dubai Mall the ethos behind the male shaving treatments is time and care. They offer three types of service - Traditional, Perfect and Ultimate, each involving different treats including facials and massages. But the common thing says manager Angela Turovskaya is, "clients come out looking and feeling great."

The spa - which opened two years ago - has seen a rise in the number of men opting to have a professional shave on a regular basis. "A professional shave is not seen as a luxury, but a necessity today. Like it or not, first impressions count and a badly shaven - not necessarily unshaven - man can send the wrong message, especially in the business environment," says Turovskaya.

What makes shaving a fine art

Although busy work, family and social lives make it impractical for many UAE men to go to a salon, a spa or the barber's every other day, Turovskaya says it is something they should opt for once a week - especially those who have thicker and darker hair.

"Many Asian clients come here because we use certain products that work better with their type of skin. Asian men especially tend to have very thick facial hair and this can be hard to shave, whether they want to be clean-shaven or keep some beard, so our specialist barbers recommend certain creams and oils to increase the shave's effectiveness."

Having a professional shave once a week is not only an experience to remember and a lovely way to relax and feel pampered, it also benefits the skin because of the technique. "Steamed towels, two close shaves (one going with and one against the grain) and an after-care moisture treatment, together leave the skin renewed and feeling great," says Turovskaya.

Many salons also offer advice on shaving at home, such as ensuring you re-lather before the second shave.

In conjunction with a professional spa visit, getting the shave right at home is also imperative.

"The art is in choosing the right tools and products," advises Bhatia. "It's also about technique. Use long strokes starting from the cheek down to the chin and end at the neck. Ensure there is a soft grip on the razor and avoid any jerking or chopping movements. The strokes should be about one to three inches long [two-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half centimetres] and let the blade do its work; you can always go back for another go. There is no such thing as ‘instant art', it takes time to get right." She also says that men must allocate around 20 minutes for a shave as rushing causes cuts and grazes. "Do not start a fresh stroke from a prominent part of the face and avoid putting excessive pressure on the blade. Also use glycerine-based soap, gel or cream as it helps the sharp razor to slide smoothly over the face. It is also best to avoid electric razors which have limited blade action and can leave the skin feeling very dry," says Bhatia, whose salon offers three different types of shaves - the Corporate and Scruff Trim take 20 minutes each while The Signature shave takes 40 minutes.

Dr Hammadi advises that men do not shave each day. "If work and lifestyle allow, it is good to try and take a break from the razor. Shaving too much causes ingrown hairs, bacterial infections and inflammation of the skin.

"If you accidentally cause a cut, just apply a firm amount of pressure to the wound and it should heal within minutes. Also be careful when shaving around pimples and try to work gently around them. If you do brush one by accident apply an antiseptic cream immediately to stop the spread of any infections."

Lindsay Madden-Nadeau, spa director at Raffles Amrita Spa, recommends men have regular post-shave facials to keep the skin cleansed and in good condition. The spa offers one called the Noble Man's Facial - a 60-minute treatment that uses a combination of cleansers, exfoliants, moisturisers and a massage. "Men should not use heavy creams on dry skin and many brands contain extra parabens (preservatives) which agitate the skin after shaving, so we recommend light gels and liquids and a cleansing wash before shaving. One of the best products we use is Kerstin Florian Raspberry Post Shave Extract which is a liquid that reduces redness and protects the skin after shaving."

 A seven-step guide to a smooth home shave

  •  Wash face with warm water or wrap a warm wet towel over. This opens the pores, preparing the skin for the shave. Ensure the beard is thoroughly wet to reduce burning and irritation. As facial hair absorbs up to 30 per cent of water's volume, hair that is swollen with water becomes weak and is therefore easier to remove. Never shave cold or apply shaving products to a dry face as this increases the risk of nicks and cuts.
  • A pre-shave oil or gel helps protect the skin and softens the beard. Rinse this off with warm water.
  •  Use a good-quality shaving cream. Use a badger brush to createa rich lather. Use circular motions and upward strokes so it lifts the whiskers away from the face
  • The more expensive creams form a thick lather, rather than a foam. Experts say the less foam, the better. Not only does the cream lubricate the face, it also serves to lock the moisture into the hair, keeping it primed for the cut. Leave the cream on for a minute before you begin.
  • Use a sharp blade and shave in the direction of hair growth. Do not exert pressure on the razor, let it work for you.
    Start with the sides, then the moustache area, the chin and then the neck. Rinse razor in hot water every few swipes and use long strokes. And avoid sudden jerky movements and any chopping motions.
  •  For a closer shave,re-lather using the cream and brush and shave against the grain. Be careful as it takes a lot of practice to do this right. Overshaving can cause irritated skin, razor burns and shaving rashes. Splash face with cold water and gently pat-dry with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing the towel on the face.
  • Rinse the blade in hot water and shake thoroughly to remove excess water. Do not wipe it with a towel or tissue as that can make the razor go blunt faster. Remember to clean and sterilise the razor regularly.
  • Apply an alcohol-free balm or post-shave lotion. These replace moisture and soothe and refresh dry skin.