• SPA DAY FOR GUYS •

Spas are creating treatments tailored to male patrons and designing spaces that are more inclusive, as the number of men who have discovered the allure of pedicures, massages and mud baths and embraced self-care has increased.

Photo by Kohler Water Spa

Photo by Kohler Water Spa

Photo by Kohler Water Spa

It’s not uncommon to see a wedding party indulging in some prenuptial pampering at Spa Solage, located within Auberge Resorts Collection’s Solage resort in California’s Napa Valley. The spa’s bathhouse, which features communal pools, an infrared sauna and a steam room, has long been a popular venue for brides-to-be and their bridesmaids looking to de-stress before the big day.

It is somewhat less common to spot a groom-to-be and his groomsmen there, ready to partake in their own prewedding bonding rituals. Still, it’s a sight that’s not all that unfamiliar to spa director Helen Brown.

“Our bathhouse area has become a space where men come and hang out, so it’s not too surprising that we recently did have a groom come in with his groomsmen,” Brown said. “The experience is reminiscent of the ancient Roman baths or the [social bathing] cultures in Japan or Europe, which is something young men here are just starting to discover.”

Four members of the eight-person, all-male group even signed on to try the Mudslide treatment, Spa Solage’s popular twist on the traditional mud bath that typically involves painting oneself or a partner with mud and then sitting in a small, heated room.

“Only four were supposed to do it, but then they discovered they could order a local IPA from the bathhouse bar and take it into the room with them,” Brown recalled. “Naturally, the rest of the guys wanted to get in on that. We generally only have up to four or five people at a time in the mud room, but we ended up with all eight of them in there. They had that spa element of the mud, which they were slathering on themselves, and they were also having a great time, drinking a beer and being really, really comfortable. For us, it was so fantastic to see that they could have that casual bonding experience in that particular space.”

Whether a mud detox treatment becomes the next trending bachelor party tradition remains to be seen. But what is certain is that in today’s wellness-centric world, men are embracing elements of spa culture that have traditionally skewed toward women.

In fact, more men than ever before identify as spa enthusiasts. According to a 2019 International Spa Association (ISPA) Foundation survey of 1,000 U.S. spagoers, around 49% of American spa visitors are now men, up from about 29% in 2005.

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According to the group’s data, men are increasingly moving beyond the basic massage when it comes to spa treatments, with a growing number of male clients making skin care, like facials, their service of choice. (Photo by Sundara Inn & Spa)

According to the group’s data, men are increasingly moving beyond the basic massage when it comes to spa treatments, with a growing number of male clients making skin care, like facials, their service of choice. (Photo by Sundara Inn & Spa)

According to the group’s data, men are increasingly moving beyond the basic massage when it comes to spa treatments, with a growing number of male clients making skin care, like facials, their service of choice. (Photo by Sundara Inn & Spa)

Nearing a 50-50 ratio

“We started to see the number of male spagoers climb post-recession, and we’ve now hit something of a peak where it’s nearly at that 50-50 [male-to-female] ratio,” ISPA board chairman Garrett Mersberger said. “And part of that trend comes from the growth of this wellness-oriented culture that has been so buzzed about. Wellness is like this universal language that speaks to all demographics, genders and generations, and I think it’s really opened the door for men to get more involved in spa practices.”

The ISPA survey’s findings are echoed in a recent study on self-care released earlier this spring by Hyatt’s Miraval brand, which operates luxury wellness resorts in Tucson, Ariz., and Austin, Texas. Miraval’s survey, which analyzed responses from 1,000 men, found that 59% of respondents had increased their self-care — defined as comprising spa, fitness, mindfulness and healthy living practices — over the past five years. Miraval’s research also showed that younger men, those ages 18 to 34, reported practicing self-care more often than older men, but overall, more than half of those surveyed practiced self-care more than three times a month.

Simon Marxer, director of spa and wellbeing at Miraval Group, said spa adoption by men has been rapid.

“I think, historically, most men would struggle to make lifestyle changes and only would start thinking about self-care when they had a catastrophic health event,” Marxer said. “Or you’d traditionally see that men would accompany their partners to a spa treatment and then become self-care devotees. But now, at Miraval, we’re seeing all these millennials and Gen Z men showing up for themselves, on their own. One of our fastest-growing demographics is these young men who are coming to learn how to better care for themselves.”

Yet despite the fact that men now account for nearly half the market, the spa industry as a whole has been somewhat slow to respond to the demographic shift.

“Spas that were designed many years ago have had to start figuring out ways they can meet the demand of the male consumer,” said the ISPA’s Mersberger. “At many spas, for example, the men’s locker room is still much smaller in comparison to the female locker room, which is a problem. And it can go all the way down to what kinds of magazines you have in your spa and whether you have Men’s Health there right next to the women’s fashion magazines and Better Homes and Gardens.”

In addition to visiting spas more often, men are also branching out when it comes to treatments. According to the ISPA data, around 80% of male spagoers made a traditional massage their treatment of choice as recently as 2013, while today, that percentage has shrunk down to 64%. Instead, men’s spa preferences have started to shift to other body treatments as well as skincare, hydrotherapy and nail services. 

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A male client ready for a massage at one of Hyatt’s Miraval properties. As recently as 2013, around 80% of male spagoers made a massage their treatment of choice, according to the International Spa Association.

A male client ready for a massage at one of Hyatt’s Miraval properties. As recently as 2013, around 80% of male spagoers made a massage their treatment of choice, according to the International Spa Association.

A male client ready for a massage at one of Hyatt’s Miraval properties. As recently as 2013, around 80% of male spagoers made a massage their treatment of choice, according to the International Spa Association.

A special menu for guys?

Meanwhile, the spa industry remains split on whether or not male clientele benefit from having a dedicated men’s treatment menu. While some spas see value in welcoming men who may be new to the self-care space with a smaller, potentially less-intimidating list of options, other spa operators are choosing to abandon the practice of a men’s menu altogether.

“A lot of spas have a link on their website or a single page on their menu that says ‘men’s services,’ with two or three treatments listed there,” Mersberger said. “But I’m starting to see more and more spas move away from that, which maybe sounds counterintuitive. But nowadays, men want to venture out and experience the same services that women do.”

Patrick Huey, corporate spa director at Montage Hotels & Resorts, has seen that phenomenon play out across the Spa Montage portfolio. While the brand does offer some male-specific services, Huey has seen a growing number of male clients migrate toward Spa Montage’s traditional treatment offerings instead.

“It’s been interesting to see,” Huey said. “And I think it just shows that the male spagoer is much savvier than some people realize.”

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A man gets a massage at a Mynd Spa & Salon location.

A man gets a massage at a Mynd Spa & Salon location.

A man gets a massage at a Mynd Spa & Salon location.

Rethinking and rebranding

When it comes to creating a gender-inclusive atmosphere, few spas have faced as big a challenge as Elizabeth Arden’s iconic Red Door Spa brand. The 100-year-old chain has 26 U.S. locations, including outposts at the Chatwal in New York, the Willard InterContinental in Washington and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, and the brand has long touted its ties to Arden and her eponymous cosmetics company.

This summer, however, the Red Door Spa cut ties with the Elizabeth Arden name, opting to rebrand itself as Mynd Spa & Salon. The new concept’s mantra is “Self care, undefined.”

A rendering of a space at a Mynd Spa & Salon, formerly Red Door Spa, which rebranded in a bid to expand beyond its traditional female clientele.

A rendering of a space at a Mynd Spa & Salon, formerly Red Door Spa, which rebranded in a bid to expand beyond its traditional female clientele.

A rendering of a space at a Mynd Spa & Salon, formerly Red Door Spa, which rebranded in a bid to expand beyond its traditional female clientele.

Alex Basso, vice president of marketing for Mynd Spa & Salon, said, “Red Door, with its heritage and branding, was always very much a female-driven brand.” 

Basso estimated that Red Door’s clientele was approximately 95% to 97% female before the repositioning.

“The brand recognition was there, but there started to be a decline in general relevancy. And there was also a big barrier to entry for men,” she said. “So while we wanted to stay true to our roots, we felt we needed to walk away from the name and create something Arden would be proud of as well as something that could withstand the next 100 years in terms of the landscape of society and what consumers want today.”

The Mynd Spa & Salon revamp focuses on gender-neutral design with natural elements and no red-lacquered doors.

The Mynd Spa & Salon revamp focuses on gender-neutral design with natural elements and no red-lacquered doors.

The Mynd Spa & Salon revamp focuses on gender-neutral design with natural elements and no red-lacquered doors.

A major part of the revamp revolved around aesthetic changes. The brand shed its signature red-lacquered doors as well as some of its more traditionally feminine design touches and replaced them with more natural elements and lush greenery. Gender-specific robe colors were also swapped out for a single, navy blue option featuring a gold embroidered logo.

“We realized our red door was something of an imposition,” Basso said. “It was intimidating to not just men but also women. By stripping away those doors and a lot of the glitz and glam our locations had, we were better able to create a sense of calm.”

Mynd also streamlined its spa menu, making it easier to navigate, while also offering more opportunity for customization. 

“When I started at Red Door 10 years ago, I think we had something like 16 different facials,” Basso said. “But we wanted to make the idea of choice much less stressful and also allow for more personalization, because one size doesn’t fit all. A person’s needs differ based on seasonality, skin type, ingredient preferences and a host of other variables.”

Mynd Spa & Salon, which has 26 U.S. locations, changed from gender-specific robe colors to navy blue robes for all. (TW Photo by Christina Jelski)

Mynd Spa & Salon, which has 26 U.S. locations, changed from gender-specific robe colors to navy blue robes for all. (TW Photo by Christina Jelski)

Mynd Spa & Salon, which has 26 U.S. locations, changed from gender-specific robe colors to navy blue robes for all. (TW Photo by Christina Jelski)

Mynd completed its brand transition at all locations at the end of October. While it’s too soon to say if the changes have boosted the chain’s male market share, Basso is optimistic that the refresh has better positioned the brand for growth.

Men’s and women’s magazines at the Mynd Spa & Salon at the Chatwal hotel in New York. (TW Photo by Christina Jelski)

Men’s and women’s magazines at the Mynd Spa & Salon at the Chatwal hotel in New York. (TW Photo by Christina Jelski)

Men’s and women’s magazines at the Mynd Spa & Salon at the Chatwal hotel in New York. (TW Photo by Christina Jelski)

“We wanted to take a step back and really create something that was gender-neutral and a space for all,” she said. “There’s been a real movement for men, women, all genders alike, just identifying the need for a timeout, for a moment to just breathe and let go. And we want to be here for that.”

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A man enjoys a beer during his pedicure at a Montage Hotels & Resorts property. Beer has been a lubricant for men trying spa treatments. (Photo by Montage Hotels & Resorts)

A man enjoys a beer during his pedicure at a Montage Hotels & Resorts property. Beer has been a lubricant for men trying spa treatments. (Photo by Montage Hotels & Resorts)

A man enjoys a beer during his pedicure at a Montage Hotels & Resorts property. Beer has been a lubricant for men trying spa treatments. (Photo by Montage Hotels & Resorts)

And then there’s the brewski

Sometimes, however, all it takes to draw more men into the spa is the promise of beer. The spa-meets-beer trend has popped up across the country in recent years, with the ISPA’s Mersberger calling the beverage add-on a “huge hook” for male clientele in particular.

“It’s such a simple little thing,” he added. “But it’s so funny. You just throw some craft beer in there, and men are like, ‘Cool! I’m in.’”

At the Edgewater hotel’s Edgewater Spa in Madison, Wis., spa director Kelleye Heydon successfully increased spa foot traffic roughly two years ago after pairing treatments with local craft brews.

“The spa really needed a resurgence, and we were seeing close to no men come in,” Heydon said. “But we realized if you add a beer or some bourbon to a treatment, men are going to try it, because at least there’s a part of it that’s familiar for them. So we started by pairing a massage with a beer, and it worked really well.”

Now a regular menu feature, the beer-inspired programming at Edgewater Spa rotates according to the season. For the holidays, Heydon combined a hot cinnamon oil pedicure with a honey body scrub and mask, with the entire treatment designed to be enjoyed while sipping a Christmas Ale with honey and cinnamon notes from Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing.

Taking the novelty of a cold beer one step further are entrepreneurs Damien Zouaoui and Jessica French, who plan to open a concept called the Beer Spa in Denver this spring. 

Entrepreneurs Jessica French and Damien Zouaoui plan to open their inaugural Beer Spa in Denver. It will feature beer-ingredient hydrotherapy.

Entrepreneurs Jessica French and Damien Zouaoui plan to open their inaugural Beer Spa in Denver. It will feature beer-ingredient hydrotherapy.

Entrepreneurs Jessica French and Damien Zouaoui plan to open their inaugural Beer Spa in Denver. It will feature beer-ingredient hydrotherapy.

Inspired by beer-bath traditions in Eastern Europe, the Beer Spa will specialize in hydrotherapy, with guests able to soak in baths infused with a variety of beer ingredients, including hops and malted barley. 

“The idea is that we’re using the beer elements to create wellness therapies,” Zouaoui said. “Hops and malted barley have a lot of antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins that can make your skin softer and hair shinier. However, we don’t include any yeast, there is no fermentation, and there isn’t that sticky sensation on your body or ‘dive bar’ smell.”

The venue will also feature a taproom, where spagoers can help themselves to beer, wine and cider as well as tea or kombucha. The spa will also have an infrared sauna area and high-tech massage chairs.  

According to Zouaoui and French, Denver is a city with a thriving craft beer scene, a growing tourism sector and, notably, a population in which single men well outnumber single women. All of which makes it an ideal home base for their inaugural Beer Spa. However, the business partners see opportunity for additional outposts at hotels and resorts in markets like Aspen and Breckenridge, Colo.

“Craft beer is something that we both love, but we also immediately realized its potential to open spas up to the male demographic, which is something that I think we really struggle with here in the U.S.,” said French.

French added, however, that the Beer Spa is not meant to be only a spa for men. Instead, the concept is intended to tap into millennial demand for a more updated spa experience, unbound to gender identity.

“A lot of spas look like they’re stuck in the ’90s, or there are these extremely fancy hotel spas that are a little too high-end for the average person to visit regularly,” French said. “Aside from wanting to create a gender-neutral spa, we really felt there is this huge gap in the spa marketplace. There’s a need to offer something more up to date and trendy where millennial men and women can come for self-care and feel comfortable and just hang out.”

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