Vanessa - everyone calls her V - asks me to undress. I’m nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before. The room is dark. V lights another scented candle.
“Get comfortable,” says the 27-year-old, pointing to a bed.
“You’re brave, people will be watching.”
She leaves the room. I slip under the duvet semi-naked and stare at the ceiling.
Elevator lift panpipe music takes my mind off the non-surgical facelift I’m about to receive.
I’m in Horsham’s Beauty Secrets Salon and Spa. It’s smack bang in the middle of East Street’s bustling restaurant scene. But you wouldn’t know it. Behind these doors lies a Narnia of serenity home to women with lotion.
Tonight is the salon’s open evening and I’m the ‘male model’ subject to a number of treatments which have always been on the menu, but are becoming increasingly popular with us blokes.
V reappears and tucks a towel into the back of my underpants. Lucky I’m wearing my only nice pair, Hugo Boss, darling.
Face scrunched in the doughnut pillow, V commences a deep tissue massage - £55 for 40 minutes.
We chat about the modern man. Today he’s struggling to strike a balance between keeping that rugged edge which ensures man status and grooming to excess.
But how much is too much? Only the other day I was hissed at in the office for using the word ‘product’ for hair gel. Is man crossing the line at hairspray? Fake tan? Eyelash tinting? (The last apparently popular among men at the Horsham salon).
“If he’s spending longer than you to get ready and you’re fighting for the bathroom, something’s not right,” V knocked on the head as she pummelled my shoulders.
Whatever the modern man is suppose to be, it’s lagging far behind our European counterparts. Beauty Secrets owner Karen Tapson says we can learn a lot from France and Sweden’s perfectly coiffed gents.
“They’ve been doing it for years,” she said, “But men here are becoming more aware of the benefits and the need to do these things.”
Karen explained longer working lives and a greater understanding of skin damage by the sun are two big contributing factors.
Women, wine in hand, are now streaming into the cosy room and surrounding my bed. They expel ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the sight of a man in a beauty salon. Exotic.
Keen to rid the illusion that these treatments are soft, fluffy hocus-pocus, V whips out two electric prongs for my non-surgical facelift.
It’s not as painful as it sounds, but a weird sensation none-the-less.
CACI Quantum (which sounds like a powerful washing machine) aims to stimulate facial muscles with a low voltage electrical current
The result - firmer and younger looking skin.
“It’s like the gym for your face,” says V.
This is true. The following day my forehead was so tight I could scarcely frown. It made me realise how much I do frown.
But the effects were visible, and I would recommend this treatment for any man-about-town looking to decrease his display of wrinkles or firm up those sagging jowls .
An hour of CACI costs £60. For a long-lasting effect the salon advises a course of ten treatments.
These are not gimmicks. The treatments at this salon border on the scientific.
Karen’s eager to see more men through her salon doors. But she claims it’s never too early to start thinking about how a trip to the salon can enhance your life.
For all those oily-skinned teenagers, the team offer a Guinot Hydraclean at £35 for a 30 minute treatment. It’s perfect for those suffering from acne. I would have been straight in the salon if I’d known about this during my hormonal days, instead of using prescription medicine which added a nice greasy shine to my face and nicking my mum’s foundation to cover up spots - oh, the shame.
“You can do so much damage with off-the-shelf products that look good but actually strip your skin,” explained Karen.
But you don’t have to dive in for a course of whatever for x amount. Beauty Secrets offers one to one consultations to discuss what treatment is right for you.
For Karen, regular massages have become a necessity, as with many of her female customers. I can see youngsters and men soon following suit as the stigma that beauty salons are only reserved for housewives with disposable income is slowly eradicated. V puts down the electric prongs and concludes: “It’s different nowadays to how it used to be. It’s acceptable, almost expected for guys to have treatments. It gives them an edge and a bit of boost.”
I re-robe - a new man.
For more information visit http://beautysecretsspa.co.uk/horsham/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org