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'Make me metrosexual' ... one man's lonely journey into the new-fangled world of Scottish male grooming

Scots are putting the man into manicure.

Tom Shields succumbs to an ishga Hebridean seawood treatment
Tom Shields succumbs to an ishga Hebridean seawood treatment

An upsurge in popularity of male grooming is leading to increased staff recruitment, according to an industry survey. More than half of salons reported an increase in male customers, with men now making up one-fifth of clients for facials, tanning, manicures and eyebrow-shaping.

Leon Trayling, spa director at the five-star Blythswood Square hotel, confirms the trend as men now make up half the membership of the upmarket establishment. He says: "The days have long gone when there was a macho prejudice against what were once regarded as girly concepts such as moisturising and other skin-care procedures. Women have always been under pressure to look good and take care of their face, nails and body. Now men are expected to do the same, and even indulge in a spot of vanity about how they look although I am not sure if the upsurge in waxing is because men don't want body hair or whether it is more driven by women's preferences."

Treatments for males and females are essentially similar but some are tailored in case, for instance, a man does not wish to emerge smelling of jasmine. There is also rebranding. Trayling says: "A 'men's urban cleanse facial' sounds more manly than the 'rose bliss facial'."

I was sent, on readers' behalf, to sample some grooming procedures. I decided against any body hair removal, having been informed that waxing of the back, sac and crack can be painful. I also avoided detox, which I did not enjoy the last time (admittedly in a less luxurious establishment than the Blythswood). I was smeared in mud, wrapped in clingfilm, enclosed in a plastic thermal body bag and baked gently for half an hour. I was hosed down and then marinaded in a fruity and spicy lotion like a chicken ready for the oven. The result of this detox was that I was unwell for two days and only felt better once I had got some toxins back into my body.

My one and only session of Thai massage ended prematurely when the masseuse pointed out it was not normal for the client to scream out in pain.

I was happy to settle for one of the Blythswood spa's ishga Hebridean seaweed treatments. The seaweed harvested on the rugged shores of the isle of Lewis is said to have natural anti-oxidants with anti-ageing properties that help protect the skin plus powerful toxin-removing qualities.

The seaweed is used as the base for a range of creams, serums, lotions and sea-salt scrubs using various plant extracts and pure Hebridean spring water. Ishga is a phonetic variation of uisge, the Gaelic for water, the easier pronunciation being useful for the foreign market.

A gentle face massage with some Hebridean unguents is a pleasant experience and quite patriotic as well. The Blythswood spa is very Scottish and has Harris tweed all over the place, including some wall coverings. (There was no evidence of any treatments involving a rub-down with a Harris tweed exfoliator.)

Trayling explained to me that the treatment would not undo the ravages of time but might stop the clock for a wee while.

There is also the full body immersion in a warm seaweed bath. Yes, you could try the same process for free by going for a dip off a Scottish beach, but with possible exposure to jellyfish and hypothermia.

The Blythswood spa is a place for those with reasonable disposable income. Membership costs up to £125 a month, giving access to the labyrinth of luxurious pools, steam rooms, saunas and relaxation areas.

Members get a discount on treatments including hot stone massage, the rhassoul mud experience, chakra-balancing, body scrubs, body wraps, and a host of treatments in which clients are pampered and looked after hand and foot. Some sessions cost up to £80 an hour.

Trayling says: "As well as the restorative and cleansing aspect of the treatments, there is the relaxation factor.

"Members use our spa as a hideaway, an escape from the pressures of work and away from laptops, phone calls, emails and meetings. Even an hour is important time for themselves."

There are obviously less expensive salons than the Blythswood spa but at most establishments grooming does not come cheap. A £60 haircut, even with stress-relieving head massage and hint of a tint, is a long way from my usual £5 pensioner's trim.

A full body salt-and-sugar scrub may seem a relative bargain at £30. But most of this stuff can be done cheaply at home if you examine the extensive range of bodily cleansing products the average house already has in stock.

At home I have found, for instance, a Gemspa relaxing amethyst shimmer shower wash with gemstone minerals, a tea tree facial scrub and a microcrystal hand resurfacer with collagen, vitamins and ceramides.

The trouble is the treatments are not quite so enjoyable on a DIY basis in your own bathroom.

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