In an overflowing cabinet in Manav Lakhani’s blue and white bathroom lies proof that the men’s beauty industry in India has a good future. The 26-year-old executive at a Mumbai-based automobile components manufacturing firm has been experimenting with grooming and skincare products for two years. There’s an array from L’Oreal’s Men’s Expert range: A tanning moisturizer to uplift dull skin, an anti-tightness foaming cleansing gel and an anti-fatigue moisturizing lotion. Lakhani also uses day and night anti-wrinkle creams by Pond’s and a Clarins face cream. There’s a Gillette Fusion razor (five blades and a vibrating shaving head) and a similarly branded electric blue shave gel and after shave lotion, with aloe vera and cocoa butter. Lakhani has no skincare problems, but he says he’s safeguarding himself against early ageing, which pollution and his work-hard-party-harder lifestyle may soon bring about.
And just in case over-the-counter doesn’t do the trick, he’s added precautions like monthly oxygenating facials, manicures and pedicures.
Male beauty is booming the way fitness did a decade ago. It was initially written off as a frivolous pursuit, then experimental souls tried it, realized how good it made them feel and wished they had started years ago. Now, for an increasing number of men, minimizing pores is as important as maximizing pecs.
Beauty firms and service providers are gleeful that Lakhani is the norm and not the exception. “In 2004, 8-10% of our treatments were taken by men, while in 2005, we found that figure to be 20%,” says Ram Iyer, head of operations for Kaya Skin Clinic, which has 42 outlets in 16 cities. The number of Kaya’s male clients has tripled in the past year, adds Iyer. Grooming consultant Chhaya Momaya conducts frequent workshops for working professionals. She’s just finished one at a software services company, where out of 42 attendees, only six were women. “Today men don’t want to be intimidated by their foreign clients and try to be as well-turned out as the ladies,” says Momaya.
For supply chain manager Deepak Vazirani, professional reasons, not vanity, got him hooked onto regular facials. “I have to look fresh and sharp at work and it gives me a confidence boost,” he says. Every two months, the 35-year-old gets a specialized facial that includes microdermabrasion (skin polishing or exfoliation) and a rehydrating mask.
For the majority, the learning curve starts with haircare. Rukhsana Eisa, founder of Image Inc., a grooming consultancy, finds that most men have migrated from local barbers to young stylists. A spot where bankers get themselves a bit of funk is Sapna Bhavnani’s salon Mad-o-Wot in Bandra. With Bollywood kitsch all around and Bappida playing at full volume, Bhavnani snips away at the tresses of 10-12 bankers from institutions such as ICICI and HSBC, every week. “They’re more picky than women and have to stick to the guidelines laid down by their firms, but want me to give them a cut with a modern twist, so they can spike it up when not at work,” she says. Bhavnani also notes that her corporate clients bring their boardroom habits into her salon. “They most often come with references. Brad Pitt’s hairdo in Fight Club is one of the most requested,” she says.
Akhilesh Sethi’s got his haircare regime down pat. The 25-year-old Mumbai-based banking executive says getting ready for work takes him an hour. Toni & Guy’s Bed Head shampoo and a Garnier moisturizer with SPF 15 later, Sethi’s ready to bring out the hair products. “I pick my products depending on the kind of day I’m going to have. If I’m in office all day, I use a lightweight gel, if I have some meetings scheduled, then it’s Aussie brand Fudge’s Hair Shaper and Wella’s High Hair if I’m going partying. That one just doesn’t move,” he says.
Sethi says his hair is the bulk of his regime; he doesn’t bother too much about his skin, and as for facials and manicures: “None of that stuff.” But 24-year-old Pravesh Trehan’s taken the next step. The Mumbai-based industrial spares manufacturer gets an aroma facial, which includes a massage and clean-up every two months and he’s militant about washing his face four times a day and cleansing it with damp tissues at regular intervals. He’s been following this regime for the past few years. “Every time I saw men with good, clear skin, I thought it would be nice to have skin like that, so I started taking care of mine,” says Trehan. It doesn’t worry him that his friends refer to him as the “girl” in their group. “It’s now acceptable for men to look into grooming like women. And working men realize that being well-groomed opens more doors,” says Delhi-based image consultant Yatan Ahluwalia, who conducts corporate grooming workshops. In the past two years, Ahluwalia says, his client base has expanded from eight clients to more than 200.
Iyer of Kaya says that it’s much easier to convince men to get treatments, especially ones like Botox. “They’re more receptive and when the procedure is scientifically explained by a doctor, they don’t hesitate,” he says. At Kaya, 25% of all Botox treatments are undergone by males; laser hair reduction is another area that’s fast growing. Vazirani’s undergone a session to zap underarm hair; he says it looks unsightly when he’s in sleeveless tees during his morning walks. He’s probably going to target his ear lobes next. “I have a few hair there, which I must tackle before I get older. It might be a little painful, but no pain no gain,” he reasons out loud.
At least the ladies no longer have to go it alone.
l Rukhsana Eisa of Image Inc. says that in an ideal world, every man should own a shampoo and conditioner for supple, frizz-less hair, a styling gel or good old Brylcreem, a shaving and manicure kit, a sunblock-cum-moisturizer, an exfoliating scrub or gel, a deodorant or anti-perspirant and a light cologne.
l If you have heavy hair growth, shave again in the evening, says Eisa. It’s not acceptable to go to a meeting or function after work with unsightly green stubble.
l If you have a moustache or beard, always keep it trimmed. The hair of your moustache should not grow beyond the line of your upper lip.
l Chhaya Momaya says hair weaving is a no-no for men who are balding. “It’s terribly tacky. Really sophisticated people don’t mind ageing gracefully and balding. Just take good care of the hair that’s there,” she says.