Modern males keep Dh740 million UAE grooming market looking good

Illuminating facials and smooth full-body waxing are increasingly being offered to men in the UAE who are becoming more adventurous at their trips to the spa.

Media coverage of well-presented world leaders like Barack Obama are fuelling trips to the spa. Saul Loeb / AFP

“Sometimes, I get a full body wax, because it’s important to look good at the gym,” said a 29-year-old sales manager as he was having his beard trimmed at a men’s salon in Dubai.

He is not alone: men are increasingly looking at treatments traditionally found in women’s spas.

Metrosexuals, men who take pride in their appearance and spend time achieving the desired well-groomed look are increasingly spending money on rejuvenating facials and laser-guided trimmers.

According to a report from Euromonitor International, the UAE’s male grooming products market, which includes shaving devices and hair and skincare products, is currently worth Dh208 million. This figure jumps to some Dh740m once trips to the barbers, spa and beauty clinics are taken into consideration.

“Major market players like Unilever, which has men’s product lines for its Dove and Vaseline personal care brands have been very active with advertising and promotions. These advertisements are successful because most male consumers in the UAE are relatively young and eager to try new products,” said Ashley Batten, a research analyst at Euromonitor International.

Advertisement campaigns featuring spotless Bollywood actors like Salman Khan and media coverage of well-presented world leaders like Barack Obama are fuelling trips to the spa. According to the report, “men [in the UAE] are expected to become increasingly proactive in their attempts to maintain a youthful and well-groomed appearance … the country’s men are very brand- conscious [and] take pride in their appearance”.

This pride has also extended to cosmetic procedures. Among the clinics sampled by The National, some 30 per cent of clients seeking Botox treatments are men keen to look younger in an increasingly competitive jobs market.

“In this region, men of all kinds go to spas: employed, self-employed, retirees. You definitely would not see some of these guys go to a spa in their home countries. However, it’s quite normal and routine [in this part of the world],” said Rishi Aggarwal, the managing director at RJS Group of Companies which owns the ZenAsia Spas in Dubai.

James Lebbet, a consultant originally based in London, agrees.

“It is more accessible here. I had a facial for the first time in Dubai because it was available in the barbershop, which makes it more acceptable too. It seemed more functional rather than vain. I don’t know any barbers in London that offer facials,” he said.

Besides demand for nail care such as manicures and pedicures, men are becoming a bit more adventurous when exploring options at spas.

“We saw a growing trend in Brazilian Keratin as more people are now growing their hair again,” said Mr Aggarwal. “Even waxing with halawa is getting trendy. Facials have been popular for quite a while, however pretty soon the way men are now, there won’t be a difference between male and female spa treatments.”

SensAsia Spa, which has branches in Mall of the Emirates, on the Palm and Jumeirah, draws a large proportion of husbands visiting the spa with their wives for couples treatments.

“We find males are very loyal to their therapist and chosen spa location,” said Amy Ingram, marketing and PR executive at SensAsia Urban Spa. “When they find something that works they stick with it. However, they do not tend to book in advance, they walk in usually after 4pm, which suggests they fit a treatment in after they finish work and it’s a quick decision,”.

Despite the growth, only a certain model seems to work. ZenAsia spa closed its male-only spa in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) because of low demand.

“Dubai compared to other cities definitely has a higher rate of male grooming. Business-wise, it is more beneficial to have ladies and men’s mixed salons, however this is only possible in a hotel. There are some salons that offer male and female staff and are not in a hotel, however we decided to expand our ladies’ section instead of bending the rules,” said Mr Aggarwal. “JLT’s community is growing very fast so there will be more scope in the future for a purely male salon.”

As more male-focused salons open up, the products market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 4 per cent over the next five years. Procter & Gamble is the market leader in the UAE with a 36 per cent share of the market in 2012 thanks to the success of its Gilette brand. It is followed by SuperMax Corp, with 15 per cent market share.

“The most dynamic player in 2012 was L’Oreal Middle East thanks to the recent launch of its L’Oreal Men Expert line of skincare and pre and post-shaving products,” said Ms Batten.

The latest company to want to take a slice of this market is Philips.

“Consumer lifestyle in the UAE and the Middle East is one of the strongest-growing markets in the world. We are expecting a lot of growth here and in some countries, doubling [our sales],” said Ozlem Duzen Fidanci, vice-president and general manager of Middle East and Turkey at Philips Consumer Lifestyle. “Men here take pride in their appearance, look at how they give importance for facial style. As we develop personal grooming devices, it is a big opportunity for Philips.”

The company will be increasing its investments in the region next year, especially in the male grooming sector, with new product launches planned. Philips is also boosting its research and customer engagement to better tailor its products.

“We are very much trying to understand the Arab [man’s] needs who pay more attention to facial style than European men.”