Personal grooming is more important than ever, for Emiratis and expatriates alike. Hugo Berger checks out the new Gentleman's Tonic salon at Atlantis, The Palm.
A close shave at Atlantis is old fashioned, but leaves you feeling new
Not too long ago, few men would have openly admitted that they regularly indulged in a spot of pampering.
But nowadays, whether its spending their cash on luxury beauty products or booking themselves facials, manicures and waxing sessions at spas, men seem to be totally unashamed about their grooming habits.
Someone who has profited from this trend has been Olivier Bonnefoy, the founder of Gentlemen's Tonic. Formerly a city banker, in 2004 disillusionment with the world of finance compelled him to launch his bespoke barbershop and spa in London's upmarket Mayfair district.
Such was the company's success, it has ventured out into world expansion and has recently opened a branch in the Atlantis hotel on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah.
After experiencing its Royal Shave treatment - which involved an old-fashioned shave with a cut-throat razor, followed by a face mask and head massage - we gauged his expertise on the subject of men's skincare.
The rise of grooming
Although the male beauty industry may now be worth billions, Bonnefoy believes that men paying heed to their appearance is nothing new.
"There was a groundswell of activity in which men were gaining more confidence about looking after themselves in ways that they hadn't before," he contends.
"It's not a vanity issue, men have always wanted to look after themselves. But there weren't many products or services out there that were available to them. But it's only really in the past 10 or 15 years that this has become available to them."
The world financial crisis has not been as damaging to his industry as others, claims Bonnefoy.
"We've seen two recessions in the UK in the time our business has been in operation and both of these times our business actually increased.
"I think this is because people realise that their face is their number one asset. With the economy being bad, you're going to make cutbacks. But if you're looking for a job or trying to win deals, then you have to use your face to an advantage.
"When I worked on the trading floor and was interviewing people, if you had four candidates who were equal, you would go with the guy who looks the best, because he's the guy who will represent your business."
Grooming in the Gulf
Because of the atmospheric conditions in the region, it's incredibly important that men take a bit of extra care of their skin.
"The mixture of heat and humidity, combined with the dryness of the air-conditioning, can really ravage your face," he insists. So, facial moisturiser and drinking plenty of water are absolute necessities. Grooming of beards is also a big concern in the UAE, especially to Emiratis.
Bonnefoy said some of his Emirati friends had explained to him why this was the case.
"With their traditional dress, and with the headdress as well, it makes it difficult to differentiate with each other. So the beard becomes incredibly important stylistically. So maintaining a well-styled beard is important," he says.
Most men don't have the time, skill or the patience to shave with a straight razor every day. Bonnefoy, however, believes it entails a distinct advantage over using a disposable tool.
Most importantly is the educational value of the practice.
"Most men haven't been taught how to shave," he contends. "It's just not something that is passed on from father to son.
"It's not like women, who are taught by their mothers how to put on their make-up. The vast majority of men do not know how to shave, yet they will shave 20,000 times in their life."
The effect is that many men suffer with shaving rashes and ingrown hairs, which could easily be allayed with some proper tuition.
If you can't book yourself an old-fashioned shave every day, Bonnefoy suggests following a number of rules.
Firstly, he says, shave before or during a bath or shower, then use cold water to close pores afterwards.
Secondly, he says using good-quality products is a must.
"You can treat yourself with products, then you don't need to use a lot of product when shaving," he says.
"We've seen adverts for Wilkinson Sword or Nivea or Gillette, where they use a huge glob of product. So we assume the more we apply, the better the shave will be. Whereas the good-quality products, for the most part, don't need a lot."
But most crucially, one should apply an aftershave moisturiser after the deed is done. "That will not only give you a better shave, but also make sure your skin looks more youthful," he explains.
The 45-minute Royal Shave at Gentlemen's Tonic costs Dh310. For more information, visit www.atlantisthepalm.com or ring 04 426 2000
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