Where I come from up North, even the mildest nod to metrosexuality - having a favourite brand of gin, for example, or wearing a scarf - is enough to elicit a sad shake of the head and the words: ‘Southern softy’.
Even still, after putting my face through the trauma of a month-long festive hangover, I felt I owed it an apology - which is how I found myself walking through the doorway of the Nickel Spa for Men in London’s Covent Garden.
With some trepidation, I was heading for my first ever facial - and not just any facial, but the new, manly-named Electro Shock Energising Facial...
Inside, the first thing I see is a giant, glowing photograph of an offensively handsome man and his six-pack. Who says only girls have to deal with belittling body images. Anyway, in no time at all I am being whisked downstairs by my lovely therapist Stacey, who has been in the business for 12 years.
The first few minutes go a little shakily.
“How happy are you with your face at the moment?” she asks me, sincerely.
I try to shrug, but I’m lying down.
“What is your skincare regime like?”
To this I mumble something about using Dove soap, because the truth – that I occasionally splash myself with warm water – feels inadequate.
With the consultancy over, the treatment begins.
The first thing that happens is that your face is cleansed, while soft cotton pads are put over your eyes. Then they exfoliate you, which means have grainy cream rubbed into your face then gently padded off with a hot towel. This feels great.
Next, your face is ‘steamed’, which means a machine blows a warm breeze over you that with a little imagination, can feel like leaning out of lakeside window in Brescia in mid-August.
Then it’s time for a little tough love. The blackheads that have been coaxed out by the steam are pinched off one by one by your therapist. This feels oddly satisfying, but nowhere near as good as the face and shouder massage that follows.
It’s a relaxing half hour that then veers drastically off-road. The final act is the ‘Electro Shock’ gel, a layer of very cold goo (greeny-blue, Stacey tells me). It stings and you suddenly feel very cold.
You rather wish, lying there, that the stingy-face could come at the start and the lovely massage at the end, but that’s not how it works. The purpose of the gel, Stacey tells me, is to ‘brighten up your face’, which conjures unwelcome images of Des O’Connor.
At the end, you’re given an appraisal of your skin (mine: ‘a tiny bit dry but otherwise great: keep doing whatever you’re doing’. If only she knew) and sent on your way.
Outside, I realise the three layers of dead skin that everyone apparently wears all day like some kind of death mask have been well and truly scrubbed off. The cold wind makes me feel like I’m motorboarding a jelly fish.
But do I look or feel any better? And was it worth the money?
My face is smoother and cleaner than it ever has, though at £75, the Electro Shock Energising Facial isn’t cheap. And given that the cream is available separately, you could theoretically get the same results at home.
But, I suppose, rubbing some goo into your own face stood over your bathroom sink isn’t what getting a facial is all about. Nickel Spa strikes a perfect balance in creating a relaxing environment that doesn’t feel too fussy for the average bloke. The massage is wonderful, and the treatment achieves all that it promised it would. If you’re going to blow the best part of hundred quid showing your face a good time, I’d recommend it. No matter what your friends might say.
The Electro Shock Energising Facial is £75 at the Nickel Spa, London
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