Pride and groom

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am

The signs are there: Lane Crawford Pacific Place now has a dedicated men's beauty product area. And it's increasingly common to see men through salon windows unashamedly having pedicures. To top it off, women are fighting for space in their previously private domain of the bathroom cabinet.

The workplace and the dating scene are increasingly competitive and men are slowly realising that looking their best is not only optional but vital.

'Nowadays so many people have the same level of education as me, with degrees and good grades,' says Wang Qiang, 34, who works for a logistics company in North Point. 'So last year I decided I needed to do something different to give myself an edge. I'd been told by colleagues that when I am groomed I look more successful, so I headed down that route. I recently got promoted and was given a salary rise. So I really believe that my improved appearance has been a contributing factor.'

Looking good and feeling good are linked. Improving your look can make you more confident, win you more co-operation from colleagues and clients, and even help you to operate more efficiently.

'Women today can be so demanding,' says Michael Lee, 31, who works in financial services. 'One date told me she spent so much time making herself look good that she expected a similar level of grooming from her boyfriend. It was then that I realised that designer clothes and shoes weren't enough - my dry hands were enough to put her off me. So I did what any other smart guy would do. I did what I had to do to get the girl. No regrets so far.'

Appearance isn't everything, although perhaps the most vital social skill is making people around you comfortable, and this is where grooming comes in, both in your personal life and professional affairs. First impressions matter, so here are the top five things men should be doing.

Manscape your body

Body hair can be a confusing issue for men, but most women find overall fuzz on the arms, legs and chest natural, acceptable and sometimes even desirable. This doesn't mean back hair, which is off-putting. You may want to shave unwanted hair at home, although it can lead to itchy skin and irritation as can depilatory creams. Back hair is the most common hair hassle among Hong Kong men, says Justine Grier at The Beautiful Skin Centre in Pacific Place. But a good back wax will keep you smooth for weeks rather than days. The pain is too much for some men, so if you think you can't take it, you could try laser hair removal. It takes several sessions but will give you a longer lasting result and a potentially hair-free future.

Tidy those nails

A man's hands reveal a great deal about his level of cleanliness and his kind of work (manual or office). They also indicate how long he has spent smartening himself before meeting his date.

The first thing to do is to get a moisturising hand wash or soap and keep your hands scrupulously clean. Also buy a nail scrubbing brush and use it daily - The Body Shop has some good ones.

It's not strange for men to use hand cream regularly to keep hands feeling soft and gentle - in fact, it's all the better for holding hands. Buy nail scissors that can clip hanging nails (do not use them on public transport, which some people think is acceptable - it isn't) and emery boards for smoothing the edges. Then all you need is a wooden cuticle stick from Sasa to push down the skin at the base of nails for a smoother look.

If you're too busy to do it yourself, head to Paua Spa by Frederique on Hollywood Road. Men are welcomed for serious relaxation and manicures and pedicures. Bring a DVD of your choice for the ultimate chill-out. Leave feeling buffed to perfection.

Have a decent haircut

Men are catching on to what women have known for decades: your hairdresser can be your best friend. With their magic hands they can get you looking sharp, sleek and ready for action.

A good haircut can take the weight of the world off your shoulders. French stylist Emmanuel Faipoux of the Emmanuel F Salon on Pottinger Street says: 'Most of my male clients are recommended to me by their wives or girlfriends. They are tired of having unpredictable cuts in cheaper salons and don't want to walk around looking bad for the next three weeks. Time is money and men need to look professional to be taken seriously.'

Your hairdresser should automatically tweak your hairstyle in a subtle way every six months so that it stays on trend and suits your face shape.

Emmanuel F is also receiving increasing numbers of men who want their greying hair expertly highlighted or coloured for natural-looking results.

'They know that the home colour boxes make your hair one tone and basically look fake,' says Faipoux. 'Last week I had a man for his first salon colour and he was beaming with happiness afterwards - he said he looked 10 years younger after colouring. Now I am helping two of his friends.'

For home styling, try Toni & Guy's Texture Paste from Mannings or Emmanuel's Shaper Maker. Both give texture, definition and volume control, and are easy to use and shampoo out.

Shave smarter

Shaving is a daily ritual for most men, so learn to avoid nicks, cuts and razor rash. Use hot rather than warm water, as it will open the pores and prepare the skin. It's also important to pick quality products. Shaving foams often dry the skin, so consider Shave J Shaving Gel from Mannings. Rub it in thoroughly with your hands for one minute to get good coverage. Forget about shaving brushes, as they're hard to keep clean and spread bacteria. Get into the brightest light in your bathroom so you can see clearly what you are doing and you're ready to razor. Norman Fong, a 37-year-old caterer, says: 'Shaving is not difficult, it just takes some time to do well and then it looks better and lasts a little longer.' He prefers wet shaves to dry electric shaves, especially in hot weather.

Begin to shave in short strokes following the direction of hair growth towards the chin, being extra careful on your neck and throat. Replace razors regularly to keep your skin safe. Rinse thoroughly then apply a moisturiser to cool your face, such as Razor Burn Repair from Anthony, available at Lane Crawford in the IFC Mall. If you really want to spoil yourself, get an Elemis Post Shave Recovery Mask to reduce your skin's sensitivity. Kissable skin takes a bit of time but can be well worth the results.

Smooth scaly skin

'For clear skin you must use cleanser and moisturiser daily, plus sunscreen,' says cosmetic doctor Dan Kong Kwok-leung. 'This will reduce blemishes and delay ageing. A commitment to your skin will pay dividends in the years to come.'

Following the widespread international media coverage of Botox, it was only a matter of time before men started using it. American Idol judge Simon Cowell admits to doing so and celebrities from Michael Douglas to Sylvester Stallone are rumoured to be secret fans. Kong says local men have lately shown unprecedented interest in such treatments.

One Hong Kong man, who asks not to be named, says: 'After Botox my skin feels tighter, more lifted, yet I think it looks totally natural. People now tell me that I look very well, rather than before, when they often commented that I looked tired.'