John Huang Ka-jun and Edwin Lai Kin-ming share a flat but couldn't be more different. Huang, a 28-year-old Taiwanese banker, has a meticulous grooming ritual every morning: wash, cleanse, moisturise and then he tones his skin. After that he spends another 30 minutes styling his hair. In all, Huang needs 90 minutes every morning to prepare for his day. Lai, by contrast, needs only 10 minutes. 'I wash my face, brush my teeth, make sure I don't stink and I'm out the door,' says Lai, a 27-year-old American-Chinese computer analyst. 'If I had a routine like John back home in Chicago, I'd be laughed at,' says Lai. In pop culture terms, Huang is your typical metrosexual - an urban male with a strong sense of aesthetics who spends considerable time and money on his appearance and maintaining a certain lifestyle. Although the trend first surfaced in the West in major cities such as New York, men in Hong Kong are warming to the notion of male grooming. At Nude Waxing, a shop specialising in waxing and facials, general manager Tara Lin has seen an increase in male customers - even for waxing. 'There isn't a huge market for male waxing but it has got bigger,' says Lin, noting that the proportion of male clients has increased from 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the total in the past two years. Lifestyle magazine publisher Kelly England believes Asian men are more open to grooming due to their cultural roots. 'There have been massage parlours and spas for men in Asia for decades,' she says. 'A bunch of naked guys sitting at a jacuzzi is nothing new; men here are more open-minded.' That the Lane Crawford store in Pacific Place now has a dedicated men's beauty products area is a sure sign of the business booming, says England. Company director Simon Chu Tin-lok readily admits that he goes to a salon for facials and slimming treatments. 'I think trying to improve skin and weight is a very natural thing. I don't see why men should feel embarrassed. I'm not embarrassed at all, I tell my friends and family that I'm going for a facial,' says the 35-year-old. 'I started the treatment because I noticed my body isn't in as good a shape as before, I haven't been getting enough exercise.' But the shift may simply be a matter of changing social attitudes. 'Men have always cared about their looks and wanted to look good,' says Rob Lomas, head stylist at Paul Gerrard Salon. 'It's just that in the past, straight men were too embarrassed to buy products or inquire about treatments. But there's been a change due to society's acceptance of the metrosexual male. More and more men are now open to the ideas of skincare, facials and manicures.' While Lomas says 40 per cent of his clients facial and manicures are for men, spas and salons at five-star hotels estimate that the proportion of male customers is even higher. 'Male customers have steadily increased the past several years. Up to 60 per cent of our customers are men now,' says Sheryl Wan Poh-leng, manager the Langham's Chuan Spa. Mence Tsoi Man-sze, founder of male weight-management chain Mence, cites the hectic pace of Hong Kong life as the reason men feel the need to undergo treatments. 'American men are more into sports and see sport as a way to help them keep fit,' she says. 'In Hong Kong there isn't a sports culture and the lifestyle here is just busier and more hectic, so the men are more open to getting treatments for skincare and weight management.' In addition to weight management, Mence offers eyebag removal, skin rejuvenation and permanent hair removal. Tsoi says her company, which started as a beauty salon in Kwai Chung 30 years ago, has always had male clients but most were embarrassed about treatments until about six years ago. 'We started heavily marketing our male-specific grooming regimens in 2002, hoping to let the public understand that grooming is a normal thing,' she says. The aggressive campaign seems to have worked: the company now lists about 30,000 regular customers and has opened three branches in the past three years, giving them five outlets across the city. Salons catering to men usually take care to be sensitive to their egos, though it may become less important as male grooming gains wider acceptance. 'Everything about our male treatment has been designed to look less feminine; from the bottles of lotion to the room we treat them in,' Wan says. 'It's crucial that it doesn't come off as too feminine - so they don't feel embarrassed.' Photographer Norm Yip Wai-sing, who has worked on a series of photobooks called The Asian Male, says: 'Hong Kong men are just as vain as the women. They love to follow trends in fashion and style as much as anyone.' Despite his flatmate's constant teasing, Huang is proud of his lifestyle. He spends time each week on facials and getting his eyebrows trimmed, and often flaunts his carefully coiffed hair or newly shaped eyebrows on his Facebook page. 'It doesn't matter to me that Edwin doesn't get it. He's too much of a typical American alpha male,' Huang says. Professor Anthony Fung Ying-him, who has run Chinese University's gender research programme for the past five years, concurs. Different cultures have always defined masculinity differently, he says. 'In the West, masculinity traditionally meant muscles and ruggedness but in the East it means clean-cut looks and baby-face smoothness.' Fung says part of the reason more men here are grooming is the Asian idol culture, citing pop stars such as South Korea's Rain or Jay Chou Chieh-lun of Taiwan as 'pretty boys who have soft, neutral features'. Lai simply can't relate. 'I think as an American, I'm just different from local guys,' he says. 'Eyebrow trimming, manicures and facials are things I don't ever see myself doing.' But while there are many Hong Kong men who feel the same way, it's clear that male vanity is here to stay. 'Wanting to look good has never been a female thing,' says England. 'It's a human thing.'