Ay, there's the rub


RUMOUR has it that increasing numbers of men are slipping discreetly into beauty salons around the country in an effort to stave off the ravages of age. Aside from the obvious treatments for hair colouring and fake tans, there is now a variety of programmes specifically designed for men's skin and its problems.

But are Irishmen taking advantage of these new opportunities? Many beauticians insist they have a substantial list of male clients, although discretion means they cannot disclose names. While the benefits of a good appearance are now widely accepted, men still fear accusations of vanity and would rather keep their forays into skincare a closely guarded secret.

Unable to find anyone willing to admit publicly that, yes, he has crossed the threshold of a beauty salon, instead we sought three volunteers to try out different treatments. Many were asked, few chose to accept the task. It seems that skincare for men still carries a stigma as shameful as a bad outbreak of acne. Here are reports from our three plucky men who weren't afraid to let the world know about the state of their skin.

Felim Dunne, 36 year old architect usually just washes his face and that's the complete skin regime. "If I go to stay in a hotel for the weekend where there's a health and fitness centre, one of the first things I do is book a facial. It's an occasional indulgence, that's what I enjoy. Felim went to About Face in Temple Bar, which opened last September and specialises in men's skincare.

The presentation was quite clever. You're handed a card when you come in asking what you suffer from my answer was everything except five o'clock shadow. And when talking to you, they're careful to speak about health and healing rather than cosmetics and vanity. It's all very sensible and sensitive."

Felim was given an hour long, aromatherapy facial using the German Dr Hauschka range. This includes a hot towel compress with essential oils, deep cleanse and skin conditioning, clay or hot oil mask and toning and moisturising of the skin. Felim's conclusion: "It was extremely good; I haven't stopped waxing lyrical since. The night before going, I'd had no sleep thanks to child terrorism at home and was tempted to cancel the appointment. But afterwards I felt great, it really transformed me for the rest of the day."

Was his skin better afterwards? "It's more to do with how I felt overall. I'm not sure people commented on my skin but it was extremely relaxing the benefits lasted several days. Yes, I would go back again. And actually bought some products before leaving."

Felim's only criticism: "The shop looks so good and the idea's so cool that the little tent you go into, to have this done is a bit disappointing. Even the chair you sit in just looks temporary. There should be a separate room or something more permanent about it." Felim Dunne's aromatherapy facial costs £30.

. About Face, 20 Temple Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Tel. 01 6717959.

Gavin Lyons, 25 year old editorial co ordinator on D'Side magazine normally uses shaving cream and moisturiser, both by Aveda "which is quite nice". He went to Chleo in Ballsbridge.

"Mia the beautician told me I had lovely skin and that these treatments were really for people with more serious problems," says Gavin, who was given an enzyme mask treatment lasting one and a half hours. All products used were from the Danne range developed by Dr Danne King for treatment of skin disorders such as acne, scarring and sun damage. Following cleansing, a mask was applied by Mia who explains "these eat up all the dead, redundant skin cells. It's called a hydrologising of the surface skin by use of the mask". "Mia warned me in advance, that this would be uncomfortable," comments Gavin. "It's not just on your face but goes all the way down to your collarbones. Actually the face mask really stung before going rock hard. It's put on your skin and then heats up; it makes all your pulse points throb and allegedly tones your skin too.

Did the treatment make a difference? "Not really, but then I've already got good skin. I felt nice and clean afterwards. What I liked best was the manicure which I'd never had before; they gave me one while waiting for the mask to set. I probably wouldn't go again because I don't need to. But it was very relaxing; it forced you into not doing anything." Gavin Lyons's enzyme mask treatment costs £45.

. Chleo Enterprises. Canal House, Northumberland Road, Dublin 4. Tel. 01 6680124.

Kevin Courtney, The Irish Times's rock music critic (aged a youthful 38) takes good care of himself with Roc's after shave gel and moisturising cream but still has dry patches on his face. These were noted by Debbie when he went to Buttercups Beauty Salon in the Powerscourt Townhouse for a Repechage four layer facial. Repechage is a new name in Ireland but already well established in the United States by its founder, Polish born Lydia Sarfati, whose range of products are based around the mineral extracts of seaweed.

Centrepiece of the regime is the four layer facial which, after basic cleansing, starts with a C Serum Seaweed Filtrate. This highly concentrated seaweed serum is described by Kevin as, "brilliant: it soaked straight into the skin and had a lovely feel". Next followed hydrating cream and a facial massage. "That's when I really started to relax and chill out. It's a great stress release."

A seaweed mask is the third stage of the facial treatment; Kevin's chill out now became literal because this leaves a strong cooling impression. After five minutes, it is covered by a mineral mask which, by contrast, heats up while it sets on the face. "It's like you're lying in the sun. While it was on, Debbie gave me a dry scalp massage and a bit more on my shoulders and arms as well."

Once the hour long treatment was finished "my skin definitely felt good - in fact, it still does 24 hours later. I'd definitely do it again. It's a bit pricey, so I probably wouldn't go very often but it's a great way to make the skin feel fresh." Kevin's four layer facial costs £45.

. Buttercups Beauty Salon, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin 2. Tel. 01 6794866.