Once the domain of women only, men are frequently booking in for beauty maintenance. Carly Gibbs and Mike Tweed look at the growing trend of male grooming.
Competitiveness, ageing and the influence of social media. It's not just women these days who are feeling the pressure to hone their appearance.
Botox, waxing, plastic surgery and weekly hair treatments are no longer just applicable to female beauty.
And one of the drivers of men stealing time in front of the bathroom mirror is competition in the workplace, says plastic surgeon Dr Tristan de Chalain.
Ten per cent of his patients are men whose top requests are reducing "man boobs" (gynaecomastia) and neck lifts to correct a "turkey neck".
"We're a very youth-orientated society," de Chalain explains, giving the made-up example of a 40-something bucking for a promotion against a graduate.
"You don't want to be seen as the old man in the selections, so you might have something, whether it's fillers, a bit of sharp grooming, a mini facelift, or an eyelid tuck.
"Something to give you a bit of a boost so you don't look like you're past it. It was a real phenomenon in the UK and the US, and I think it's starting to happen here as well."
A rise in gender sensitivity has seen metrosexuality become more mainstream, he says, however a stigma around plastic surgery remains.
For example, many of his provincial clients (an even split of gay and straight men) opt to have their surgery in Auckland to ensure privacy.
"I have men who say they want to look five years younger but don't want to look like they've had anything done. Good plastic surgery you won't see."
He advises anyone contemplating surgery to look at a surgeon's qualifications, length of service, the number of times they've performed your chosen procedure, request to see any pre and post-op photos and request to talk to someone they've operated on.
"You're spending a lot of money and it's not without risk."
As a general rule of thumb, New Zealanders can expect to pay about $5000 an hour for aesthetic surgery.
'Not just back and chest waxes'
De Chalain cautions that any decent plastic surgeon won't do a procedure for the sake of it: "A lot of what we do is based on psychology ... We spend some time going into the whys and wherefores, what the motivations are, what the expectations are."
The owner of be.be beauty boutique on Victoria Ave, Bryley McKenzie, said that, over the 18 years she has been in the beauty industry, there had been a noticeable increase in male bookings.
"Men are coming in to keep their [eye]brows in shape, and for facials," McKenzie said.
"It's mainly girlfriends or wives saying their partner needs to come in for a facial or something, and then they keep coming back.
"I wouldn't say that the guys that come in here are metrosexual either, and you wouldn't look at them on the street and say 'Jeez, that guy's had a facial'. I think it's really good that they're starting to take an interest in what they look like and what other people are looking at, especially ears and noses."
McKenzie said men came in to the boutique "for all sorts of stuff".
"It's not just back and chest waxes.
"We do quite a lot of IPL [intense pulsed light] on legs and arms if they're extremely hairy and just want to cut that hair in half. They don't want to look like they've waxed or shaved, but you don't want to be as hairy."
The more companies targeted male-oriented skincare, "the more it will grow", McKenzie said.
"Then there are things like Instagram and influencers, and I guess guys get influenced just as much as girls do.
"Guys who are 40 and under are like 'Yeah, there's nothing wrong with going in and getting some stuff done', but I think 40 and over, there's still a bit of a stigma around it.
"Even though we do have a male clientele that's 40 and older, I don't think they'd go around telling their mates that they got their eyebrows done. They just sneak in with their wives and sneak back out again."
Paula Wade, from The Edge Beauty Studio in Whanganui's CBD, said that men were "just as entitled to look after themselves as women are" and that she had regular male clients.
"Whether guys are having facials, pedicures, manicures, or mankinis, there's quite an open field there for men to look after themselves," Wade said.
Some men who came in for a mankini wouldn't "be seen again", Wade said, and others came in on dares, after losing a bet, or for special occasions.
"It's the same with females though. They'll have one and not come in again. To me, it doesn't matter if you're male or female. If you want a beauty treatment you just do it."
Like be.be, all of The Edge's products are unisex.
"We cater for everybody," Wade said.
"For some people there might still be a barrier there. People could look at the macho side of things and say rugby players shouldn't be getting a wax or something like that, but then maybe ballerinas shouldn't either if they want to say that.
"A client is a client to us, no matter what walk of life they come from."
Metro Waxing's Camilla Amundsen, who has been waxing men since 2011 after seeing a gap in the market, says her profession is a dinner-party stopper — people are always curious.
"In this business, you have to be prepared for almost anything," the Auckland-based beauty therapist says. She waxes everything from ears to "snail trails", nostrils and toes.
"Men have lots of unwanted, prickly hair. The demand for back waxing is the number one choice seen, but, now more than ever, men are ready to bare it all for the below-the-belt manzilian wax."
Women are her biggest encouragers for the manzilian, explaining that there is an increasing expectation for women to have smooth skin and the same expectation is now being placed on men, however, there are still detractors of the practice.
Her observations are that men in smaller cities tend to hold on to their hair more than Aucklanders where there's a "need" to be well-groomed.
She wants to normalise "monthly maintenance" and while men don't talk about waxing like women do, they're "curious creatures".
"Men will often do their research to find a place that is not too fluffy and filled with other men in the waiting room."
Brow shaping is "huge", while facial waxing is more about sculpting and enhancing the face.
And, it doesn't have to be a torturous experience.
"I've read many salons suggesting clients should pop a couple of Panadol or Nurofen to ease the pain, I'm just so against it and it makes me cringe," she laments.
And, if you feel mortified by the idea, Amundsen would like you to think of it as no different from mowing your lawn.
"Do you use a Masport or a push cutter? You like to cut your edges a certain height and to use a grass catcher, right?"
Worldwide the male-grooming industry is booming — estimated to be worth US$29.14 billion by 2024.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand barbershops are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, with newly opened Refinery Studios in Papamoa offering a yearly $1299 "VIP" subscription for unlimited visits. Several businessmen have already taken up the offer.
Some clients have their beards shaped and hair trimmed weekly, says owner Greg Stapleton.
"It can get to the point where it becomes an addiction," he muses, adding that just as males have embraced talking about their vulnerabilities and going to the doctor without fear, they too have embraced self-expression through appearance.
That's backed up by veteran Rotorua barber Glen Atkinson of Wilson's Barbershop, who says barber shops are opening up everywhere.
"It's like a dairy ... The industry is going berserk."
When it comes to hair in other places, manzilian or bro-zilian waxes — the treatment of removing hair from the entire pubic region — are slowly building in popularity.
And then there's eyebrow grooming; hair loss treatment; botox or "bro-tox", and facials.
Furthermore, personal style consultant Megan Hewett, from The Style Company, can advise on all things wardrobe-related.
Hewett says a common mistake men make is getting their sizing wrong.
She recommends getting expensive clothing items tailored to suit your body shape.
"Oversized suits are very 80s. Spend a little time and money getting a great pair of shoes, which make or break an outfit."
Hewett can sort a new wardrobe in under two hours and offers a shopping service where she sources clothing for you to try on in the privacy of your own home.
Self-discovery and social media have played a part in the revival of "celebrating masculinity", believes Stapleton, 52, who has cut hair in Rome, Sydney, New York and Boston.
Going to the barbershop was once considered a punishment but now males conjure up specific concepts of what they want to be done, he says.
New trends are shaping 25 different styles of beards, and regular cut-throat razor shaves, previously reserved for special occasions only, like getting married.
Atkinson says popular hairstyles are skin fades (hair cut short and fading into the natural hair colour); crop tops (longer on top) and, since Covid-19 lockdown, the mullet.
"Back in the day there used to be a bit of a stigma with barbering, but now it's hip, it's gangsta. It's good for the industry."
One in four men will experience some form of hair loss or balding by the age of 30 and SRS Hair Clinic too is seeing a trend towards earlier onset hair loss, says clinic production manager Raissa Sidhu.
"Reversing a process that has typically taken many years, or in some cases decades to develop, cannot be fixed overnight or in a few short months."
She recommends that men take early action rather than a "soldier on" approach.
Men shouldn't feel shame in seeking help, Sidhu says.
"It seems to be more commonplace now for men to be able to invest in their external appearance without experiencing negative backlash, or having their masculinity immediately called into question."