Cosmetics sales soar as Japan's men get in touch with their feminine side

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The Independent Online

Scented candles are lit, soft music is playing and the spa is fully booked. Some customers are enjoying a toning facial. Others indulge in a soothing aromatherapy massage. A few are opting for a deluxe pedicure.

But this is no conventional spa, because every pampered patron in this particular establishment is male.

Male beauty grooming is booming in Japan. The conventional image of a grey-suited and grey-faced businessman is being usurped by a colourful new generation of beauty-conscious Japanese men.

With new products ranging from men-only make up and manicures to moisturisers and facials, it is Japan's men who are fuelling the nation's beauty industry.

Takeshi, a 31-year-old graphic designer, is one such beauty aficionado who happily admits to enjoying regular manicures, facials and massages at a hip salon in fashionable Jingumae.

"I don't understand why only women should be able to enjoy these treatments," he says. "My friends and colleagues enjoy them too. I find it relaxing and it makes me feel good. I think women appreciate the effort."

Sales of male beauty products and treatments grew last year by 4.2 per cent – compared to a 0.6 per cent decline in the female beauty industry, according to figures released by Yano Research Institute in Tokyo.

While men still account for less than 10 per cent of Japan's beauty market, the rise of the perfectly manicured man has resulted in Japan's male beauty care market doubling its revenue over the past six years to an estimated Y35.42bn (£172m). Last month, a new make-up product for men was launched in Japan – the H/E bronzing powder provides a delicate golden shimmer; and a manly factor 18 protection from the sun.

Every day, a menu of power exfoliations, detox facials and executive pedicures attracts around 30 men – mostly professionals aged between 35 and 50 – to the chic male-only confines of The Refinery, a spa which opened last year in Roppongi's Tokyo Midtown development.

The growing quest for self-improvement and rise in disposable incomes, combined with a shift in gender stereotypes, are among factors propelling men towards the world of beauty. A study by Shiseido, the Japanese cosmetics company, found as many as 70 per cent of Japanese men believe appearance is important and 15 per cent spent an average of Y2,000 a month on cosmetics.

Roland Kelts, a culture and social trends expert at the University of Tokyo, said: "Japanese men, owing to their beleaguered status in the home, are leading the way into a new cosmetics industry. They are trying, ultimately, to appeal to women on women's terms."