Body hair out, nail polish in as latest grooming boom targets businessmen

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

A new cadre of self-indulgent, style-conscious businessmen is driving up sales of grooming services and products as “personal maintenance” becomes retailing’s latest buzzword.

“Wow, it feels great!” enthused a man patting lotion onto his skin at a grooming workshop in April in Tokyo.

The workshop, organized by the Shinagawa Prince Hotel and Dime, a monthly men’s magazine, was aimed at businessmen between 20 and 60.

Participants tried face lotions and grooming appliances while receiving expert advice on male beauty from representatives of major cosmetics and electronics makers as part of their schooling on how to make “good first impressions.”

Most said it was the first time they had used skin lotion.

“I often meet people and need to be conscious of how my skin looks,” said a 32-year-old real estate salesman.

Another participant — a 46-year-old banker —said: “As we get older, there are a lot of differences in our appearance depending on whether we take time and make effort to care for our skin. I would like to stay cool and stylish even when I get old.”

A hotel spokesman said the hotel held the event because it thought many men might be looking for ways to make a good impression.

“Grooming has become one of the important business skills for men,” he said.

Makers of personal-care products have been quick to capitalize on the trend.

Last year, electronics giant Panasonic Corp. began aggressively marketing beauty appliances aimed at men, such as beard trimmers and body shavers.

The body shaver, designed to remove unwanted chest, arm and leg hair, is particularly popular, the company said.

A Panasonic survey said that nearly 60 percent of women are disturbed by male body hair, while rating “cleanliness” highly among qualities desirable in a man.

The survey also found that about 60 percent of men in their 20s and 50 percent of men in their 30s are interested in improving their physical appearance.

Katsuhiro Jinnouchi, who designed the body shaver, said the product makes it easy to remove unwanted body hair — a trend indicative of changing sensibilities that may be influenced by the greater presence of women throughout the business world.

“Men are now more interested in fashion and beauty because an increasing number of women have joined workplaces as their bosses and colleagues,” Jinnouchi said.

Fastidiousness about nail care is also increasingly common among men.

Nail Quick, a nail salon chain, offers a ¥3,132 course geared toward men that includes nail polish and finger moisturizing.

NonStress Inc., a Tokyo-based firm that runs about 70 Nail Quick salons, mainly in the Kanto and Kyushu regions, said most of its male customers are salesmen in their 20s and 40s.

But the company also said men working as sign language interpreters and photographers had become important customers, apparently because their fingers are often exposed to other people, while musicians and sportsmen also find the need to have their cuticles trimmed, strengthened and buffed at salons.

A NonStress spokesperson said some outlets have set up private treatment rooms that have been “welcomed by male clients because they can get nails done privately.”

“The percentage of men coming back to our salon is higher than for female customers,” the spokesperson said.