When you tell your female friends that you've made an appointment for your first facial, you tend to get one consistent response: deranged enthusiasm.
It's like being welcomed into a secret society, all these lovely ladies assuring you that you can't possibly imagine the glorious wonders that await your face-parts. "You don't have to carry a messenger bag and be named Thad to get a facial. Jeffs deserve facials too," Robyn told me. "Masculinity is not an issue," added Anna. "All the gang dudes in my neighborhood in Spanish Harlem got facials." I'm taking her word for that, as it's an extremely difficult thing to fact-check.
Anyway. Much like you, unless you are Prince, I hadn't the first clue what to expect about facials. I've never had any kind of massage. No part of me has been exfoliated. I actually asked someone if the facial would involve kelp, mud and/or cucumbers, because apparently my entire knowledge base regarding spa treatments comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons.
But I did know where to go. I found a place called *******************. Jackie assured me that dudes drop in all the time. There I was encouraged to try the "Man's Best Friend" (men's skin, the website warns, presents certain "unique challenges and demands," much like a dog's, evidently), administered by a lovely spa-facial person named Jackie who didn't mind if I asked many stupid questions. And then the world stopped and time became liquid and I think I slept for four days.
Here's how facials go: First, you are brought into a little cave of wonders, filled with low light, music that sounds an awful lot like Enya. Second, there is steam. Plentiful steam. This, I was told, is supposed to "open my pores," though it seemed to me instead that Jackie was planning to start a train.
Third ... well, OK there's not really a third. Everything from Third on passed in a pleasant blur. My shimmery-edged memories involve face massages and warm towels laid over my face in such a way that I'm pretty sure only my nose and mouth were visible, making me look, for a moment, like an extremely coddled ninja. I would also like to alert all members of my fantasy football league that I am officially the recipient of a jelly mask—which was followed by a peppermint mask, because, as Jackie reports, "Guys like the smell of peppermint."
Facials are designed to force you into relaxation, of course, but they also provide benefits to your skin in a world where it's regularly hammered by damaging stimuli. (The single most valuable gift you can give to your skin? Sunscreen.) To this end Jackie announced she was going to "evaluate my skin," and I got legitimately nervous, wondering how the skin of a 38-year-old man who lives on the beach looks to a dermatological professional aiming a 5,000-watt floodlamp at his flaws.
Would Jackie see me for the epidermic repugnance that I was, some sort of sun-bleached orc who's never subjected his skin to any special treatment north of a washcloth? ("Have you ever exfoliated your skin?" she asked sweetly; it was more likely that I've taken it off and taken it through the do-it-yourself car-wash.) But there was good news! My skin was "not bad at all," she reported, with some small measure of surprise. You know how Southern people say "Bless your heart" to soften the impact when they're aiming military-grade insults at your soul? It was like that.
By the time it was over, I didn't know if an hour had gone by or six, but I did know this: Most of my head was tingly. And in its tingly state it kept repeating the following truth: There is just no goddamn reason in the world to not do this. If you are a sports guy, you should do it. If you enjoy bow hunting and host fight clubs in your barn, you should do it. If you are a professional wrestler who attaches vipers to missiles and straps your missile-vipers to monster trucks and drives them through alligator-infested swamps, you should do it.
Alexis told me there's really only one hurdle for guys: "You just have to get them to try it," she said. "My boyfriend loves them—when I make him come in." Indeed, she says it helps to break guys in via joint appointments with their wives, girlfriends, fiancees, to help get them past the unfathomable horror of walking into a salon. "We get 10-15 guys in here a day," Jackie told me. This is a higher number than I was expecting, which was two. But once the word gets out about the peppermint masks, the numbers can only rise. Do you care to look like your best self for the holidays, and/or find a holiday relaxation alternative to tumblers full of Scotch? Make your appointment today.