Once a month, Stuart Zionch, 60, a self-described spa treatment addict, gets a facial, pedicure, or massage, often traveling from his Stroudsburg home to Philadelphia, New York, or Palm Springs. He spends thousands of dollars each year on treatments and products.
"Once you start doing it, you realize how good your skin feels and looks," said Zionch, a teacher. He eventually started deep-tissue massages because of a bad back, and bimonthly pedicures after he had difficulty reaching his toes.
It all started about 20 years ago, when he was pretty much the only man in the room.
The pampering that once was the domain of women and their girlfriends ("Let's go get manis and pedis!") has become a man's affair - almost.
A 2015 survey found that more than 40 percent of U.S. spa-goers were men, up from 30 percent five years ago, said Betsy Isroelit, senior global media director for Spafinder Wellness, a spa industry marketing company.
Although older, professional men with disposable income have historically embraced the manicure, spa-goers of late are guys of all ages and income brackets.
Still, industry experts say men don't view spa experiences in the same way women do. It's less about indulgence and more about getting results: A sports massage isn't to relax as much as it is to cure sore muscles. A healing pedicure will repair dry, cracked feet. Polish be damned.
"This is what I want to accomplish. Here's a treatment that works for that," said Isroelit.
The perception of spas, too, has evolved, added Allan Share, president of the Day Spa Association. Spas are discussed as part of wellness, as part of health care. Instead of going to a doctor for a sore shoulder, for example, it might make sense for someone to try a massage first, he said.
In the meantime, there's no longer a stigma about getting beauty treatments. There are selfies and social media to consider, and - young or old - men are caring about their looks.
Colin Cleary, 36, of Center City, has his eyebrows done each month because, he says: "I like having two." He started the visits about four years ago, and a few times a year also enjoys a facial, spending about $750 to $1,000 annually.
"Beyond the exfoliations, the actual time is spent relaxing and taking care of yourself, and that's really important," he said.
Spas that have noticed the trend are marketing directly to men. Toppers Spa Salon has a gentleman's excursion package, which is a deep-tissue massage, facial, mani and pedi ($350); Rescue Spa Philadelphia offers a one-hour men's sports therapy massage ($135).
Rescue in Center City had an uptick in male clients about two years ago after moving to its new location, said Kim Zimmerman, its public relations and e-commerce manager. Though the spa doesn't keep track of clients' gender, Zimmerman guessed its male following had increased by almost 20 percent. She credits the boost to its one-chair hair salon - new in the November 2013 move - which offers men's cuts and serves as a gateway to other services.
"People used to use the term metrosexual and men were into 'manscaping' and getting pedicures, but now that social media and selfies are more of a thing, we have a lot more men taking care of their skin," Zimmerman said. "It's now the norm to maintain their skin on their own, even going the extra mile to wear sunscreen on a daily basis."
Toppers, with salons in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, has had a 40 percent increase in its male clientele in the last two years, up from about 125 per week to 175, said Kali Biernbaum, sales and marketing manager.
"A great haircut with a meticulously groomed beard is a coveted look these days," she said. "Men want to look their best, and to do that, you have to take some time to work on those things." Men traditionally come in once every four weeks for a haircut, but these days, she said, one popular hairstyle - a hard part created by shaving a thin line - requires a visit every two to three weeks for maintenance.
At Cure Nails & Spa in Society Hill, about 10 percent or 15 percent of clientele are men, said its owner, who uses just the name Ann. Visits have increased from three men a month three years ago to five these days - they come for pedicures, manicures, massages, and waxing, she said.
"New, younger male clients visit in preparation for an interview, date, or important event, and are sometimes joined by their significant other," she said. "We also continue to see an increasing number of senior male customers."
The biggest difference between men and women, she said: "Usually men just close their eyes. They're not chatty."
Eric Chen began getting facials about three years ago at age 27, "for preventative maintenance to keep my pores cleaner." He said the first time was painful but that's gotten better as his skin gets cleaner. He calls his every-other-month treatments well worth the $600 or $700 he spends each year.