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Should men wear make-up?

Suddenly he’s spending as much as you at the beauty counter...when he’s not at the spa, that is. Helen Carson meets two couples with different views about kissing and making up

Premiership footballers, pop stars and presenters all know the importance of looks. In their game your face really is your fortune.

So, being coiffed and preened is all in a day’s work, but where does Mr Average draw the line when it comes to male grooming?

While it may be OK for David Beckham to have baby-soft kin and hair gelled to within an inch of its life, would you really want your hubby to emerge from the bathroom looking like Russell Brand?

Modern men now have their own skincare ranges as well as guy-liner and man-scara — there's even a radiance concealer especially for the boys — but shouldn't they just be leaving the slap to us girls?

A recent survey revealed 47% of people who have a regular skincare and grooming routine are more successful in life, so where does the average Northern Ireland male stand on this face-off? With manscaping — waxing of the back and nether regions — one of the top five most popular treatments for the boys in Northern Ireland, perhaps local blokes aren’t quite as macho about beautifying themselves as they’d like us to think. We caught up with a former rock DJ who needed a wedding day makeover as well as a rugby-playing photographer plus heir other halves to find out if men need to brush up on grooming or go au naturel. Plus, we sent one bloke for some male grooming treatments.

‘Before I met Corina, soap and a good wash would do’ Natural glow: Greg uses moisturiser

Greg McCann (37), manager of Hedonist Hair, Belfast, lives in Belfast with wife Corina (32), who is an assistant accountant. He says:

I really like the European attitude to looking after yourself as I think it wins you the respect of people all around you, especially in business. I was a DJ for 20 years and just recently came into the fashion business. I used to play to a rock crowd so I had a very different image, as you might imagine. But looks have an impact on other people’s perceptions of you, so it is vital if you want to promote yourself.

Generally I like to have clean, clear skin and look stylish. I don’t shave every day as I like to have a bit of facial hair growth. I use a Clinique men’s moisturiser with UV protection which costs between £15 and £20 and it really helps to repair and nourish the skin. I have tried cheaper products but they are generally not as good and don’t last as long. They don’t have the desired effect.

I started to take more care with my appearance in June 2008 just before I married Corina. I came to this salon and got a deep conditioning treatment for my hair which costs £40 and includes a cut and style. I was concerned about how I would look in my wedding photos. Getting married is a once in a lifetime experience — at least, I hope it will be for me. I wanted to be able to look back at the photos of my wedding day and say that was a great day and not have any regrets, rather than I wish I’d done something about that blemish.

Before I met Corina a bit of soap and a good wash would have done me. I wouldn’t have used moisturiser. Then, we met at a party organised by a mutual friend 12 years ago, and our paths crossed again about two months later and from that point we have been a solid item.

It was Corina who encouraged me to go to her stylist at Hedonist. Now, I have a deep conditioning treatment for my hair every month. Luckily, I have a good head of hair which everyone in the salon comments on and the conditioning treatment helps this. I have dirty fair coloured hair which changes with the weather. If I lived in a sunny country I would be a blond. I haven’t much grey yet so I haven’t had to think about covering it up. I wear my hair a few inches longer on top and cut really tight at the back and sides.

After a treatment I also buy Paul Mitchell moulding putty clay for styling which is about £20. Again, you get what you pay for, it is not sticky like some cheaper brands and lasts up to four months.

Skincare is very important — it is another organ after all so it should be looked after just like any other part of the body.

I use concealer if I have a blemish which is rare — I like Clinique but have used Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat.

I’ve used a bit of bronzer and have no problem doing it.

When I was at university in Luton 20 years ago one of my housemates used moisturiser and concealer and there was a bit of slagging from all of us. I did try the products once just because he encouraged me, but I definitely wouldn’t have done so back then. I think as a society we have matured and it is not as taboo as it was then. However, I also believe it is nowhere near as acceptable for men to wear cosmetics as it is for women. I don’t think it has reached the stage where men will be openly borrowing each other’s products on a night out.

But everybody is an individual and it is up to them what they do.

Greg’s wife Corina (32) says:

Greg wasn't into his appearance at all until we decided to get married and I had to get him into shape for the wedding. He went to my stylist who gave him a haircut to reflect his personality. I use Clinique products myself and encouraged him to try the men's range — now he cleanses, tones and moisturises. He didn't do it before, but now he thinks nothing of it. He is really knowledgeable and gives me tips on things like make-up and colours.

He is really into taking care of himself and knows what he likes. Before he would barely comb his hair, now he will spend half an hour getting ready.

I don't think this is a threat to his masculinity, all men should take the time to look their best — it is about making the most of what you've got. We live in an image-conscious world and I don't think there is a stigma attached to men using skincare or making the most of their looks anymore.

Before we married in June 2008, I also encouraged Greg to get fit and we went to the gym and he lost a lot of weight — about two stone. We both went on a sushi diet to lose weight and made healthy smoothies at home. There was a distinct change in his appearance and he has kept the weight off ever since.

Women appreciate it when men make the effort with their appearance, and more men are taking care of themselves with their hair and their skin. It is nice to know that as we are spending so much time to look good, men are reciprocating — as long as they don't take it too far!

‘No wife wants a man who spends ages in the bathroom’

Suzanne Little (40), a full-time mum, lives in Killinchy with her husband Niall Little, a photographer, and their three daughters Jessica (14), Charlotte (11) and Olivia (6). She says:

Niall and I got married n 1997 shortly after we met through mutual friends on a night out at Thompson’s Garage in Belfast. Neither of us had ever been there before or been there since — we started dating straight away.

Niall has always been quite manly, though obviously he looked more boyish when I first met him, but I think he has gotten better looking with age — and more manly. He does look after himself and occasionally plays rugby and loves watching it, too. He was never into grooming, but does use expensive aftershave which costs about £50. He's not clean shaven and tends to leave some growth, which I like. He grows a beard for the Movember appeal then goes to a proper salon afterwards to get a hot-towel shave, but this is only about once a year. I like the beard, too.

Other than that, he does not use moisturiser and goes to the barbers for a trim every so often.

Niall is a man's man and I wouldn't have been attracted to him if he wasn't. Since we moved to the country I have adapted to the surroundings here and tend to be bare-faced most of the time, especially if I'm working from home, just out in the garden or going for a walk.

I do make an effort when we're going out somewhere and will wear a full face of make-up. I’m also teaching the girls about the importance of looking after their skin now.

I'm not really into men who

have lengthy skincare routines — you don't want a man who spends more time in the bathroom than you! While men like women to look feminine and girly sometimes, they also want to take care of you. I like a man to be a man.”

Niall (39) says:

I'm just a shower man and I don't shave every day. I like to use aftershave — just whatever Suzanne buys me really. When I grow a beard I will go to Jason Shankey's to get it shaved off because to be honest it hurts to do it yourself, it is absolute agony, and they know what they're doing.

The last time I combed my hair I was a student, so I'm not big on grooming. I'm in a house with four women, how would I get in front of a mirror!

I think David Beckham is really cool, but he is trying to promote a brand along with his wife as they have fragrances and maybe that is a good thing, he keeps himself trim and exercises, but that is just not me. I understand men on TV have to look good — each to their own. I wouldn't degrade someone who wears make-up. What I do respect are men who keep themselves physically fit, run, go to the gym and eat healthy food. I think we should grow old gracefully.”

How did our resident bloke enjoy the wax?

Self-confessed hobo Jamie McDowell books a session at a male grooming salon...with rather surprising results

Having a busy schedule and little experience in the realms of metrosexuality meant that, for me, having a long facial, a shave (a proper one) and a haircut done by a professional male groomer was a bit of a daunting prospect.

Yet last Friday I decided to take the jump, for the purposes of research of course, and get a series of facial treatments — and even an eyebrow wax — to see what it would feel like to become part of this new legion of men who spend time ‘grooming' themselves.

Apparently this is very important. My wife recently informed me that women can supposedly tell when you haven't cut your fingernails in a while. Just by looking at them.

So I arrived last week at the new Jason Shankey male grooming salon in Victoria Square to see if they could turn my haggard Friday face into something a bit more presentable.

What they had in store for me was basically an MOT for my head. I was first introduced to Aimee, who took me to a room at the back of the salon where I was told to lie down on a heated massage bench. She began by using a cleanser on my face, and spent the next 10 minutes massaging it in. She informed me that the cleanser was much better than soap and explained how old-school versions of soap dry your face out.

She then used an exfoliator — a grainy type of substance that removes the remaining dead skin cells from your face. These are the types of things that I just didn't really understand, but Aimee explained what everything was and what it was doing along the way, which I thought was quite an important touch, as you’re not just getting the benefits of a facial cleanse and massage, but a bit of education, too.

Aimee used hot towels to clean my face after every treatment, which was both relaxing and refreshing, and the longer the treatment went on, the more the weight seemed to lift off my shoulders after a busy day.

I was most nervous during the waxing of my eyebrows. I wasn't concerned so much about the pain of having my eyebrow hairs tugged out, but the looks that I would get if Aimee accidentally took one of them off completely.

Towards the end, Aimee applied a face mask. At that point there was no going back. Lying on a massage bench and getting a lovely shoulder massage while wearing a rejuvenating face mask isn't the stuff of butch rugged men like Van Damme. This was Gok Wan territory.

I came out of the small room feeling like someone had pulled my tired old face off and put a new one back on. To be honest, once sceptical about the claims of certain creams and treatments, I was surprised at not just how good my skin felt and looked, but by how much more relaxed I was.

Next, a chap called Jay took me for a shave and a haircut. He assured me that as it was my first time getting a proper shave, Sweeney Todd-style razor and all, he would go easy.

I wasn't sure how my face would react to a close shave, but it felt great. After Jay finished my transformation with a haircut, I'd gone from a hobo masquerading as a journalist into a modern sharp-eye(brow)ed and fresh-faced man. And you know what? I liked it.

For more details log on to

top grooming treatments for the modern man ... and his must-have buys

The five most popular treatments for men in Northern Ireland:

1. Tension neck and back massage

2. Back and shoulder wax

3. Hot towel shave

4. Eyebrow wax and shape

5. Manscaping — a ‘back, sack and crack’ wax

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