Mr. Kurt Macher, General Manager of The Temple House, Chengdu, shares his experiences about gentleman grooming and wellness in this Kurt Kick’s Column
Life in China is unlike anywhere else in the world that I’ve been based. There is an energy here that seems to stem from the knowledge that this country and its people are making waves all over the world.
It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that life can sometimes overtake you. In the first year of moving to Chengdu, I was inundated with the new – a new country, a new company, new language and culture, and even new food – Sichuan flavors that I wasn’t familiar with. That first year flew by, and I realize in retrospect that I had gotten swept up in the hustle of life here. One of the things that I repeatedly hear from guests of spas is that they love the sense of escaping the stress of the city when they step into the spa. By the same token, I too had to find ways to bring more balance to my hectic life as an hotelier.
Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to physically and emotionally unplug from the day to day. I’ve adjusted the way that I exercise, how I eat, and also how I recharge mentally and emotionally.
For years, fitness to me meant either weights or cardio training, driven mainly by a desire to achieve a certain size or aesthetic – something that is not uncommon among men. My current fitness routine now incorporates personal training sessions to correct some of my postural imbalances, yoga to increase my admittedly poor flexibility, and group high intensity circuit training to increase my endurance and strength, in a competitive yet friendly environment. I’m starting to see more men incorporate a variety of training methods into their fitness regimen, to target muscle-building, strength, cardiovascular health and flexibility.
Similarly, I am seeing a definitive shift in what our male clients want. While women are open to trying the full range of spa services, traditionally men tended to choose from a very short list of services centered around maintenance and repair, including therapeutic treatments like deep tissue massages, Tui Na or foot massages. Now, more of our male clients are taking up treatments like our Perfect Radiance or Instant Glow facials, to refresh their appearance.
Our male clients are also signing up for services that are more about pampering themselves, for example the Turbo Charge Detox massage, Deep Relax massage and anti-aging facials – designed for men. I choose massages depending on my state of mind or physical state at the time. After a week of intense fitness regimes I prefer a deep tissue massage using one of the bespoke massage oils – in this case the Stretching Massage Oil that use Chinese herbs and peppermint oil for an analgesic and anti-oxidant effect to ease muscle aches. If I am feeling particularly stressed, I choose the Relaxing Massage Oil that contains grape seed and sweet almond oils – powerful natural anti-oxidants.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good grooming for men. For example, when conducting interviews, I look at how neatly-groomed a candidate is from head to toe. One thing that I observe is whether the interviewee has neatly groomed hands and nails, which I feel is especially important in hospitality and service industries. I regularly use a scrub to keep my hands in good condition and also have a manicure and pedicure once every few weeks.
More men are becoming focused on maintaining a youthful appearance, or at the very least ensuring they age gracefully. This has been the trend in Western countries for the past decade, and we’re seeing this with local men also. More of our male guests are choosing anti-ageing treatments and treatments to invigorate their appearance. There are many facial lines available in the market, and men should identify what works best to keep them looking fresh and youthful. My personal favorite is the Perfect Radiance Facial by Themae. This treatment uses natural tea leaves, which are known to combat the effects of free radicals – especially in polluted environments. In addition, I suggest drinking lots of water to keep the skin hydrated from within, and to use a moisturizer with a sunscreen daily, even in China where we don’t see that much sunshine.
The world of men’s grooming has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years, with the return of the humble barbershops. We are rediscovering the long-forgotten barber, for traditional grooming designed by men for men. Without doubt, a sharp haircut and clean shave can completely transform a man’s appearance. To ensure I look my best at all times, I have a haircut and my beard trimmed down once a fortnight at the MI XUN Gentleman’s Barber – an exclusive space for men. Our MI XUN Gentlemen’s Collection treatment starts with the haircut – precision cutting and styling at its finest from our resident barber Herry. Presently, the ‘skin-fade’ style of haircut – where the hair is blended extremely close to the skin – is particularly popular, but can be quite challenging to execute perfectly. Cuts like these, along with other traditional cuts for men are Herry’s specialty. After the haircut, aromatic hot towels are used to soften and prep the skin, and a bristle brush is used to lift stubble for the closest possible wet shave. Alternatively, men sporting a beard can have it trimmed to precisely the length and shape they desire. Our in-house post-shave treatment involves the application of a soothing and calming post-shave balm and protective moisturizing facial. During their barbershop experience, guests can enjoy a glass of whiskey or their drink of choice from a selection of complimentary spirits, and also opt for a relaxing foot massage while their treatment is underway.
There is a growing awareness of how products can help to maintain and in many ways improve one’s appearance. I personally use a good facial wash, toner, moisturizer and eye cream on a daily basis, and a facial scrub and mask every week. The MI XUN Barbershop uses a full range of men’s skincare. We see more men investing in high quality skincare and grooming products, which are selling extremely well.
In addition to products and treatments, we are developing a new series of personal and group training classes with our new in-house personal trainer Jessie and investing in body slimming equipment that target and reduce fat in stubborn areas like the stomach and love handles. By recognizing the evolving needs of the modern gentleman, we can work to make a spa as an indispensable part of a man’s wellness/fitness routine.
I am also a firm believer that health and wellness start from within, dependent heavily on our food choices and lifestyle. Earlier this year, I made changes to the way I eat – what I eat, how often, and when. I follow a moderate Ketogenic lifestyle (no carbohydrates, sugars or processed foods, with lots of vegetables protein and healthy fat) and also do intermittent fasting three days a week. After a few months, I’m in better shape, have lots of energy and in general, feel great. This has totally changed my relationship with food and understanding of what works for me. In the past, if I needed a snack during the day, I would reach for a breakfast bar or a pastry of some sort. Now, I prefer to snack on nuts (walnuts and macadamias are my favorite) and also healthy organic treats from our MI XUN Teahouse. When I’m on the go, one of my must-have energy sources are the Super Balls by VCleanse, delicious healthy snacks with no added sugars. My favorite flavors are Fruit Newton and Formula 66 which are also perfect for pre and post work out.
I’ve also made small changes in my daily life to help me stay balanced in order to have good mental health. We all know the importance of getting enough sleep, but most of us don’t manage to get enough. I aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night, and have been tweaking my routine to maximize the quality of my sleep. After work, I try to either spend some time in a stem room or sauna, have a hot bath, or at the very least a warm shower with products that includes bergamot, germanium or lavender that relax me at the end of a busy day. Because I tend to carry tension in my shoulders and neck, I always use a warm neck pillow that I heat up in the microwave and rest on my shoulders, to release the stress accumulated there over the day, and I would place a drop of lavender essential oil on my pillow before sleep because lavender has excellent calming properties. In addition, I disconnect from work and social media at least one hour before bed, so that I can calm my mind and fall asleep easier. The changes I’ve made have enhanced the quality of my life, and I now feel more balanced. I am more productive at The Temple House, and am in better health now than I was in my thirties.
Since its launch over two years ago, the hotel’s MI XUN SPA has been setting the standard in high-end results-driven wellness. It has become well-regarded in the world of spa and wellness, and was even awarded “Best Men’s Treatment in China” in the SpaChina Awards 2017. I think you can tell how passionate I am about Men’s Wellness and Spa offerings. I believe that by increasing awareness of what is available, we will see the birth of a new generation of gentlemen in China.