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Society

A spa right for pampered men

Refinery Grooming is a men’s only lounge at the Village Market, Nairobi. Photo | DIANA NGILA | NMG
Refinery Grooming is a men’s only lounge at the Village Market, Nairobi. Photo | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

From coffee scrubs tailored to prevent premature aging to hours-long massages, men luxurious spa treatments are the latest developments in Kenya’s beauty and wellness industry.

Refinery Grooming in Nairobi, a one-of-a-kind spa and barbershop exclusive to men, opened its doors two weeks ago and business is picking up fast.

Their focus; men’s hair, wherever it is, and the skin.

Walking into the grooming lounge feels like entering a man cave. It smells musky.

The Pietranera leather-upholstered barber chairs are the most expensive items in the spa, TVs stream Netflix movies and there is a mini-bar.

Sneha Shah, one of the shareholders of Refinery Grooming, says it is as if Kenyan men were waiting for such as spa to be opened.

“We have been opened for only two weeks and so far the reception has been quite overwhelming. Most men were tired of going to regular salons shared by both sexes where they would always receive stares,” says Ms Shah.

‘‘We wanted to raise the bar in male grooming in Nairobi. We’ve brought quality service and professionalism similar to what we have seen happening in other parts of the world.’’ Many men use alcohol-based products, which dry their skin causing pimples and premature aging.

Refinery Grooming is following in the footsteps of a number of botanical beauty stores in Nairobi and it has opted for Gentlemen’s Tonic, a UK luxury spa, grooming and hair brand with alcohol-free products.

“We went through 52 product brands before settling on Gentlemen’s Tonic. Men’s skin reacts and ages differently compared to women,” she says. From a range of anti-aging treatments, manicure, pedicure, massages to waxing, Refinery caters for metrosexual men.

“I know waxing is something that has been believed to be a woman’s thing only, which is not the case. But interestingly, some of the responses we received from most of our clients is that they have been short of options of where to get the services,” says Ms Shah.

For men who love privacy, the grooming spot has a secluded VIP room, which goes for Sh3,000 per hour excluding the treatments. It has its own bathroom and TV, where a man can unwind alone.

At the very chic lounge, a person chooses from a menu on how he wants to be pampered. Then one is led to different areas in the salon. Each manicure station, for instance, has a TV mounted on the wall where a spa-goer can enjoy Netflix movies through wireless Bluetooth headphones. There is also a barber station where a man can come in for a simple cut and colour. There are also two treatment rooms for facials and waxing.

For a ‘signature shave’, they use hot towels to open the pores before shaving, a process that may take 40 minutes to one hour.

The luxurious barbershop is also selling a kind of nostalgia to sophisticated customers who treasure old grooming products of bygone era; razors. For Refinery, they call it ‘the old English traditional shaves’, hence a barber uses a flip knife or a blade to cut men’s hair.

“These traditional shaving methods are making a comeback around the world, we have seen it in the US, Dubai even South Africa,” says Ms Shah.

How it started

Refinery Grooming was borne from a drink-up chat. Ms Shah’s background is nothing close to her new business. She studied finance and worked in the UK for a while before moving to Kenya five years ago.

“It is actually a funny story, my husband and I were having drinks with the other shareholders. One of the partners said his hair looked terrible and we needed to do something to help him out. And from there, we grew the concept,” Ms Shah says.

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