JOHANNESBURG, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Before male beauty parlours began popping up in South Africa a few years ago, image-conscious men like Gerhard Joubert felt awkward being pampered and preened in salons filled with women.
"It's a male environment. They give you a whisky if you want a whisky. In the old days we had to go to female hair salons," said Joubert, reclining in a luxury leather chair for a pedicure in Sorbet Man, a men-only parlour in Johannesburg.
"I think we need to look better after ourselves. I think it's often been ignored, particular in South Africa."
Two decades ago, well-groomed celebrities such as David Beckham began to change traditional attitudes towards masculinity, encouraging swathes of men to take greater care of their appearance and embrace the use of beauty products.
South Africa has been slow to catch the "metrosexual" wave, but a growing middle class and the spread of fashion trends on social media has seen global companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and L'Oreal target more products at African men.
Salon chains are opening men-only parlours to sell these products and to meet the demand for everything from manicures to eyebrow threading.
Sorbet Man was launched as a spinoff from a women's salon brand three years ago and now has 20 franchise stores. It expects turnover to rise 50 percent this year.
Rival male beauty shops are springing up.
"I think over the years the stigma about male grooming has really limited men from basically expressing themselves," said Dexter Pillay, co-owner of Bespoke Man, a salon in Johannesburg's business district.
"It's changed now so drastically where men are more metrosexual."
The global male grooming product market is expected to reach $76 billion by 2023 from $58 billion in 2017, according to industry research.
Africa offers companies the chance to target millions of new consumers.
"Africa’s youthful population is seen as a market opportunity as manufacturers look to target the young modern male who is becoming increasingly conscious about appearance," said Nicola Cooper, a trend analyst. (Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Alison Williams)