James McDonald concedes that he’s adamantly opposed to aging. Oh, he realizes that, like everyone else on the planet, Father Time is passing him by like Jeff Gordon racing downhill. But he’s committed to doing all he can to delay the inevitable. That’s why he recently underwent a blepharoplasty — which is cosmetic surgery-speak for an eyebrow lift.
“I got tired of people saying to me, ‘James, you look tired,’ especially since I didn’t feel tired,” says McDonald, 56, an electronics commerce executive. “But my eyes did look old and wrinkled, so I decided to do something about it.”
McDonald is one of the nearly 1 million American men who will undergo some form of cosmetic procedure (surgical and nonsurgical) this year (compared to just 54,845 in 1992), according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. While that’s only a fraction of the 6.5 million women who’ll have liposuction, nose jobs, breast implants, chemical peels, etc., overall, men today account for about 13 percent of all cosmetic surgeries.
Experts say it’s been years since cosmetic surgery was considered a “woman thing.” The taboo against men having their bodies sculpted and augmented, suctioned and peeled, fell away long ago. What is new, however, is the prime reason today’s men decide to go under the knife. Initially, men had plastic surgery to give themselves a leg-up in the workplace. This was especially true as baby boomers began making the transition from alt-rock to AARP. Today, the majority of men having cosmetic surgery do so simply because it makes them feel better.
“It’s less and less a matter of trying to look younger and more and more about being the best you can be,” says Dr. Mark Solomon, a plastic surgeon in suburban Philadelphia. “They want to keep their outsides looking as good as they’re feeling inside.”
One 27-year-old man says he went the cosmetic route after four years of diet and exercising six days a week failed to give him the sculpted look he wanted. “I had too much body fat covering the muscles, so I had my abs and my pecs liposuctioned and sculpted,” says the owner of a computer-software design firm, who requested anonymity. “I’m not a professional bodybuilder or anything. I did it for myself.”
He likes the result so much that he’s considering having more work done. “I’m having trouble getting my calves to respond to the exercise I do, so I may get implants,” he says.
Another reason for this greater acceptance of having plastic surgery is that doctors are increasingly marketing to male patients. Dr. George Lefkovits, director of Park Plaza Plastic Surgery Center in Manhattan, keeps separate office hours when he sees only men. “Most men are still uncomfortable sitting in a waiting room full of women,” explains Lefkovits, whose clientele is 50 percent male.
Do Your Research
Although the vast majority of plastic surgery patients come through the procedure without a problem, whenever scalpels and anesthesia are involved, there are always risks. Just because it’s cosmetic doesn’t mean it’s not real surgery. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reviewed New York City death records from 1993 to 1998 and found five deaths linked to liposuction.
For safety’s sake, do your homework when selecting a plastic surgeon. Don’t choose someone simply because he “did” a relative or friend. “The title plastic or cosmetic surgeon is a generic term. Any doctor can call himself that and begin practicing without having to meet any requirements whatsoever,” says Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and co-editor of the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Look for a surgeon who is board certified by a professional group such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. This signifies that the doctor has at least met the minimum requirements for training, experience, and continuing education.
As more and more cosmetic surgeries are being done on an outpatient basis, ASPS has also mandated that its members have their outpatient facility accredited by at least one of four accrediting organizations. To be accredited, the facility must meet hospital-like standards, including strict equipment and personnel guidelines.
Finally, it’s important to realize that many cosmetic procedures have definitive lifespans. While a nose job (barring an unfortunate poke to the schnoz) is more or less permanent, James McDonald’s eyelids may not remain lifted forever. And collagen injections, Botox, microdermabrasion, and other procedures must be repeated from time to time.
Like women before them, men have become more comfortable with the idea of returning to their doctors for maintenance. “It’s becoming like a regular dental appointment,” says Solomon. “Almost like having your teeth cleaned.”
Texas-based Marini is the health and fitness reporter for the San Antonio Express-News.
Top 10 Male Cosmetic Procedures
Following are the surgical and nonsurgical procedures, number of male patients, and average cost in 2001. Note that the cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facilities, and other expenses.
Chemical peel, 168,093, $516
Nose job (rhinoplasty), 136,009, $2,947
Laser hair removal, 129,722, $360/session
Microdermabrasion, 117,246, $136
Botox injection, 106,056, $388/injection
Liposuction, 48,663, $2,049/site
Collagen injection, 48,400, $333/injection
Eyelid surgery (Blepharoplasty), 44,726, $2,544
Hair transplantation, 27,817, $3,966 to $4,364 depending on procedure
Breast reduction, 18,548, $2,747