The Rise in Non-Invasive Male Cosmetic Procedures

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Confidence trick: can tweaking your face do more than mask over cracks?

Peter Crowther

A single syringe of dermal filler at Dr Wassim Taktouk’s London clinic costs between £400 and £600. “You might need three or four for a jawline,” says Taktouk, “so it can get expensive.”

A general practitioner-turned-“aesthetic expert”, Taktouk, who is 43 years old and has clear eyes and clearer pores, specialises in non-invasive cosmetic procedures – injections used to reshape facial features. He has a respectable 16,000 Instagram followers and a month-long waiting list. Taktouk can change the way you look, and he can do it without making an incision, or requiring you to take even a single day off work to recuperate.

“Everyone wants a squared-off chin and sharp jawline,” says Taktouk during a Zoom call – that most facially exposing mode of business communication. A hit of Botox can be injected to eradicate “male resting face” – the crease that forms in between your eyebrows as the gravity of middle age exerts its pull. “Eyes are big for us, too,” he says. “A small syringe beneath the socket can make it look like you’ve just had a really good night’s sleep.”

Male clients have started to bring in photographs of celebrity bone structures. Ryan Reynolds’s jaw is a popular choice. “As we age, there is a loss of the so-called ‘superhero’ jawline,” he says. “I replace the lost volume in this area, alongside the chin, back to its former glory.”

Using an artist’s palette of different syringes, Taktouk offers the option of a “power profile”, in which Teoxane – a thick, hyaluronic acid filler – is injected through the skin and onto the bone of the jaw and chin, altering the shape for up to two years. An “MoT” top-up can be administered in around half an hour. Men often visit for treatment during their lunch breaks. Recently, the doctor has noticed a trend: “There are more and more professional men calling up.”

The phenomenon of men turning to cosmetic procedures is not particularly new. Once viewed as youth-chasing and feature-freezing solutions for the foreheads and lips of image-conscious women, Botox and fillers can now be found lodged beneath the skin of high-flying male lawyers, financiers and property developers.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in the past 20 years, there has been a 99% leap in men receiving injectables such as anti-wrinkle formulas, like Botox, and fillers. A 2019 report published by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) found that men now want to look “tweaked” rather than “tucked”. These “tweaking” procedures, referred to as “masculinisation fillers”, are injectables – synthetic hyaluronic acids that mimic what our bodies naturally produce – for the jawline, chin and neck areas.

What is new is the range and convenience of the procedures available and the speed at which patients recover. Also, crucially, the rationale. In January last year, the Washington Post reported on a boom in cosmetic procedures for men who work in Silicon Valley. “Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, people didn’t worry too much about how you looked,” said one 48-year-old interviewee who was considering having cosmetic work done. “If people in the workplace know you’re older than everyone else, it can hurt you in terms of what roles you get.”

A Robb Report article published last August under the headline “Why Men are Turning to Cosmetic Procedures for a Competitive Edge in the Boardroom” described “nips, tucks and injections” as having become “stealth weapons to deploy in a Darwinian battle for corporate survival”. An interviewee

who had recently undergone a facelift and nose job explained: “I play in the hi-tech and start-up world, where older individuals will be passed over. I simply aligned my outer appearance with my inner perspective.” Now, cosmetic enhancements aren’t just about vanity. They’re about success.

Facing success: men are enhancing job prospects with a “CEO facelift”

Peter Crowther

The Zoom Boom

If a scriptwriter were to conjure up a telegenic plastic surgeon for a new prime-time drama, then he might look a bit like Dr Patrick Mallucci. He appears on my Zoom screen wearing charcoal scrubs with coiffed, salt-and pepper-hair and a handsome, chiselled face set off by a neat moustache. (“It’s for Movember,” he tells me.) If he has had any work done himself, it’s hard to tell.

A world-renowned surgeon who once researched “the perfect breast” in a study compiled from the opinions of 600 women and 600 men, he runs a clinic in west London and is at the forefront of non-invasive treatment for men. His “Mallucci Man” concept is a full wellness/cosmetic package, ranging in price from £1,550 to £4,900, that was created after he noticed a growing number of men visiting his clinic.

“There’s no doubt that looks are as important in the workplace to men as they are to women,” says Mallucci. “It’s also true that as men start to mature, the subliminal threat from younger colleagues coming through the ranks is a driver for the senior guys to keep looking good.”

To stave off the threat of junior insubordination in the C-suite, a client visiting Mallucci London might opt for a shot of Juvéderm, a hyaluronic acid-based filler that targets lines and wrinkles, restores sunken cheeks and plumps up the skin. Or perhaps he’d prefer a hit of the slow-releasing “booster” treatment Profhilo, awarded the prize for “best injectable product in Europe”. An injectable moisturiser, it promises to improve the texture of your skin for a smoother, younger-appearing you.

Or, if the problem is a swelling waistline, then there’s the option of CoolSculpting, a non-invasive fat-reduction procedure known as cryolipolysis. It works by clamping a roll of fat between two panels that cool the targeted area to a freezing temperature; these cells break down and gradually leave the body after a few weeks. It has been performed more than seven million times worldwide. “There is no downtime, no bruising and it is often a great alternative to liposuction for those who lead busy lives, or are unable to make the gym as regularly as they would like,” Mallucci says.

Along with highlighting our national obsession with garden centres, baking, supermarkets and doom, a curious side effect of the pandemic that Mallucci has observed is how it has forced many of us to reckon, unrelentingly, with the way we look. Meetings are conducted over video calls in which we spend the duration peeking at the little window broadcasting our facial flaws, every blemish and hint of a receding hairline visible, while your colleagues’ connection drops in and out and a client’s cat climbs onto his keyboard.

In our harshly lit bedrooms, kitchens and home offices, insecurities are laid bare. It’s been such a phenomenon that BAAPS has given it a name, “the Zoom Boom”, and a set of ethical guidelines.

Waves of dissatisfied people booked appointments to fix facial quibbles that had become intolerable during these hours spent gazing into a computer screen, self-examining. “People couldn’t go on holiday; they couldn’t do much, really,” says Mallucci. “So, many decided to spend that money on themselves. To treat something.”

It’s one thing using cosmetic enhancement to hang on to the job you have, but what about putting yourself in line for a better one? In a 2008 study titled “The Face of Success: Inferences from Chief Executive Officers’ Appearance Predict Company Profits”, professors at Tufts University in Massachusetts presented 100 psychology undergraduates with the head shots of the CEOs of the 25 highest- and 25 lowest-ranking companies on the Fortune 500 list, and found a link between certain facial characteristics and expectations of leadership competence (at the time, 49 of those 50 CEOs were men). Overwhelmingly, the leaders who scored highest in categories such as “likeability” were those who ran the most profitable companies. If you want to convince people you’re CEO material, appearances count.

There are now procedures marketed directly to those who want a Fortune 500 face. At the Center for Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery in Beverly Hills, Dr Babak Azzizadeh has championed the “CEO facelift”, which uses endoscopic techniques – tiny incisions behind the ears – so it leaves behind no tell-tale scarring. “When you think of a chief executive officer’s responsibilities as a communicator, decision-maker, manager and leader, you realise a CEO can be, quite literally, the face of a company,” reads the centre’s website. “Wouldn’t any potential stakeholder want that face to be an impeccable representation of the company?”

Across the country in New York, Dr Douglas Steinbrech of Manhattan Plastic Surgery for Men offers a suite of procedures he calls “Boardroom Executive”, encompassing eyelid and neck lifts, high-definition liposculpting and jaw re-contouring. The clinic’s website lists reasons you might consider its Boardroom Executive option, which include: “You’re at the top of your game and your body should be, too”; “Your assistant says you look tired” and “You deserve it.”

The trend, says Dr Helena Lewis-Smith, a senior research fellow at the University of West England’s Centre for Appearance Research in Bristol, has reached worrying heights. “We as a society teach men that, in order to be successful, you have to be attractive,” she says. (It almost goes without saying that this is something that women have had to contend with for years.) “There is an increasing pressure for men to look masculine, to develop certain traits that we know as indicators of success. Men must be tall and have hair on their head. You never see a balding man on Love Island, do you?

“With something like fillers, it is now more affordable, and you can get it done in your lunch break,” she continues. “There definitely needs to be stronger regulation around these non-invasive procedures.”

Imperfect science: Human faces are unique, so results can be unpredictable

Peter Crowther

Counsel of Perfection

For Michael, a thirtysomething company director in Manchester, one of the big sells for getting a nose job (other than the fact that “from the side, my nose looked bad, really bad”) was the speed at which even this significant surgical procedure could be done. For £8,000, Michael bought a new nose courtesy of London-based surgeon Alex Karidis; eight days after his surgery and one day after removing the bandages, Michael was back at work. It was a subtle but clear modification. “I had a board meeting that day and nobody knew,” he says. “People I have worked with for years couldn’t tell that I’d had surgery, which is how I wanted it to be. It’s changed me as a person,” he adds.

There are times when Dr Karidis feels like a counsellor. “I have to be a bit of a psychologist,” he says with a knowing laugh. There was the architect who brought in blueprints of what he felt would be the Platonic ideal of his nose. “These were CAD [computer-aided design] drawings! Elevations and projections. I thought, ‘God, how am I going to live up to this guy’s expectations?’ I was looking at his nose in really fine detail, and it’s hard because surgery isn’t an exact science. There’s swelling, scar tissue and movement. You have to make sure that people understand the risks. There’s a lot of baggage and, as a doctor, you have to carry some of that baggage for people.”

Operating out of a wing of the private Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, located in London’s well-heeled St John’s Wood, Karidis, originally from Montreal, opened his practice in 1997 and is now one of the most highly regarded plastic surgeons in the UK. He has jet-black hair and a friendly, transatlantic accent. His surgery is like a little pocket of Los Angeles in London, with walls painted matte black and decorated with quotes from Coco Chanel, Katharine Hepburn and Keats: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever…” A very blonde woman teeters into the surgery, her face hidden behind a mask and enormous black sunglasses. She considers me for a moment before strutting past a wall emblazoned with the words: “Karidis: Enhancing Your Identity”.

“There are many recent seismic changes in surgery,” says Karidis. “The techniques have improved, the speed of recovery, and as a result people are more likely to embrace it. If you say you can go back to work in a couple of days rather than weeks, it’s more appealing for a professional man. Demographic-wise, we see absolutely all walks of life. It’s truly been democratised.”

Still, he sounds a cautionary note. “You have to balance what can be achieved, as people are constantly trying to push the boundaries. You know there are these bicep implants? I mean, you can do that, but what I say to people is, ‘Why don’t you do it naturally? You’re a fit individual, you weren’t born with a congenital issue. Go to the gym! Why do you want me to do it? Are you lazy?’ I can do that, but if you’re too lazy to do curls, I’ll say, ‘Stuff you, mate.’

“Men see the world opening up and think they can have and do anything, but there’s a lot more to it,” Karidis adds. “There are nuances that you can never eradicate.”

two pairs of hands in surgical gloves holding different medical tools, tweezers, scissors

A New, Better You

Since the 19th century, Harley Street, a sliver of red-brick mansion blocks in Marylebone, London, has been synonymous with private medicine and cosmetic surgery. Today, there are some 3,000 people employed here, pretty much all within private medical fields.

On an unremarkable October day, I walk past Rejuv Lab and London Aesthetic Medicine. A woman cooks in a tiny kitchenette visible from the pavement. There are thin women in leather trousers, convertible Porsches and two men in blue suits and white shirts loudly discussing a divorce as they walk briskly past.

Inside number 40, I wait for Dr Riccardo Frati, specialist consultant plastic surgeon at Harley Surgery London. The reception area is densely carpeted, with red velvet chairs, fake flowers and ornate chandeliers. I could be in a Geneva hotel, or purgatory, or a London branch of Dignitas.

I am shown upstairs to Frati’s office, which has an enormous, vaulted ceiling and more chandeliers; the back wall is a wide window facing onto the street below. The doctor gestures towards two fat leather armchairs opposite his high, wooden desk. “Please, sit.”

With 255,000 followers on Instagram and regular daytime TV appearances, Frati is both a celebrity cosmetic surgeon and an expert in his field. He has treated Love Island contestants, actors and oligarchs. One of his specialities is vibration amplification of sound energy at resonance (Vaser) liposuction, a technique using small incisions and an ultrasound probe to eradicate fat, before the muscle tissue around the abdomen is expertly sculpted. A six-pack appears where there wasn’t one before.

“There has been a lot of demand for this from male patients,” says Frati, speaking with a methodical Italian accent, each vowel carefully enunciated. He estimates that one in every five patients he now sees is a man. “Everything changed with Instagram,” he adds, tapping a Bic ballpoint pen between words to emphasise his point. Illuminated by the light from the window behind his desk, he appears like a well-nourished Roman god, albeit with a Rolex and a blue Ralph Lauren Oxford shirt, the gatekeeper to one’s every outwardly facing desire. “This wasn’t the case 10, 20 years ago. Now, it’s all about the face and the body.”

Frati lists the most popular surgeries: chin implants, eye-bag reduction, facelifts, fillers like Profhilo used as part of a cocktail of non-surgical injections, nose jobs, hydrofacials and gastric bands. He predicts a revolution in the near future, as stem cell treatments are introduced into the cosmetic arena, promising a specialised injection that causes body cells to repair themselves; truly, the elixir of youth. “This will make things dramatically different,” he says, his eyes darting around the room. “We are in the early stages of it, but I am confident that we will get there.”

Later that day, I am sent a testimonial by an anonymous patient who saw Frati this year, a 32-year-old director who opted for Vaser liposuction to shift some stubborn stomach fat. The director’s wife recommended Frati to him after she’d undergone some cosmetic work herself. “We may even be back for more!” he says.

I ask the man how it has impacted his professional and personal life. Does he feel like a better person? “I feel much more masculine and confident,” he writes back, “so I would say… yes.” Sitting in his big chair, behind his big desk, tapping his little pen, Frati puts it more straightforwardly.

“Most people are professionals, and they want to look better,” he says. “Even very successful managers or lawyers might not have confidence in their professional or social lives, so they want to regain confidence and looks. People want to look better, they want to look fresher, and they want to look younger. Now, they can.”



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