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Men race to catch up in the anti-ageing stakes

Submitted by on Thursday, 20 December 2007No Comment
Men race to catch up in the anti-ageing stakes

They may not be talking about it yet, but more and more men are having cosmetic surgery to turn back the clock. One reason is increasing pressure in the boardroom, writes DAVID GEMMELL.

If Springbok prop Os du Randt, ever brings out a personal brand of aftershave, it will finally signal the ‘all clear’ for real men to talk about their cosmetic surgery. Increasing numbers of South African males are submitting to aesthetic procedures, but such is their silence, you would never know.

Dr Saul Braun, practising Johannesburg and Harley Street plastic surgeon, estimates that of the cosmetic procedures he performs, 12% are on men. Ten years ago it was less than 1%. What’s changed? “South African men are finally looking after themselves. They have realised women don’t find macho, big boep, beer swilling yobs standing around a braai, irresistible.” I took the opportunity to ask if he can eliminate a beer belly through surgery.

“No I can’t. In the case of those distended stomachs, which feel like taut kettle drums, the fat is behind the muscle. We can’t get rid of that. It’s a mixed blessing. If I could, I would have 30,000 rugby supporters wanting me to remove boeps. I’d have no time for anything else. We do get people here who, although they have lost weight, still have love handles. These can be genetic and we get rid of them with liposuction. But not whole bellies.”

He added, “That doesn’t mean we don’t do tummy tucks and liposuction on men. We do. But we do it when they are near their ideal weight.”

Apart from their natural desire to look good and appeal to women, men are having cosmetic surgery to correct terminal design flaws such as unsightly noses (rhinoplasty), and wing-nut ears (otoplasty), and to sip at the fountain of youth.

“There is a lot of boardroom pressure on executives to be young,” Dr Braun explains. “You are deemed to be competent or not, depending on your age. I remember when I left medical school I thought any doctor of forty was over the hill. Then I got to forty and was amazed to find how little I knew when I qualified. There definitely is an age competence, perception problem.”

Compounding this, today many CEOs of companies are a lot younger than their predecessors were. “In the ‘old days’ the managing directors and chairmen of businesses were in their sixties and in some cases their seventies. It wasn’t important to look youthful. In fact sometimes it was a disadvantage if you were young.”

Cosmetic surgery on men is also the logical progression of their evolution as participants in customs, which previously were the sole preserve of women; like wearing cosmetics. Aftershave, face creams, hair conditioners, even manicures, pedicures and facials have shrugged off the stigmas of yesteryear, when the only concession by real men to grooming, was a shower and a reluctant dab of deodorant. It appears the metrosexuals, defined as “young, straight, sensitive urban men who are unashamed to enjoy good clothes, stylish living, sport, the art of decorating, and improving their personal appearance,” are the new ‘real men’.

I asked Dr Braun what the most popular procedures for men are. “Eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) and face lifts. They both make a substantial, positive difference to appearing youthful. Then there is a growing demand for breast reductions in men, especially in black men, called gynecomastia. I must do 50 or 60 a year. It is liposuction; removal of fat cells.” There is a delightful irony in discovering that ‘boob jobs’ sought after by men, are no longer necessarily for their girlfriends or wives.

Other popular procedures include liposuction (abdomen and chest), chin augmentation, nose sculpting, Botox injections (see box) and hair transplants.

I enquired if there are differences in operating on men as compared with women. “Men’s skin is much thicker, it has more hair and men bleed more, so there are small technical differences. The skin doesn’t ‘drape’ back as easily as in women; also hair patterns are different and men shave and women don’t. So although the operations for a facelift for instance, are basically the same, the incisions would be placed slightly differently.”

Dr Braun is seeing growing numbers of black women in his practise and inevitably, more black men. “They age well,” he says, “they don’t seem to wrinkle like us Caucasians, but despite that, I am now doing a lot of facial cosmetic surgery on black politicians and black businessmen – most of them household names – which are obviously confidential.”

He comments that women seem quite happy to talk about their surgery, but men never mention it. “Women ask each other who did their boobs, or their face lifts, but men are far more secretive.” An international phenomenon it would appear, as born out by Dr Steve R Fallek, American East Coast cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon. “Men who have cosmetic procedures are just as happy as women with the results and as likely to have further surgery. However, it just doesn’t come up in normal male conversation.”

I asked Dr Braun if men are as happy with results as woman are. “Yes,” he says, “except for male rhinoplasty (nose) patients. It is a documented fact that they are a high risk group for lack of satisfaction. A combination of unrealistic expectations and insecure personalities give rise to many complaints. Even after you have shown them computer generated pictures of what the result will be, a lot of them are still unhappy with what they get.” Does calling a nose operation a rhinoplasty, exacerbate the situation, I wonder.

At his Harley Street practise in London, which he attends four times a year, Dr. Braun is still seeing mainly women. According to figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), since 2004 the number of men turning to cosmetic surgery has more than doubled, to about 2,500 last year. This translates into approx. 8%. “It’s a bit lower than the 10 or 12% I estimate for South Africa, but it is growing. In America about 16% of cosmetic surgery is done on men.”

I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t enquire, albeit squeamishly, about cosmetic surgery to the penis. “In my experience those operations (phalloplasty), never work well. I don’t do them. Guys are never happy. The success rate is rubbish and the results awful.”

And new techniques? There are but Dr Braun, like an increasing number of surgeons, tends to watch and wait before adopting them. He says as soon as something appears on the market, the utilisation tends to be very high. “This is because doctors go to a congress, hear about the new procedures, buy expensive equipment and then of course, need to pay for the equipment; so perform lots of the procedures.”

In certain instances the procedures prove to be suspect. So he would rather move slowly. “A few years ago they sold ‘strings’ that hitched up the face from underneath with no cuts. These are now popping out all over the place. So you have to be careful. But there are some fantastic new lasers, which we are looking at.”

Traditionally it has been acceptable for men to put on weight, go bald and age gracefully. But no more. Beautiful, athletic young men selling anything from aftershave to underpants can be seen wherever you look; increasing pressure on men, similar to what women have had to put up with for so long, to look good. Cosmetic surgery is now an accepted option for men and even if they are not talking about it, they certainly are having it. No longer is it just a ‘girl thing’.

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