Male Vanity

Face it: You’ve looked better. Here, how men are investing more in their appearance than ever before.

Why waste time talking about whether you should or shouldn’t have cosmetic surgery? We’re all big boys here. If we’re still prone to worrying about what other people think, well that’s kind of sad, don’t you think? It’s clear from talking to both cosmetic surgeons and guys our age, however, that what other people will think, and whether they’ll know you’ve had some work done, is often a deterrent. It’s the big, surgically enhanced elephant in the room.

But let’s back up. The fact is that across the board, men are investing more in their appearance than ever before. Men’s grooming is currently a $3.5 billion business, with cosmetic surgery and non-surgical enhancement procedures a healthy and growing part of this. In 2010, men in the U.S. undertook 1.1 million cosmetic surgeries, an increase of 273% over 1997, and 14% of facelifts were performed on men. There’s a wave happening and we’re riding it.

Riding it, not leading it. At our age we’re getting the majority of male facelifts but it’s the guys younger than us who’ve been embracing all the non-surgical offerings – injectables, laser procedures, and other treatments for face and body – that are driving the cosmetic-enhancement business. For these guys, now in their late 30s and early 40s, if a hit of Botox between the eyes is going to get that worried look off their faces, it’s no big deal. They grew up with a different attitude towards their appearance (remember Metrosexuals?), an easy acceptance of male vanity and a sense of their own good looks as something to enjoy.

Our generation, well, not so much. Caring about how we looked beyond a decent haircut, an acceptable waist size and good hygiene just wasn’t…masculine. Until, maybe, now.

The fact is, time’s been busy doing what it does and it’s becoming a little harder to convince ourselves there’s anything left that’s youthful about the way we look, which is kind of sad, considering how good we feel!

There also might also be professional motivators. The cosmetic surgery websites talk about the need to stay competitive in the working world but that can ring a touch hollow. Many of us are at the top of our games professionally while others are looking to transition to something different, which includes how good we feel, physically and personally.

We can make peace with our changing looks – a good option – or, if we like, do a few things to briefly slow things down a bit. But it’s more likely vanity, pure and simple, that takes us to cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, cosmetic dentists and med spas, not professional relevance.

Let’s break this down. What’s bothering you? Your face? Time has likely been unkind. There’s heredity – yes, those are your mother’s bags under your eyes and that’s your father’s double chin. Then there’s the effect of years of sun exposure, alcohol, the 15 or more years you smoked, neglecting your skin (“Moisturizer? Hell no!”). At this point you probably can’t really remember your face not looking worried and tired.

A facelift can be the solution but – good news – it may not have to be. In the last ten years, non-surgical face enhancement has advanced from the Botox of its early, over-injected days to an ever-growing arsenal of procedures that can address a lot of what’s bothering you.

In fact it’s with these non-surgical treatments where many surgeons and dermatologists want you to start. Plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Lista begins with a little education – an essential, he says, for men who are not accustomed to talking about their faces.

“The bottom line is good, regular skincare from which men can see terrific, immediate results since most have never done it. Next up the ladder are the peels and laser procedures that can tackle wrinkles, sun damage and even tighten the skin.”

The injectables, like Botox for wrinkles and other options, known as dermal fillers, are available for bigger jobs.

And then, of course, there’s surgery. “It’s often a progression,” cosmetic surgeon Dr. Martin Jugenberg says. “Men mostly start out with non-surgical treatments, fillers and Botox and progress to facelifts or blepharoplasties [eyelifts].”

If, like many of us, you’ve got rosacea or generalized redness, uneven pigmentation (brown spots), big pores, old acne scars or a little bit of sagging that’s bothering you, consider joining your younger peers in a doctor’s med spa for a little bit of laser work. There’s IPL (intense pulsed light) and a range of fractional lasers, all of which rejuvenate the skin. It seems like every week there’s a new laser on the market, most of which, frankly, do pretty much the same things so don’t waste your time trying to track down a particular brand-name laser you’ve read about. Your doctor will know about the technology to effectively tackle your concerns.

As for Botox and other injectables, for some men they’re the point of entry to other, longer-lasting procedures and for others, the very thought of Botox conjures up Real Housewives-type terrors. Botox, you likely know, is a drug derived from Botulinum toxin. When it’s injected into facial wrinkles it temporarily (roughly six months) paralyses facial muscles in the area and wrinkles are diminished or eradicated.

Botox and dermal fillers may be all you want or need.

Botox can take care of (that’s lessen; you don’t want to eliminate) crow’s feet, soften forehead lines while dermal fillers can banish that deep crevice between your eyes. Dermal fillers, made primarily of hyaluronic acid, a highly bio-compatible substance that’s naturally occurring in our skin, tackles another sign of aging, the diminishing volume of facial fat. If you have folds of skin running down from the corners of your nose, for example, dermal fillers like the heavily advertised Juvederm or Restylane can put them right.

Dermal fillers can also, in the hands of a talented doctor, reshape your face a little, bringing back some of the fullness you’ve lost over time.

“It’s structure, not wrinkles that bother most older men,” says cosmetic plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Mulholland, “the sagging and loss of definition that not only ages but also softens a man’s face. We can take care of that with surgery but we can address it non-surgically as well if the conditions are right. We can redefine or even create a strong jawline with dermal fillers.”

Some men consulting with cosmetic surgeons are looking for facelifts while others are interested in body procedures. A lot of men want liposuction, which can go a long way to give them the physique they feel should rightfully be theirs, given their years of consistent workouts. Fat in the chest, stomach and love handles can be successfully diminished with what is, despite of the occasional horror story, a safe procedure with after-care that’s easy tomanage. But be aware: liposuction is not a synonym for weight loss. It’s effective for men who carry a few extra physique-masking pounds, not for the obese.

These are small decisions compared to deciding to have a facelift. It’s comforting to know that good cosmetic surgeons take it as seriously as you do, and those with taste, judgement and surgical skill (the three essentials) are decidedly minimalist in their approach. A facelift used to be all cut and pull but today, there’s a better understanding of how we age and how to address it surgically to create fullness as well as tautness.

If your surgeon suggests lifting your lower face to create a good neck and jawline but leaving your eyes alone, listen to him. Think of male celebrities with disastrous, noticeable cosmetic surgery; it’s their eyes you can’t stop looking at. While the best surgeons understand what you can and can’t do to a man’s face, where the eyes are concerned, be doubtful. Leave your eyes alone.

Peter, a 65-year-old Toronto car dealer did just that. “I thought about having a facelift for at least two years but it was seeing pictures of face-lifted men with weird eyes that always stopped me. When I finally went for a consultation, the surgeon told me he wouldn’t do my eyes even if I wanted him too; he agreed that it never looks normal.”

Eight years later, he’s still happy with the result. “I suppose I wish my eyes looked a little younger but I certainly don’t regret leaving them alone.”

Of course, Toronto cosmetic dentist Dr. Jordan Soll is biased when he says that good-looking teeth are more important than anything you could do to your face, but he may be right. By your late 40’s, you’re usually looking at chipped edges, receding gums, teeth that are rotated and misaligned as well as significant discolouration. Replacing discoloured fillings and whitening can help a little but it’s usually not enough for older teeth.

“If the foundation is in good shape with healthy gums and bones,” Soll says, “you can resurface the front ten upper and lower teeth with veneers to excellent results. But where teeth are concerned, appearance comes second. Restoring your teeth from a function point of view comes first.”

In spite of the hundreds of photos of handsome smiles on dental websites, as with cosmetic surgery, there’s an element of “buyer beware.” If you’re having the kind of major cosmetic dental work that older guys usually require, the dentist will be, for the most part, redesigning your teeth and therein lies the problem – it comes down to his aesthetic judgement as to what’s going to look good in your mouth.

Douglas, a mid-fifties Edmonton lawyer laid down close to $40,000 for a complete dental overhaul with a mix of caps and veneers.

“My teeth are too white, too big and they just don’t quite look right. They look like someone else’s teeth. ,When I smile my nephews howl and say, ‘Uncle Doug’s working the grill.’ While he had approval at every step, he still feels let down.

“How do you judge it when you’re looking at a plaster model of what your teeth will look like and he dentist is telling you how great they are. You can’t. If I had to do over I’d do the work, just with someone else.”

So move slowly. From past years representing cosmetic surgeons, dentists, and the manufacturers of dermal fillers and laser procedures through my public relations company, I’m aware of the need to approach all this with caution. You’re not in grave danger, but it is your face we’re talking about, and cosmetic surgery, non-surgical enhancement and cosmetic dentistry are as much art as science.

Bottom line? If you just want to take care of the basics, it’s probably good-looking teeth, good skincare and if you’re up for it, a touch of Botox. They’re going to give you the look of vitality and health that will take you a long way, whatever your well-lived life and gravity have wrought.

Choose wisely, think modestly

Choose a physician, dentist or med spa with great care. Do some in-depth research, read their websites and get a sense of their approach to cosmetic enhancement procedures for men. Read articles on the topic, become an expert. This is not the time to shoot the works and go big. The more you do where your face is concerned, the greater the chances you won’t look like yourself.

When it’s done…

I’ve never met a surgeon or read a cosmetic-surgery website that didn’t downplay the time required post-surgery, at least a little. Whatever they tell you, double the time. Realize that if you opt for anything more than just a little Botox and some good skincare, observant people will likely know you’ve had something done.

So do it, be it, live with it. Don’t expect anyone to believe your handsome, rejuvenated face is the result of two weeks in Cabo and less stress on the job.

Be honest about what you’ve done: why not? And if a physician says he’ll take ten years off your face, tell him you’d prefer five. Looking five years younger is a good goal. Looking vital and healthy as a result of what you choose to do is even better.