In the latest sign that once-rigid sex roles continue to blur, men are flocking to plastic surgeons for treatments ranging from Botox injections and liposuction to eye lifts and breast reductions.
They include James Babbin, a 37-year-old actor from New York City.
In 2000, he visited Dr. Philip Miller, a facial plastic surgeon in Manhattan, for some internal nose surgery for health reasons. Then, he decided to enhance his looks by undergoing bletharoplasty to reduce the puffiness and swelling under his eyes.
"It was something I always wanted to have done, and it's definitely had a positive effect on my life," says Babbin, who has since had Botox treatments to smooth out unwanted wrinkles.
The procedures have boosted his confidence and led to more TV and film work, he says. "If someone is thinking about it, it's worth exploring," he adds. "It's more public now, and a lot more accessible."
Consider these statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:
- In 2001, 17 percent of patients having chemical peels were men, up from 4 percent in 1992.
- During that same nine-year period, the number of men having facelifts climbed from 7 percent to 10 percent.
- Males opting for liposuction rose from 13 percent to 18 percent.
- And men who chose to reshape their nose jumped from 28 percent to 37 percent.
When asked why they decided to go the plastic surgery route, most men say they want to improve their looks and give themselves an edge in their professional and personal lives.
"Over the last few years, more and more men are aware of the treatments that can benefit them in the workplace as well as in their social life," says Miller, who's an assistant professor at New York University's School of Medicine.
"It's almost commonplace now, whereas it used to be more rare," he adds.
Miller has seen a dramatic increase in male patients, who made up just 10 percent to 15 percent of his practice in the mid-1990s but now account for 35 percent to 40 percent.
He attributes the surge, in part, to the Food and Drug Administration's approval last spring of injectable Botox to temporarily improve the appearance of moderate to severe frown lines between the eyebrows.
Other procedures that Miller regularly performs on male patients include facelifts, nose reshapings, liposuction, the removal of excess skin under the eyes (or bags), skin resurfacing, and smoothing acne or other deep scarring on the face.
"Just take a look at the skin care products out for men," Miller says. "There might have been one a few years ago. Now you walk into the store and there's a whole aisle full of them. A whole concept of beauty for 50 percent of the population has opened up."
Dr. James Wells, of Long Beach, Calif., is another plastic surgeon who finds himself catering increasingly to image-conscious men. The number of his male patients has doubled -- from about 10 percent to almost 20 percent -- in recent years, he says. Most, he adds, are baby boomers in their late 40s and early 50s.
"Appearance is important to them, in terms of job retention and changing relationships," says Wells, who is acting president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
"A lot of them have gone through divorces and are dating again. Or their wife may have had something done and it gives them the idea to do it," he adds.
Wells says his most popular treatments for men include liposuction, eyelid surgery and neck lifts. The weathered look of the Marlboro man or Clint Eastwood is no longer the standard of beauty for the male of the species, he says.
"It's getting more and more OK for men to have something done," Wells says. "You're clearly seeing it get into the men's magazines like G.Q. and Men's Health. It's acceptable now."