Move over ladies, middle-aged men may be the new rising market for cosmetic surgery, especially when it comes to facelifts, Botox, and liposuction. New 2010 data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) finds that despite the recession, the number of men shelling out for a mid-life nip/tuck tune up is on the rise.
For Joe Marek, 57, getting a facelift was more about looking as good as he felt than about trying to turn back the clock.
"I'm more active than most people my age. I don't feel old, I feel good, but people were coming up to me and saying, 'You look tired. You look run down.' I got tired of it," Marek says.
Marek isn't shy about talking about his procedure and says that if any of his male friends called him out for being a "wuss" for going under the knife, he wouldn't care. "A lot of people I talk to about it, I end up finding out that they've thought about it themselves," he says.
Indeed, a recent study from UCLA found that 23 percent of men were interested in plastic surgery, though only a fraction of them will every act on it. Women, by comparison, are more than eight times as likely to act on a desire to go under the knife than women are.
But that may be changing, plastic surgeons say. "The baby boomers are living longer, healthier lives than their parents did. 65-year-olds then were grandparents, today they are climbing mountains and running marathons," says Dr. John Millard, a Denver-based plastic surgeon. "They're spending more time in front of the mirror and holding themselves to a higher physical standard."
Many plastic surgeons are seeing increasing numbers of men coming into their offices, not only for body sculpting procedures, traditionally more common for men, but for facial enhancements such as face lifts, Botox, and facial fillers. In the past year alone, the number of men seeking a facelift spiked 14 percent, according to ASPS data.
And the recession doesn't seem to be hindering this trend, it's helping it: "I get men out of work who want to look younger because they're competing with guys 20 years their junior for jobs. That's a very different attitude towards surgery than we've seen in the past," says Dr. Phil Haeck, ASPS president.
The plastic surgery industry was hit hard by the recession as most people were no longer willing to spend on the "luxury goods" of cosmetic procedures. Now it seems that the market is rebounding, with the number of total cosmetic procedures up 5 percent in the last year. The distribution of those procedures isn't what it used to be however, with men accounting for a growing proportion of invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures. In 2008, only 8 percent of procedures were done on men, but as of 2010, that proportion had risen to 13 percent, according to ASPS data.
"I think there's a social change here," says Haeck. "I think it's just as acceptable for men to have plastic surgery. Every men's magazine focuses on looking fit and looking good. Men are willing to try out skin care products and it's not thought of as gay -- it's opened up a whole new world of possibilities to guys."
Millard also credits the rise of plastic surgery reality shows in the normalization for cosmetic surgery for men. "Because they see people like themselves having surgery, the guy-next-door, not just the rich and famous, men can really identify with these people. They hear why they do it and they relate to it," he says. Millard's practice, which saw about 13 percent male clients five years ago, today sees about 65 to 7 percent male, predominantly for body sculpting techniques that restore a youthful V-shaped physique to older men.
Being a competitive candidate in the job market may also be driving some men's decisions to go under the knife. Haeck says that he has many unemployed men coming in wanting to look younger quick, because they believe this will give them a competitive edge in job interviews.
"Men come in and they're in their forties but they're the oldest guy in the office and they're getting passed over by someone 15 years younger," he says. "Many men are constantly looking at threats from the younger, more tech-savvy generation and they're doing anything they can to make themselves more savvy: developing technical skill, dressing like them, trying to look younger."
And if looking fit has become another job qualification for some men, plastic surgery becomes increasingly appealing.
"Women aspired to have Barbie's figure for years. Men are just now catching up to Ken," Haeck says.