Plastic Surgery Makes the Man? Maybe Not

Some cosmetic therapies are on the rise among men. Others, like penis enlargement, are falling fast.

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With cosmetic procedures as popular as ever among women, some experts are wondering whether the seemingly endless push toward aesthetic perfection has a downside. At least one even suggests that a "new anorexia" may be emerging among some women in their quest for everlasting youth.

Might men be succumbing to the same pressure? It certainly seems possible after reviewing recently released reports from the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Both reports showed men have a growing appetite for noninvasive cosmetic treatments.

It's abundantly clear from the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery report, for example, that plenty of men want to pretty up these days. The number of men per year seeking out sclerotherapy (a saline injection that aims to remove spider veins), for example, has increased 226 percent over five years, laser resurfacing increased 172 percent, skin-softening microdermabrasion 159 percent, Botox 42 percent, and eyelid surgery called blepharoplasty 35 percent, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. Another telling fact from the report from the facial doctors: Eighteen percent of the patients who get multiple procedures in the same year are men, a poll of the doctors say.

That's not to say, however, that men have morphed into cosmetic surgery junkies. According to the survey, 10 percent fewer men get invasive cosmetic procedures now than did five years ago. The number of men seeking hair restoration surgery, for example, has dropped 48 percent since 2002, rhinoplasty procedures (better known as nose jobs) have fallen by 26 percent, and face-lifts by 8 percent. And the frequency of the most male of cosmetic surgeries out there—penis enlargement—dropped a whopping 98 percent, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. (The American Urological Association, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons have all issued policy statements against such penile surgeries, which can lead to scarring, loss of sensitivity, and other problems—and can cost some $10,000, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

What this really boils down to, in fact, is that noninvasive treatments (and Botox, too) are on the rise, while men's appetite for invasive cosmetic surgery is dropping off. What's happening in that latter category? "Price seemed to be a factor," says Sarah Massier, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. Indeed, some of the invasive procedures that saw the steepest declines also saw the greatest price increases, while the price of some of the increasingly popular noninvasive treatments dropped.

Money, too, might be what's driving men to cosmetic surgery in the first place. Two thirds of cosmetic surgeons said they'd seen a trend in 2007 of men requesting surgery to remain competitive in the workplace, while only one third said men were requesting the surgery to remain attractive to a partner or spouse.

Below are the stats, as reported by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, on a selection of relatively common procedures (stats on women provided for comparison). Note: Of the 1,406 cosmetic surgeons invited to complete the academy's survey, only 267 replied. Other physician groups specializing in cosmetic medicine, such as the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, offers similar but slightly different trend data.

  Men,
2002
Men,
2007
Women,
2007
% Change,
2002-2007 (Men)
Botox 34,410 48,993 218,301 +42
Microdermabrasion 14,296 37,011 119,226 +158.9
Sclerotherapy 3,009 9,820 38,179 +226.3
Laser resurfacing 2,936 7,978 26,919 +171.7
Hair transplant 28,715 14,974 3,665 -47.9
Rhinoplasty 3,417 2,528 7,638 -26
Facelift 1,961 1,798 12,149 -8.3
Penile enlargement 1,919 31 n/a -98.4