The rise in male cosmetic surgery, from the ‘daddy do-over’ to the ‘CEO tyre’

Although not yet as open about their treatment as women, more men are facing up to it

Surgeons say the rise in men seeking surgery is not driven by images they see on social media, but by a desire to look more like their younger selves. Photo: Wind Ira / Unsplash
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Male cosmetic surgery, dubbed the “daddy do-over”, is on the rise. In two 2021 reports from The Aesthetic Society and the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the top cosmetic surgical procedures for men were identified as rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, cheek implants, breast reduction, liposuction, tummy tuck and ear surgery.

A 2023 report, Changing Aesthetic Surgery Interest in Men: An 18-Year Analysis, found that when it came to researching procedures online, men were overwhelmingly looking at jawline fillers, Botox, microneedling, CoolSculpting and butt lifts. The most popular non-invasive procedures are laser skin resurfacing, laser hair removal, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

Dr Unnati Desai, medical director at Skinfluencer in London, says a cultural shift has meant "men in general are becoming more conscious about their appearance and cosmetic treatments are now more acceptable".

A 2019 report by The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons revealed that male demand for cosmetic procedures was on the rise before Covid-19.

While treatments were temporarily halted during global lockdowns, there was an additional increase amid the pandemic in males seeking procedures, due to the phenomenon of “zoom face” – the process of staring at, and finding fault with, your own features for hours during Zoom meetings.

A 2019 report by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons noted that "non-surgical treatments gained popularity driven by the trend for men preferring to look tweaked rather than tucked". And in a 2018 report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, liposuction was up 5 per cent and breast reduction (gynecomastia) up 22 per cent from 2000, while hair transplants were up 17 per cent since 2017.

“It has been a continuous upward trend since I started practising,” says Dr Dany Kayle, founder of Dr Kayle Aesthetic Clinic in Dubai. “When I opened my clinic 22 years ago, male patients comprised approximately 5 to 10 per cent of my patients. Now it is approximately 35 to 38 per cent.”

Dr Maurizio Viel at Cornerstone Clinic, Dubai, says: “The number has increased over the years, and now it is more common for men to get Botox, various surgery from facelifts, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, liposuction to the abdomen, flanks and breast area. Previously, men were 10 per cent of our practice, but today it is easily 30 per cent.”

But while surgical procedures for women have long shrugged off the taboos which used to accompany face lifts and breast enhancements thanks to more openness around nips and tucks, men are fast catching up with their willingness to try treatments, even if they’re not quite as ready to discuss it in public.

What’s behind the rise?

“People are more educated about cosmetic surgery than ever before and they now realise by looking at men in the public eye what treatments they have likely had done,” says Dr Ken Arashiro, plastic surgeon at Euromed Clinic Dubai. “Also, the rise in social media has made appearance more important than ever before.”

While research into the link between the images seen on social media and the desire for cosmetic surgery has shown a correlation when it comes to women seeking treatment, surgeons across the region say that for their male clients, the reasons are a little different.

“Men are much more practical and realistic,” says Dr Viel. “They just want to look like a better version of themselves. They like themselves when they were younger and fitter and want to return their bodies to that state.”

Dr Arashiro adds: “For men, it is more subtle than wanting to copy how a celebrity looks. Instead, they will want to look less tired and more youthful.”

The “younger version of me” approach to cosmetic surgery is what led Benjamin to undergo liposuction on his abdominals and back.

“As an older man, I want to look good and wear the same waist-sized trousers as when I was 21,” he says. “You can do all the work you’re supposed to, such as go to the gym and eat healthily, but as you age there are things which will not change without intervention. Now, I feel younger and better about myself. It has given me more confidence.”

The stigma around male cosmetic surgery

Men may be more willing to try treatment, but they're not as ready to talk openly about it.

“Being a man, you’re fearful of the stigma associated with things that have traditionally been seen as vanity”, says Benjamin, 49, a chief executive living in Dubai who has undergone blepharoplasty (upper eyelid surgery), as well as liposuction.

“However, this was a decision I made for myself and I had to come to terms with that. Once I overcame the stigma and the feeling of doing something ‘vain’ I realised that it’s OK to want to look a certain way, and for that to be a personal decision between me and my surgeon.”

Gradually, more men are beginning to discuss it, however.

In August, US singer Joe Jonas was unveiled as the new face of Botox alternative, Xeomin.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily something that we have to shy away from,” the singer, 34, told People magazine of incorporating injectables into his skincare routine.

“We can be open and honest about it, be confident, and not really shy away from speaking our truth.”

Jonas’s candour, however, isn’t commonplace among male celebrities who still couch their enhancements in terms such as “deviated septum” and “medically necessary”.

The X Factor creator Simon Cowell is one of a small number of high-profile men who have admitted to having treatment. “Hopefully I look better now. I probably did have a little too much Botox a couple of years ago, because everyone on TV has it," he told The Sun in 2019.

Dr Arashiro says: "People are very educated about treatment, especially in the Middle East, and they will talk openly about it to friends and family as there is no point denying you have had treatment."

Dr Vassiliki Simoglou, psychologist at Thrive Wellbeing Centre, says: "The pursuit of beauty and balance, the ideal of youth or eternal youth that guarantees attractiveness and fertility, the constant interference of social media in private lives, the relentless comparison with others are some of the societal pressure's men put on themselves.

While surgical treatments have increased, so too has the jargon surrounding male cosmetic surgery. As with women's surgery which gave rise to terms such as "bingo wings" and "saddle bags" to describe additional fat or loose skin in the upper arms or thigh areas, so too have phrases such as "CEO tyre" and "dad bod" entered the body image lexicon, to describe fat stored in the abdominal area.

“Most men’s number-one requested procedure is injectables, ie, Botox and fillers,” says Dr Kayle. “After that, the next most popular requests are upper eye surgery to remove hooded lids and neck liposuction. When it comes to the body, requests tend to be geared towards liposuction on areas where fat accumulates and is difficult to eliminate even with a healthy diet and regular gym sessions, such as the tummy and chest.”

Says Dr Simoglou: "I would ask men to ask themselves who they are doing this for. For people in general, to change their image for a person in particular, that they might feel will accept them or love them more, or for themselves?"

Updated: June 07, 2024, 6:02 PM