Don’t call them pretty boys
By – Richard G. Fried, M.D., Ph.D.
Local News | Local Sports | Jo Ciavaglia
Bucks County Courier Times
Today’s successful man knows that the secret to a long, prosperous career is a well-tailored suit, a high-end haircut and a good skincare specialist.
Look at Robert, a 40-year-old Upper Makefield executive whose job involves serious face time speaking before clients.
He moisturizes. He uses sunscreen. He’s had cosmetic work done. Little stuff like removing the mole under his lip and dermabrasion, a facial sanding technique used to treat scars and wrinkles.
No big deal. Nothing he’s ashamed of, though he didn’t want his last name used.
“The everyday procedure that can be done in the office, I don’t think there is any real response to that in society whether it’s a man or a woman,” Robert said.
Not anymore it appears.
Where good grooming for men once involved a $10 haircut and a splash of cologne, now doctors in Bucks County and beyond are seeing a surge in men interested in skin care products, minimally invasive and anti-aging cosmetic treatments.
One local dermatologist says he sees one to two new male patients a week seeking Botox injections, and many claim they are looking for a career, not an ego, boost. Another doctor estimated that men are now almost one-third of his laser hair removal patients.
The trend is changing how cosmetic and skin products and services are marketed. One local hospital-affiliated skin and body care center recently held staff training specifically on dealing with male patients.
While men represent only a fraction of the anti-aging cosmetic market, they are the fastest growing segment, according to industry statistics. Since 1997, non-surgical cosmetic and skin procedures among men have increased 722 percent, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
About 300,000 men had Botox injections in 2006 (compared with 2.8 million women), 166,551 had laser hair removal (compared with 1.3 million women) and 71,102 had microdermabrasion (compared with 921,970 women).
Sales of men’s skin care products sold in department stores jumped 13 percent in 2004, more than twice the growth for the overall and women’s skincare markets, according to NPD Group, a marketing information company.
In 2003, revenues from men’s skin care products rose 10 percent while the women’s and total market advanced only 6 percent. This year the male personal care market in the U.S. is expected to reach $38 billion, up from $31 billion in 2003, according to industry reports.
Doctors offer many theories about what is driving the trend. Some believe women are encouraging men to maintain or enhance their physical appearances. Men hear the message that a youthful look may give them a competitive edge in business.
Cosmetic procedures are more affordable, accessible and socially acceptable than as recently as 10 years ago, and many can be done in a doctor’s office with little downtime.
Plus, if celebrities such as Simon Cowell, the 48-year-old “American Idol” judge who recently admitted he regularly uses Botox injections to appear younger, undergo the procedures, why shouldn’t Richboro resident Larry Harbison?
Most of his life, the 59-year-old felt embarrassed by his appearance. He has rosacea, a skin disease that causes facial redness and swelling.
Five years ago, he underwent laser therapy on his nose, chin and cheeks to reduce the redness and fix broken capillaries. He looks better. He feels better. He has no problem telling people he had a cosmetic procedure done.
“It’s been well worth it,” Harbison said. “There are probably a lot of men who don’t want to admit they have a skin problem — it’s not manly. We all have skin whether you are male or female. I’m using whatever means I can to feel better.”
With good reason, he added. Harbison, who runs a small insurance business, recently attended a professional seminar where a main message was that people prefer younger sales people.
“For me to go out and get clients, they don’t want to see a gray-haired 59-year-old walking in.”
While more men are interested in enhancing their looks, they don’t want anything time consuming or dramatic change, said Dr. Dee Anna Glaser, a professor and director of the cosmetic and laser surgery department of dermatology at St. Louis University.
In consultations, Glaser finds most men have a clear idea of what they want done, and it usually involves one or two areas. They prefer a well-rested over a younger look. They’re looking for something simple and long lasting.
“A lot of them have come on their own and say, “You made my wife look great, what can you do for me?’ ”
Another major difference between genders is expectations, Glaser said. Men are more realistic.
“Very rarely do I see a man come in and say you didn’t get rid of this little wrinkle here,” she said.
She sees men of all ages, but lately more in their 50s and 60s.
“They feel they’ve got these years to work and are trying to compete and look their best,” Glaser explained. “They’ve got experience, they feel valued at work, they feel they have to compete and look their best.”
Dr. Gregory Bolton is director of the Aesthetics Center at Frankford Hospitals, which provides cosmetic services and treatments. He said the center has seen a jump in male patients.
Bolton estimates that men were 30 percent of his laser hair removal patients in the last year, a percentage that doesn’t surprise him.
“You almost never see an ad for men in bathing suits or underwear looking like Burt Reynolds,” Bolton said. “It’s like clothing, years ago, if it wasn’t black and gray and white, men didn’t go there. Now men are very comfortable wearing a pink shirt or tie.”
Lower Makefield dermatologist Dr. Richard Fried recently was asked to write about the psychological aspects of what motivates men to improve their looks for an issue of a professional journal dedicated to addressing male cosmetic patients.
Fried, director at Yardley Dermatology Associates, is also a clinical psychologist. He believes, for the average man, the reasons are more about being practical than pretty.
“It will keep my job. It will make me more money. It might make me more attractive. I might get more sex,” he explained.
Aging can be as aggravating and emotionally draining for men as it is for women, Fried said. When a guy feels like he’s lost his edge, it’s the death knell for his self confidence.
The traditional male psyche centered on strength, power and conquest, and those qualities still apply, but now there is this new desire entering the mix called physical perfection, Fried said.
“Where it was about big muscles and slicking your hair back, now, it’s do you have the perfect nose, too much or too little hair on your chest?” Fried said. “The explosion of emphasis on the physical, that everything, everything is about appearance.”
Older men aren’t the only ones who feel pressure to look better either. Teenage boys in his practice regularly request flesh-tone-tinted acne products to camouflage pimples, something almost unheard of 10 years ago, Fried said.
Most of his adult male patients are looking to remove unwanted skin growths like moles and skin tags and dark, age-related discoloration. The age of his male patients — once mostly under age 40 — are now creeping into the 50s and 60s. They aren’t all white-collar professionals either.
Take 42-year-old Paul DeLong, a construction worker from Lower Makefield.
Recently he underwent laser skin therapy on his face. Years of sun exposure left him with brown and red patches that his two daughters frequently pointed out.
His wife had the same procedure done a year ago. Her results impressed her husband.
Yes, he wanted to look better, but DeLong said he also saw the procedure as preventative since it treats pre-cancerous cells. Yes, he also uses a moisturizer and sunscreen.
“The older I get, the more I do now,” he admitted, though it’s not something he discusses much with buddies.
“It’s something you don’t want to talk about. You can’t say I want to look good. You’re supposed to be tough and rugged.”
Top 5 male non-invasive cosmetic procedures:
THE NUMBERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Laser hair removal: 173,000
Chemical peel: 98,000
Laser skin resurfacing: 32,000
Laser hair removal: 173,279
Chemical peel: 103,917
Collagen injection: 28,382
Chemical peel: 201,117
Laser hair removal: 133,142
Collagen injection: 46,166
Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeon