Beyond the brotox: Male measures to look good

Once content with smearing moisturiser on our faces men today are reaching beyond the bathroom cabinet and taking more extreme measures.

Penny McCormick October 27, 2016

Jeff Goldblum spoke for a lot of men recently when he said, “I want to look good. That’s conventional vanity, probably. It’s not entirely unenjoyable.” And aesthetically speaking, affirmative action is on the rise, especially among men. 

A blob of moisturiser here, a dab of anti-fatigue eye gel there, booking in for a facial or a pedicure are as routine for guys today as it was for guys in 1960s combing a dollop of Brylcreem through their hair and splashing Old Spice on their face. Grooming is big business too. A report in The Times this summer stated the global male grooming market was worth a staggering $18 billion. 

But for some guys, snapping up the latest anti-ageing serum is not enough. They want quicker, more dramatic, more tangible results – the kind of results that only a plastic surgeon can provide.

No longer is plastic or reconstructive surgery the preserve of Hollywood stars and accident victims, evidence shows it is now more mainstream. So much so, that Dubai has been named as the world hub for plastic surgery by CNN, taking over from the so-called ‘Beauty Belt’ of South Korea. If medical tourism in general is on the rise, its aim is to attract half a million medical tourists by 2020 and statistics reveal there are around 56 plastic surgeons to every one million Emiratis. 

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACSH) is one of the leading centres dedicated to aesthetic medicine in Dubai; they welcomed 20,000 visitors in 2015 and the projected growth for 2016 is by a staggering 40 per cent. 

Ease of availability, as well as top notch surgeons, such as Dr Jason Diamond of Dr. 90210 fame now at American British Surgical & Medical Centre (ABSMC), have accounted for the year on year increase in male procedures.

Dubai’s trifecta of superb location, state of the art clinics and high net worth individuals living in the region mean that people like Dr Bouraoui Kotti, a Plastic Reconstruction and Aesthetic surgeon at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery, has a busy appointments book – with many of the slots taken up by male patients. “In my daily practice, I am seeing more men,” he tells EDGAR. “Beauty and beatification are no longer a taboo for males - a new era of beauty for men is here.”

Men are now highly attuned to the vocabulary of ‘body maintenance’. They get mani-pedis to match their fashion-forward clothes, and while manzilian (male Brazilian) waxing may be for a brave few, laser hair removal on chest and back together with plucking unibrows is on the rise.

Male makeover 

Perhaps, though, the rest of the world is finally catching up with Arabian grooming standards, something believed by Dr Erich Schulte, Founder of QMS Medicosmetics who pioneered the use of collagen 30 years ago. “In Dubai, and in fact in the whole of the Middle East, grooming is an important part of the everyday culture that has been established over generations. Male grooming in Dubai is not driven by trend but it is an ingrained way of life, which makes it a leader in standards.” 

A considerable number of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital’s male patients travel from across the GCC for their procedures, with 19 per cent visiting from KSA and 14 per cent from Qatar. The chances are when you notice how well your colleague is looking, it’s the result of some ‘brotox’ rather than a lifestyle reboot. According to Dr Alexandre Dionyssopoulos, a surgeon at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery, competition at work and feeling confident are top motivators. He cites a 2014 Harvard University study that concluded, “Good looks help you get ahead in business (if you’re a man)” and “investors are more likely to put money into ventures if the man making the pitch is handsome”.

Dr Dirk Kremer concurs. He’s been named by Tatler magazine as ‘best cosmetic surgeon for facelifts’ and works between London and Dubai at ABSMC. “For men the most popular non-invasive treatments are fillers and Botox to reduce facial wrinkles. Men also use fillers to enhance a more masculine look. With fillers I can give a more chiselled jawline and chin, as well as more defined cheekbones. While women use fillers to get a softer, rounder and fuller face, men use fillers to look tougher.” 

As high profile proof look no further than Sting, Gordon Ramsay and Vladimir Putin as well as Robert Downey Jr who are all said to be fans. Dr Kremer identifies another key factor in this rising trend. “Social media has become increasingly important and how men present themselves on the web. You define yourself through the way you look.” While Botox is an ‘entry level’ procedure, as with women, once men start to see the positive results, other treatments invariably follow.

Using cosmetic surgery as a career enhancement and a key tool for success is frequent, especially among the 40-50 age group. It’s also the age group that sees frequent ‘daddy do-overs’ with men trying to combat middle age spread and regain athletic bodies. Dr Matteo Vigo, chief medical officer at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital tells us, “Liposuction for body contouring remains the most requested procedure amongst men, together with the gynecomastia correction,” [reduction of prominent chest or, as they’re commonly known, the dreaded moobs]. “I have also noticed an increase in the request of otoplasty (protruded ear correction) and rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) procedures.” The latter of course is nothing new – actors Patrick Dempsey and Aston Kutcher have had nose jobs, as has Robert Pattinson. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt had his ears tacked and Dwayne Johnson shifted much of his weight with liposuction. 

Let’s not forget about hair transplants. Anisa Vrabac, head of the hair transplant department at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery, reveals, “In addition to performing hair transplant procedure on the scalp, we perform beard transplants in line with the Arab culture of keeping a full beard.” Contrary to urban myth, Vrabac notes that thinning hair is not caused by the weather or the salty water in the Middle East. “Genetics are mostly the root cause of hair loss,” she explains, although other contributing factors are severe physical or psychological stress, and traction alopecia when the hair is braided or put in a tight pony tail. 

It’s not a given that surgeons will automatically green light nip and tuck procedures (neck and eyelid lifts are popular). “Patients must be educated on what is possible and what is not for them to achieve the desired result,” says Dr Vigo. “The main reason why I refuse to perform a treatment for a patient is when they come in without knowledge of the procedure and think that we are magicians, able to transform a body or a face as we want. It is essential for us to help patients understand their problem and build realistic expectations.” Dr Kremer says bad work is bad for business: “My patients are like a walking business card [for me]. If a really bad looking patient walks around and tells everybody that I operated on him, my practice won’t be a success.”

Smile please

‘Less is more’ is Dr Kremer’s maxim and often it’s a small change that can have a huge impact on self-esteem and physical confidence. Dental procedures are a case in point. Dr Michael Apa is one of the world’s most renowned dental experts and has pioneered techniques to create bespoke smiles. Flitting between his high-end clinics in New York and Dubai, Apa is a regular face on American TV and has on his patient list the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Royal families and many celebrities including the Olsen Twins, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta Jones. On a busy day he’ll see three patients, charging a fee of between $60,000 to $100,000k per patient. 

male cosmetic surgery dr michael apa edgar magazine cover.jpg Credit: Jamie Baker

“I feel that when we can enhance someone’s smile it creates a domino effect in men,” Apa, 39, tells EDGAR. “Having a beautiful smile not only means you look good, but there is a big component of feeling healthier. So I see many times when men get their teeth fixed, they start taking care of themselves – working out, grooming, dressing better – it’s an inroad to a better life.” 

For Apa, his job is not just about fixing and repairing it’s about changing the way men see themselves and that is a crucial mindshift in the male brain. “It used to be men just coming because their teeth were broken down, but now we see more men coming because they actually want to look good,” he says. “I look at every patient with fresh eyes and think not only what they should look like, but also what their teeth should say about them.”

He believes the media has played an important role in encouraging men to improve their appearance. “Men have always wanted to take care of ourselves, but there was never really enough accessible guidance and I think that’s changed dramatically over the past few years with magazines and countless digital platforms. 

“People say ‘I have bad teeth’. No you don’t. You have had poor dentistry. When people come for cosmetic dentistry they want to know the dentist has talent and artistic vision. This is not sitting in a chair, being jabbed with a needle, and getting drilled. There is a definite aesthetic value to it.” 

The results can be extraordinary, both physically and psychologically. “It’s a huge empowering thing,” Apa continues. “When I was young I was fat and it held me back. I wouldn’t go to the beach or play basketball, I wouldn’t go to pool parties because I was self conscious. I lost weight at college and my life started to change because I took that insecurity away. For people with bad teeth it’s the same disabling thing. If you can take that away in three hours, it’s a huge thing for the mental state of people.”

Equally effective as orthodontic procedures and less expensive than full blown surgery is a regular skincare routine. According to Dr Kremer, “Men still neglect their skin – for them it still is a female thing. But with smart skincare we can influence how our skin ages. I am convinced that with the right skincare started at a young age the process of ageing of the skin can be slowed down.”

Go back just 20 years and it would be unthinkable that men in 2016 would happily slip into a fluffy robe and enjoy a manicure. But as the borders between men and women blur – just look at the number of fragrances released today that are unisex – we can expect to see the number of men following Jeff Goldblum’s philosophy grow.