Men are no longer strangers to cosmetic procedures, writes Rob Kemp. From hair transplants to Botox to 'lipo-sculpture'
The fiery chef Gordon Ramsay is the latest high-profile man who, presumably having had enough of tearing his hair out during numerous bouts of restaurant rage, has reportedly turned to cosmetic surgery to replace his lost locks.
The 44-year-old celebrity chef was recently photographed leaving a leading hair treatment clinic in Los Angeles sporting a surgical cap which is said to be an accessory for an estimated £30,000 (Dh171,300) hair restoration project Ramsay's having carried out on his scalp.
It follows the well-publicised "transformation" of the actor James Nesbitt, who has gone from a balding pate to a full head of hair thanks to hi-tech hair treatment in order to enhance his on-screen appearance. The lengths both Ramsay and Nesbitt have gone to so they can keep their hair highlights how men are increasingly using cosmetic surgery to stay ahead of the pack.
Nesbitt, also 44, whose television CV features Cold Feet and Murphy's Law, previously aired concerns that losing his hair could cost him screen roles. But attending an awards ceremony in December 2010, he showed off the effects of a hair restoration treatment called Follicular Unit Extraction.
In revealing his new look, he became the latest male celebrity to expose a growing trend among men - that they'll do whatever it takes to beat the competition. "In the past, men had plastic surgery to deal with vanity issues," says Lee Kynaston, an independent grooming adviser and the editor for www.menshealth.co.uk. "Often a nose job or surgery to remove 'moobs' (male breasts) was done in order to impress women. But that's no longer the reason why men are going to such lengths," says Kynaston. According to the new male grooming report by L'Oreal, men now have surgery, Botox and transplants in order to impress bosses, clients and colleagues. "They're doing it because looking old or simply showing the natural indicators of ageing, such as wrinkles or grey hair, will affect their perceived value in the workplace."
As with so many trends, the surge in men having everything from lunch-time teeth-whitening to liposuction began in the US. But it's now a big issue here in the Emirates. "We have definitely seen an increase in men having cosmetic treatments," says Dr Jaffer Khan, a plastic surgeon and chief executive of Aesthetics International in Dubai. "It's gone up by about 30 per cent over the past 12 years. This may not seem like a lot, but bear in mind I would say the majority of the increase has been in the past three years."
Khan does suggest that the rise is due to other factors, too. Surgical procedures have become a lot less invasive and are therefore easier to recover from. Plus, cosmetic treatments are a sign of a generally more affluent, aspirational and image-conscious breed of men. "During the boom period with more disposable income, people - particularly men - found more leisure time and time to think about their appearance. But increasingly now it really is about looking younger in the workplace," says Khan. "It's also much more acceptable for men, and they're becoming much less self-conscious about procedures."
In the UK, where the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) report that the number of procedures performed on men has risen by 21 per cent since 2008, tummy tucks, eyebrow lifts and the filling out of sagging skin is being used by competitive men to get them through the economic downturn. The number of "moob" makeovers performed on men has, according to BAAPS, gone up by 80 per cent. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of men claim that the recession has left them feeling more tired - while 11 per cent of men claim that the recession has made them feel and look older.
"Here in the Emirates there has been a boom in sales of men's aesthetic products too," says Dr Khan. "The term metrosexual is established and I think we're still only seeing the tip of the iceberg. There are many who are unaware of what they can do - and in many instances how simple procedures can make a difference should such a difference be sought."
Among the most common forms of surgery Khan performs on men are liposuction - fat removal - as wells as rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and gynaecomasty ("moob" removal). "There are a large number of men also interested in hair transplants and for surgery on fat bags under the eyes or upper eyelids," say Khan.
In some cases, surgery is linked to underlying health concerns, but it is not always a straightforward solution.
"The problem with liposuction is that a number of the men I see are not good candidates," says Dr Khan. "Most men come in wanting to reduce their belly, but they tend to deposit fat intra abdominally - below the muscles around the gut. The abdomen feels hard and when you try to pinch the subcutaneous fat there is not much there. Hence, liposuction is only likely to give 20 per cent improvement at best."
Botox, too, is being embraced by men in a bid to rid the face of lines and wrinkles. "I had Botox done for work and I hated it," says Kynaston. "The effect is impressive, but you become obsessed with it. I was checking the mirror every day. And of course, when it wears off, you have to decide to have it again."
Alongside the health concerns that go with repeated Botox injections, Kynaston points out that it can be the slippery slope towards a compulsion for cosmetic work. "Men need to realise that surgery is like buying a 15th-century cottage. You have the initial restoration done, but then you need to keep up the maintenance or else you look even worse. The scars of a facelift will show once your hair recedes, so you're constantly needing to 'touch up' work."
Dr Khan concedes that when it comes to surgery, one thing can lead to another. "Under the chin lipo removal is another option men want. It works better than around the stomach - but it can create extra skin unless an ancillary procedure like a neck lift is done."
But that doesn't seem to be putting off the new generation of makeover men. The trend looks set to continue - the L'Oreal report says 17 per cent of men under the age of 20 have already tried hair dye. "It's tragic," says Kynaston. "In the UK we have an ageing population and there's an emphasis on people working till much later in life, and yet the emphasis remains upon youth and vitality over experience or growing old gracefully."
"Men have learned what women have known for ages - that if you want to get ahead in work, then how you look is crucial. But on the flip side it means that celebrity men are also experiencing what women in the public eye have endured too. "Now paparazzi lenses and high-definition TV show up every wrinkle, grey hair and fold of fat, which will add to the pressure being felt by image-conscious males."