Men facing up to nips and needles

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Peter Burling believes that when it comes to business, first impressions are everything. “Anyone who says looks are not important is a liar,” says the 33-year-old account manager, who works for a British marketing agency. “You need to look good – fresh and bright rather than tired and stressed out.”

So, three years ago, gripped by fears that the ageing process was taking effect, he went to Transform, the UK cosmetic surgery group, to have Botox injected into his forehead, brow and his crow’s feet. He was so pleased with the results that he has a top-up every six months. “I perform better if I feel confident so it may have increased the num­ber of contracts we have won,” he says.

While some may see such treatments as frivolous luxuries, the people offering them say that inc­reas­ing numbers of men are turning to non-invasive cosmetic treatments and even to plastic surgery for pragmatic career reasons.

“There are definitely more business guys coming in and they have very focused demands,” says Cap Lesesne, pictured, one of Manhattan’s leading cosmetic surgeons. “They are worried about their job futures and their professional longevity.” Typical male patients might be in their mid-forties, he adds. “They’re fairly successful and they’re looking to work into their sixties.”

Dr Lesesne says the number of male patients coming through his doors has risen three-fold in the past decade: “Sometimes they will come in because their wife is having something done. But usually a male friend will have told them about it.”

Richard, a 56-year-old maths and science academic, was recently operated on by Cynthia Boxrud, who specialises in facial and ophthalmic aesthetic and reconstructive surgery in Hollywood, and counts stars, actors and models among the patients at her Santa Monica practice. He had his upper and lower eyelids lifted, a facelift and fat injections in his face. “I was beginning to look kind of tired and wanted to have something that made me feel refreshed but not surgically altered,” he says. Prolonging his career was a big motivation: “I would like to work for another 10 years.”

In the UK, Steven Clarke, a 25-year-old engineer at Rolls-Royce, has had laser treatment at plastic surgery specialists Harley Medical Group to remove sun scars under his eyes. It seems that younger men, like such as Mr Clarke and Mr Burling are part of a generation that may be more comfortable with the idea of at least the non-
invasive treatments.

Mr Clarke says: “If you don’t look after yourself it shows that you’ve got no discipline and that doesn’t reflect well on your work life. I’ve thought that if after lots of late nights working for Rolls-
Royce I start to look tired, then I’d probably have an eye lift.”

Mr Burling says: “I’m quite open about it . . . you can’t really keep it quiet. If you suddenly look fresh people will want to know if you’ve been away.” Since he started receiving Botox, which lifts
def­lated features, two colleagues have made appointments to
see the same consultant.

The sector has grown over the past decade. In the US, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recorded almost 12m procedures in 2007, with total spending on cosmetic surgery rising 9 per cent to $12.4bn the same year.

Meanwhile, the banking crisis and the economic slump in general ap­pear to have heightened men’s anxiety over their appearance. Dr Lesesne says: “People are scared about losing their jobs and they want to look their best.”

Michael McGuire, president-elect of the ASPS, says: “People might say: ‘You look tired.’ What that implies is you’re not as
vigorous or energetic, or not as competitive as you might be.”

Last month, Harley Medical Group detected a new trend,
“City severance surgery”, after observing City of London bankers using their redundancy packages to rejuvenate their appearance to boost the chance of finding a
new job.

Yet while severance packages may pay for former City boys to have their baggy eyelids seen to by going under the scalpel, others are opting for cheaper, less invasive treatments, such as Botox, chemical peels or facial fillers – gels that remove wrinkles and fill out deflated and sagging skin. “They still need the eyelid surgery or facelift but they can temporarily defer the need to do it by having some filler or Botox, which is less expensive and requires less downtime,” says Dr Lesesne.

Dr McGuire says he operated on a Nebraska steelworker who wanted to improve his appearance, while Dr Lesesne says more male patients from overseas are consulting him. “I see a lot of guys from England. They arrive on the 7pm British Airways flight, I see them that night and tell them to walk 20 blocks to get the circulation going. I see them the next day and they are on the flight home on Sunday.”

Yet while work-anxious men might be providing a fillip for some surgeons, the industry in general is gloomy about the outlook as the recession sets in.

Two months ago more than 60 per cent of ASPS surgeons reported a decrease in breast augmentation – the most popular procedure – with 64 per cent reporting a decline in liposuction treatments.

However, many in the sector are confident that they can weather the storm. “I know we will see a fall-out here even though this is a pretty affluent community,” says Dr Boxrud, who specialises in facial and ophthalmic aesthetic and reconstructive surgery in
Hollywood.

She stimulated demand by offering a 10 per cent holiday discount for facial “injectables”, such as Botox. “In my practice e
surgical volume was down so we had to be creative. When the
world gives you lemons you make lemonade.

“We’re not recession-proof but we’re recession-resistant,” she says. “There are some surgeons who only do cosmetic surgery and if they are only doing big, cosmetic procedures, they are going to have to rethink their practice.”

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