A surprising segment of the population is turning to plastic surgery to sculpt, smooth, and shape their dream bodies into reality: men.
According to a report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 1.3 million men have gotten plastic surgery in the last year, accounting for 8 percent of all plastic surgeries—and that number isn’t even at its peak yet.
What is striking is the fact that men are overwhelmingly signing up for body contouring surgeries. The number one procedure in 2017 for men was breast reduction, with 300,378 cases and a 30 percent increase from the year before; close behind were liposuctions and tummy tucks. Penile augmentations are fast rising in popularity, as are pectoral implants and operations to help create muscles in arms and legs.
According to the ASPS report, younger men aren’t afraid of going under the knife and focus more on sculpting the body, driving the majority of the increase in male plastic surgery. But older men are more interested in augmenting their face using less invasive techniques; Botox saw a nearly 400 percent increase in popularity from 2000 to 2017, while skin enhancing procedures using chemical peels, laser hair removal, and microdermabrasion went up dramatically, accounting for nearly half of the total of minimally invasive procedures done in men. One cosmetic procedure that is doing well with men of all ages is hair transplantation, up 20 percent from 2016 to 14,000 procedures nationwide.
One person jumping on the male plastic surgery trend is Dr. Norman Rowe, a board certified plastic surgeon who recently opened a male-only plastic surgery clinic—The Club House—on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, just a couple blocks away from what he calls his “co-ed” clinic.
Business is booming, said Rowe, who has five clinics. Overall, “20 percent of my customers are men” now, he said.
The Club House has moved to make its office as “male” as possible, with male doctors, male nurses, and male staff. Instead of florals and string music, his clinic hosts open bars, poker nights, and networking events to draw in New York’s plastic-surgery-shopping men.
“It’s a place where men are not a minority,” he told The Daily Beast. “You don’t have to feel embarrassed.”
And while that population is small—nationally, the average hovers around 10 percent of all patients—in a city like New York, that’s a healthy number of potential customers.
Rowe’s clientele is also not limited to wealthy white men. “No, not at all,” Rowe said before ticking them off. “There’s all types of people: single, divorced, people who have been broken up with, people who are in relationships bringing their significant other, rich people, people living paycheck to paycheck, all across racial backgrounds. The desire to look as good as you feel transcends all sexual orientations and socioeconomic statuses.”
That desire lines up almost exactly with what the ASPS reported as male plastic surgery trends. Male breast reductions are extremely popular for men at Rowe’s clinic, as are liposuctions to carve away love handles. An increasingly common surgery is ab sculpting, where surgeons reshape muscles and skin to almost magically create six packs where once there were none. Along the same lines are procedures designed to pinch out muscles on arms and legs, creating the illusion of a gym rat where there might not be one. “Men want to be carved and tight and ripped,” he said.
Penile augmentation procedures are becoming more and more popular, and anal tightening (think vaginal tightening, but for men) is also in high demand.
“In the last 15 or 20 years, the nonsurgical procedures have gone up. About 5 to 10 percent of my patients are getting nonsurgical procedures,” Rowe added. That’s because many men don’t want the down time that’s necessary for surgery, he said. This has helped the rise of such procedures as injectables designed to make men look younger, and skin treatments.
“It’s a common misconception that men are unaffected by body issues,” Lorelei Grunwaldt, a board certified plastic surgeon in Pittsburgh, told the ASPS in a press release. “A lot of men can’t get the results they want through diet and exercise alone and it can take a real toll on their self-esteem. I can see the relief on their faces when I explain the range of procedures that can help them achieve their goals.”
But some experts think the rise in cosmetic procedures is a sign of increasing male dysmorphia. It’s a common misconception that only women feel crappy about their bodies, but here’s a news flash supported by science: Men do too. Researchers have blamed the unrealistic body types of men on everything from the the bulging muscles of superheroes and leading men in movies to athletes and video games. A huge portion of men on anabolic steroids, in fact, aren’t juicing to improve their strength or athletic performance; they’re simply looking to bulk up and become as muscular as they think society wants them to be.
That, of course, is medically dangerous, especially without the supervision of a doctor. Taking anabolic steroids can lead to sudden heart attacks and stroke along with neurobiological disturbances, altering the chemicals needed for thinking and attention and even causing suicidal ideation. Anabolic steroids can also lead to testosterone imbalances, erectile dysfunction, and a plummeting sex drive.
Plastic surgeons also point to societal pressure of a different sort. Many men are looking to stay competitive in the workplace, what’s referred to as “the ‘executive edge,’” according to Jeffrey Janis, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in the ASPS press release. “But more often, I think it’s about wanting to look the way they feel. They want to look in the mirror and recognize themselves, and that’s where a board-certified plastic surgeon can help.”
That’s probably the reason Rowe told The Daily Beast that his practice really doesn’t see requests for face lifts and rhinoplasties. hile skin tightening procedures are highly requested, men aren’t necessarily looking to get every last wrinkle wiped away. “My female patients will bring in pictures of Ivanka [Trump] and the Kardashians, but men don’t do that,” he said. “Men want to be relevant.”
That’s a word that Rowe repeatedly brings up—relevant—and can be traced to middle-aged male anxiety about their status in the workplace. In the aftermath of the economic recession of 2008, Rowe said he saw a horde of people come in who wanted to to use their severance checks to help them compete visually with younger people who could take jobs at smaller salaries.
And it’s not just job competition: “Some of our male patients are looking for a job, some are looking to get back into dating,” he said. “They say, ‘Look, I look good and feel good, I just can’t get rid of my turkey gut or this wrinkle.”
Rowe hopes, ironically, that The Club House can become outdated one day, when men won’t seek refuge in a clinic only for men and when it doesn’t seem weird to get plastic surgery. “It all boils down to men not wanting to be a minority any more,” he said.
“Men want to look good. Men want to come out of their cosmetic closet. If they can get a haircut or go to the dentist to get their teeth whitened or color their hair, then why can’t they fix their body?”