A man getting prepped for a procedure
A man getting prepped for a procedure. Men are less embarrassed about cosmetic surgery. Photo by Getty Images
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Several women sit patiently in the waiting room at one of Israel’s cosmetic treatment centers, but they aren’t alone: A man in his 30s with an appointment for laser hair removal and another in his 50s waiting for a consultation on cosmetic eye lift procedure are there too. Welcome to the era of equality in elective surgery.

Dr. Yehuda Ullmann, chairman of The Israeli Society of Plastic & Aesthetic Surgery and director of the Plastic Surgery Department at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, says tongue-in-cheek that if a man showed up for cosmetic surgery 25 years ago the department head would send him for a psychiatric evaluation.

Nowadays men account for about 10% to 15% of all plastic surgery or cosmetic treatments in Israel, similar to rates in the United States and Europe. The United Kingdom saw a 21% rise in male surgery patients between 2008 and 2009 as against an increase of just 5% among women, but men still account for only 10% of that country’s cosmetic procedures. Take away procedures performed only on women, such as breast implants or lifts, and these figures might be twice as high, according to plastic surgery expert Dr. Nimrod Friedman.

Ronit Raphael, operator of a beauty treatment center chain, claims that 35% to 40% of her clients are male. “I wouldn’t say men accepted the idea of cosmetic treatments overnight, but in the last year and a half they are less embarrassed and even willing to sit in the corridors wearing face creams,” she says.

Why the rising demand by men for cosmetic treatments? An article two years ago in the Financial Times said that men worry about looking tired, worn down, unmotivated or lacking self-awareness, and are scared of losing their jobs to younger men.

“People work more through renewable personal contracts, are less likely to remain long at the same job, and are aware that their appearance affects their chances of being hired,” says Ullmann. “Many studies claim that between two male candidates with identical educational backgrounds vying for the same job, in most cases the more fit-looking and well-groomed candidate will get the job,” says Raphael.

As proof she cites a study released in November 2010 by Dr. Bradley Ruffle of Ben-Gurion University and Dr. Ze’ev Shtudiner of Ariel University Center’ indicating that male attractiveness is a significant factor in getting invited for job interviews.

The results showed that 19.7% of attractive men received responses from employers, more than double the rate for plain-looking men. But the opposite was true for women: Those sending a CV without a picture received 22% more responses than plain-looking women and 30% more responses than attractive women who attached a photo. Ruffle and Shtudiner hypothesize that the reason for this is jealousy since 96% of human resource employees are women.

Today, there is no longer any doubt: More and more Israeli men are ready to spend time and money improving their appearance.

What are men doing to their bodies?

Laser hair removal: This was the starting point for the change in men’s attitudes towards cosmetic treatments and surgery. “Last year men and women in this category were almost equal, a significant change developing steadily over the last few years,” says Batia Maor, marketing vice-president for the Proporzia chain of cosmetic surgery clinics. “Four to five years ago the rate of men undergoing hair removal was 30% to 35%, most under the age of 30. Now we are getting men up to the age of 45 as it gains popularity and becomes an accepted norm.”

Gynecomastia treatment: Shrinking enlarged male breasts is another popular field. “There are two situations in such cases, one false and the other real,” says Dr. Michael Icekson of Hadassah Medical Center’s Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery Department. “The real case involves the glands and requires surgical removal, which is often performed free of charge in the framework of the basket of health services when defined as a medical treatment. The false case is the outcome of fatty tissue imbalance and obesity. For older men it is usually linked to obesity and requires liposuction.”

Friedman says there has been a 200% increase in men turning to gynecomastia surgery over the last three years. “The change isn’t in the frequency of the problem among men but their readiness to do something about it. This is a problem affecting 30% to 60% of Israeli men, but not everyone aware of the problem is ready to do something about it,” adds Friedman. “I get well-dressed businessmen who even order custom-tailored suits but still suffer from low self-esteem from not having taken care of the problem.”

Liposuction: This is another operation that men now are less hesitant to have. “Contrary to popular belief, liposuction isn’t for the obese but for thin people,” says Icekson. “Obese people are put on diets or have bariatric ‏(stomach reduction‏) surgery, while liposuction allows thin people to shape their bodies and rid themselves of excess fat from specific areas where fitness activity doesn’t help.”

Friedman adds: “Nearly all clients undergoing this operation regularly work-out and conclude that removing the little remaining fat requires losing significant weight, which isn’t practical. The body’s fat distribution is hormonal and genetic, so some areas of the body remain unaffected regardless of how much weight is taken off.”

Eyelid surgery ‏(mostly at older ages‏): Maor claims that the last year has seen a 15% to 20% jump in men having eyelid surgery, and they now account for 30% of operations in this category.

“Like women, older men have come to realize that drooping eyelids give the face a tired look, projecting a less vital appearance. Clients inquiring about this surgery say they are always asked why they look so tired,” says Maor.

“The average age for this surgery is 50 to 60,” says Icekson. “It is no longer unusual that a businessman who works out, maintains a healthy diet, and uses face creams, suddenly finds an eyelid drooping slightly and wants to fix it, especially since this is an easy and simple procedure.”

Less facelifts and hair transplants

Facelifts are less popular among men, who prefer non-invasive methods to deal with aging appearance, like wrinkle removal or using Botox. “Facelifts bring a drastic change and so are less suitable for men, who mostly try to maintain discretion,” says Icekson.

“There has been an annual 10% to 12% increase in Botox treatments for men in the last three years,” says Maor. “Men ask themselves ‘why not me?’ after seeing the desirable effects on their wives.”

One operation men have abandoned is hair transplants, because of its lack of effectiveness in treating male pattern baldness.

“The problem is that baldness is progressive, and when the procedure is done on a man just beginning to grow bald his hairline will continue receding behind the transplants,” says Friedman. “If the man keeps his hair short the scars will be visible.”

Although more and more men are prepared to “suffer” to look better, they have a much different psychological approach than women. “Some arrive with their wives or children. They need support because they are more childish,” says Ullmann. “Unlike women who come for treatment or an operation to prepare for a major family event, men do it to look better at work and, with the rising divorce rates, to improve their chances on the dating scene.”

Icekson agrees than men are more problematic than women. “Men undergoing cosmetic surgery can be characterized as perfectionists with a high degree of self-awareness. Their satisfaction from operations is lower than a woman’s and they repeat procedures at a higher rate. It’s not necessarily that their operations weren’t successful, but that they start out with higher expectations.”