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SAN FRANCISCO -- While uncertain economic times slowed Americans' rush to plastic surgery, some cheaper and less invasive procedures are seeing steep increases in rates of adoption -- particularly among men.
While the number of women seeing doctors for cosmetic procedures dropped 14 percent last year from 2001, the number of men doing so stayed flat, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
And some procedures saw increases in men's adoption rates. From Botox injections to laser skin resurfacing and microdermabrasion, men are eager to make themselves look younger and healthier, experts said.
Part of the drive pushing men into this women-oriented field is the current competitive work environment, they said.
"Older men are trying to maintain an appealing appearance in the job market," said Dr. James H. Wells, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and a plastic surgeon in Long Beach.
"Appearance is important in terms of looking youthful. If the skills between a younger and an older employee are the same, the younger employee who looks better is always going to get the nod. We're hearing that from (male) patients," Wells said.
About 129,600 men, an 11 percent rise from the year earlier, underwent microdermabrasion treatments in which the skin is bombarded with tiny crystals to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Women's use of the procedure declined 16 percent, according to ASPS figures.
Laser skin resurfacing, in which carbon dioxide is used to remove skin to reduce wrinkles and blemishes, saw a 38 percent increase, to 26,452 men in 2002, while women's use of the treatment rose just 7 percent.
Some 6,334 men, a 15 percent increase, received fat injections, which reduce wrinkles and smooth out the skin. The number of women opting for the process dropped 28 percent.
Still, while more than 960,000 men underwent surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures last year, that number still lags far behind the 5.6 million women who did so.
The competitive work environment also means workers don't want to spend much time off to recover from their cosmetic procedure. Instead, they need results, and fast, experts said.
"I hear from my men patients, 'I want to improve something, but I can't take a lot of time off,'" said Dr. Neal Reisman, associate chief of plastic surgery at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston.
"Ancillary procedures and office procedures have dramatically increased."
Botox, which relaxes wrinkles, remains a big seller among men and women, with almost 132,400 men, a 25 percent rise, and more than 991,000 women, a 32 percent increase, using the procedure in 2002 compared with the year earlier. One treatment costs from $500 to more than $1,000, depending on the areas treated, and lasts from four to six months.
The fact that men are not as likely as women to wear makeup also dictates their choices in cosmetic procedures. "Men are much more concerned about getting the unwanted marks of cosmetic surgery, such as the bruising and the swelling, than women, who are used to using makeup," said Dr. William Silver, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon based in Atlanta.
"To men, it's extremely important that they can get back to looking more natural, quicker."
While many men want their cosmetic upgrade to be fast, they're also willing to go under the knife for a variety of procedures. Nose shaping, or rhinoplasty, is men's most chosen operation, with some 145,000 men opting for it in 2002, a 7 percent rise from the year earlier, according to the ASPS.
Liposuction, particularly to reduce "love handles," is the second-most popular option, with more than 52,000 men undergoing the procedure in 2002, up 8percent from the year earlier. Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, is the next most common choice, with 44,150 men choosing it, down 1 percent from 2001.
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