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Studies, doctors report men's growing interest in plastic surgery

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WACO, Texas _ If you've noticed the men in your life lathering on self-tanners, purchasing moisturizers instead of fish hooks or applying expensive hair gels to enhance their remaining hair, you're not the only one.

According to an FHM magazine study, the average male spends nearly twice as much money on grooming products as he did in 2002, and 32 percent of men are now spending more than women on beauty products.

But a growing number of men, unsatisfied with the temporary results of bronzers and wrinkle creams, are turning to the operating table for a more permanent solution.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that 1.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures were performed on men last year, up nearly 20 percent from five years ago. Minimally invasive procedures, such as Botox and chemical peels, are up 43 percent since 2000, the ASPS reports.

But even more surprising is that the quest for lasting beauty is not isolated to metrosexuals on the West Coast. Cosmetic surgeons in Central Texas have seen an increase in the number of men wanting new noses, fewer wrinkles and slimmer waists.

"Plastic surgery among men on the West Coast and in bigger cities has been going on for years," but we have seen a real increase in Waco in the past five years, said Dr. Robert Gardere, a plastic surgeon in Waco.

'`I have been here 28 years, and I didn't see any men for cosmetic procedures for the first five years or so,'' he said. ``Now I am definitely seeing more men, about three or four men each month, who want a subtle face-lift or their eyes done.''

Nose reshaping, hair transplants, eyelid surgery, liposuction and breast reductions were the top five surgical procedures among men in 2004, according to the ASPS. Men, Gardere said, traditionally opt for slight alterations to their physique, such as nose reshaping or chemical peels, so they don't have to ``fess up to going under the knife.''

Dr. Eric O'Neill, also a plastic surgeon based in Waco, serves about five to six men each month. He said the overwhelming majority of his male patients come to undergo breast reductions.

According to, nearly 65 percent of teenage boys have enlarged breasts, a condition called gynecomastia. Some statistics indicate about one-third of men may experience this problem in their lifetime.

O'Neill said men as young as 15 and as old as 80 are fighting enlarged breasts because of obesity or hormonal problems, such as an oversensitivity to estrogen. He said some medications affect the growth of breast tissue.

Eliminating ``gobbler neck'' is by far the most popular procedure Gardere performs among men 70 and older, and reducing the appearance of droopy eyelids or bags under the eyes is popular among his middle aged patients. Many men see the surgeons to minimize protruding ears.

Lots of the women who come to see me want to have everything done and are more likely to be open about their procedures. Men usually just have one thing that bothers them, like the fat under their neck or bags under their eyes, and want to come back from work to, `Gee you look refreshed,' instead of looking like they have been sucked through a wind tunnel,'' Gardere said.That is why it is so important to come up with a subtle face-lift with minimal scarring.''

Men are not able to hide scars as easily as women, who use makeup or their hair to camouflage the signs of cosmetic surgery. The scar from a nose job, of which men account for 24 percent of that surgery, is inside the nose. But many doctors must alter their incisions for male face-lifts because the incision that's used on women would interfere with the placement of a man's sideburns.

If I used the same incision for a man as I do for a woman, the hair in the sideburns area would start growing too close to the ear,'' he said.So, I go through the tregus (the bump near the front of the ear) and lift the face, but I destroy the hair follicles.

``If you can see the scar, I have failed, and should go back to school. You will never know they had any work done. Subtle is key.''

Eyes are the gateway to the face, Gardere said. They are what people look at when communicating with each other and, when properly lifted, can take at least 10 years off a person's appearance, he said.

A 67-year-old sought help from Gardere to reduce droopy eyelids that were impairing his vision. He would have to soak or splash his eyes with cold water for two to three hours each morning to reduce the swelling.

It just got worse and worse. I couldn't see a thing without bathing my eyes in the morning,'' he said.I think it is hereditary to an extent, but I also had lost a bunch of weight about six years ago after heart surgery and that made my eyelids even heavier.''

It's been nearly two years since the surgery, and the patient said he looks 15 years younger and has no trouble seeing the world around him. He admits that like most men, he wanted a quick procedure that wouldn't leave any signs of plastic surgery. So he is pleased that Gardere was able to make an incision in the fold of his eyelid, without leaving a scar.

While many cosmetic procedures among men involve fighting gravity or old age, surgeries to implant fake muscles or lifts of the lower body are a growing trend among younger male populations obsessed with appearance.

The ASPS reports a 368 percent increase in upper-arm lifts, 268 percent increase in lower-body lifts and a 43 percent increase in thigh lifts. O'Neil said many of the arm lifts and thigh lifts may be attributed to the prevalence of bariatric surgery, a procedure to reduce the size of one's stomach, which leaves them with excess fat removed through surgery from the arms and thighs.

Pectoral or buttocks implants are going to be seen mainly on the West Coast among bodybuilding circles. Not here in Central Texas,'' O'Neill said.I have had a few people call in to the office about calf implants or a similar procedure, but once they hear the scars are impossible to hide, they are not interested.''

According to the National Consumers League, nearly 80 percent of men surveyed were reluctant to discuss what they spend on enhancing their appearance.

Plastic surgery is quite an investment, with face-lifts costing between $5,000 and $10,000, liposuction about $2,000 and eyelid surgery in the $2,000 range. But Gardere said many men in their later years have enough money to pay for such improvements. People are living longer, he said, and they want to live out their lives feeling good about their appearance.

I see a lot of older businessmen coming in to have their faces lifted or bags under their eyes removed because they are trying to compete with the young go-getters in their business,'' O'Neill said.They finally have the money and they are tired of feeling bad about their ears sticking out or the unsightly bags under their eyes.

``It's still not something they want to talk about, but we are definitely seeing more men come in for procedures _ even in conservative Central Texas.''

Katherine Heine writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

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