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Men's Cosmetics

Nancy Wolfson
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

Can the leopard change his spots? the Bible asks rhetorically. These days, the answer might be yes. Want to lose those age spots? Go for a deep chemical peel. If brown eyes don't become you, colored contact lenses will make them blue. Bothered by the bags under your eyes? Get rid of them with blepharoplasty. If you find your nose a tad oversized, a rhinoplasty will fix that. The '90s has been called the Information Age, but, when it comes to grooming, perhaps the Age of Reversal is more to the point.

Every 15 seconds, a male baby boomer turns 50, and many want to turn back the clock. Women have long bought into the cosmetics industry's "hope-in-a-bottle" promises of prolonged youth. Recently, men have begun to pay and play. Fortune magazine reports that American men are spending some $9.5 billion a year on anti-aging expedients including face-lifts, anti-wrinkle creams and collagen injections.

Men spent $33.7 million on face-lifts in 1994, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. Matthew, the 42-year-old owner of a large New York City gym, says, "My body looked really good, but my face seemed tired all the time. So I had my face lifted, my neck tightened and the bags under my eyes removed." He's had cosmetic surgery eight times over the last three years, all by a Long Island-based Cohiba-smoking plastic surgeon, Zachary Gerut. About a third of Gerut's patients are men, and in the United States men account for almost one in four cosmetic surgeries. "A good cosmetic surgery is like a good toupee. People say they've never seen a good toupee, and that is true," Gerut quips. "You don't see the good ones."

"Men want something that's fast, easy and will give them instant results," says 47-year-old Fredric Brandt, a cosmetic dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Miami. Known for his "lunchtime treatments" (in-office procedures that take little time, but make a big difference), Brandt is the second largest user of injectable collagen in the United States. About 20 percent of his patients are men, generally in their 30s or older.

Their newest procedure of choice? Botox injections. Brandt himself has been taking them for the past year and a half. They smooth forehead frown lines, crow's feet and creases from the chin to the neck. Botox, an acronym for botulinum toxin type A, is derived from the same bacteria that causes botulism. (The Food and Drug Administration has approved Botox only for treatment of two eye muscle disorders, but physicians are allowed to use it for other applications. Doctors who use it say the low levels used in the injections are no health threat.) Botox inhibits wrinkles by paralyzing the impulse between nerve and muscle. The muscles "relax," so you can no longer frown, squint or grimace. Visibly, anyway.

Brandt doesn't use Botox around the mouth (this would preclude smiling, the old-fashioned way to lift a dropping face) or under the eyes, where instead he injects collagen to plump up the skin.

Botox treats the cause rather than the effect. Since it takes about 200,000 frowns--muscle contractions--to produce one permanent brow line, paralyzing the muscles also prevents further furrowing or wrinkling. The treatments take less than 30 minutes each, and there's no pain, no recuperation time and no serious side effects, although temporary headaches and bruising are possible. (Long-term usage over decades has yet to be studied.) The effects of one treatment, visible within a few days, last four to six months.

All these benefits have their price: anywhere from $400 to $1,200 per visit. A South American real estate developer named Edmundo, one of Brandt's Botox/collagen patients, says he's shelled out $10,000 in the past 10 months. "I'm hooked" on Botox and collagen, says the 42-year-old, who first went to Brandt for a light chemical peel. "Once I saw myself looking better, I couldn't stop. I'm a youth freak--I'd like to look 15!"

Brandt and Gerut report that men are most concerned about droopy eyes, baggy necks and furrowed brows. It's not so much the lines per se--it's the image you project as a result of having them, and their potential to put wrinkles in your life that's troublesome. Men don't want to look angry, worried or tired. Given the corporate downsizing trend, they also don't want to look ready for early retirement.

Men care more about feeling young than looking young. Actually, the telltale signs of male aging--graying temples and smile lines around the mouth and eyes--are often perceived as symbols of power. "Men want to look generally strong and healthy, while women want to look a specific age--as old as they were at a perfect time in their lives," notes Debra Holstein, a New York marketing consultant to the personal care industry. "Men aren't really counting each of the lines around their eyes as women do. A woman might start to worry [about aging] at 30, and a man at 42."

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