Why Do Men Get Plastic Surgery? Ask Women
By Madeline Vann, MPH
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
More men are opting for cosmetic procedures to rejuvenate their looks and
stay competitive in the dating and job markets.
Pennsylvania apple and pear farmer Ralph Spencer, 70, is one of an estimated million men in
America who had some type of aesthetic surgery in 2013.
In the United States, close to 10 percent of cosmetic surgery procedures are done on men,
according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Procedures men choose most often are
rhinoplasty (nose jobs), eyelid surgery, face lifts, breast reduction, and liposuction. Their reasons
for seeking aesthetic surgery, including rejuvenation and antiaging procedures, vary from man to
Spencer decided to get upper and lower eyelid surgery for both practical and cosmetic reasons.
He said he’d noticed changes around his eyes, such as drooping lids and puffiness, which
concerned him. He wanted to look good for a woman with whom he was in a relationship, but he
also found out from his optometrist that these changes were affecting his range of vision.
So, he started looking into plastic surgery. Initially, he considered a full facelift, but he said that he
didn’t think his whole face had changed enough to warrant that. Instead, he went with work around
Because sun exposure is a concern for healing skin after surgery, Spencer scheduled the
procedure for late winter, when he would be able to stay indoors, catching up on the paperwork,
bookkeeping, and desk duties related to farming through the year. By the time he needed to get
back out in the orchards, his eye surgeries were healing well.
“We can’t change the body that was given to us, but we can do the best we can to maintain it,” said
Spencer, adding that he believes everyone has an obligation to look their best for themselves and
the people they care about. “I had it done, it went well, and I feel good about myself,” he said. “I
think that’s the bottom line.”
Spencer’s reasons for cosmetic surgery reflect many of the reasons that bring men into the office,
said Bob Murphy, MD, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and a Bethlehem,
Pa., plastic surgeon. The pressure to be physically appealing to romantic partners and also
competitive in a tough job market leads many aging men to consider cosmetic procedures, he
said. In addition, he said, “the whole emphasis on youth has extended so men want to appear
youthful socially a lot longer.”
At the same time, cosmetic procedures can be a tougher sell for men, in part because they’re not
as accustomed as women to altering their appearance through makeup and hairstyling. If men
choose to proceed with a procedure, Dr. Murphy said that one task of a good plastic surgeon is to
educate men about their options so that they feel more comfortable with their desire for an updated
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for patients, though, is gaining a realistic understanding of
how long healing can take. Not giving yourself time to heal can foster fear that your results aren’t
going to be what you hoped for, when you simply haven’t waited for full healing.
“I go by the rule of 666,” explained Murphy. “Usually for the first six weeks postoperatively, there
are natural changes in the body because surgery is an injury, such as swelling, discoloration, and
a scar that is more prominent. Over the next six weeks, which gets you to three months out, the
body recovers from the insult and stops building scar. And, then at six months, the scar is resolving
and you’re on your way.”
Botox: A Simple Option for Men
Jack Fisher, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and a plastic
surgeon in Nashville, Tenn., said that Botox offers a relatively lowcost, lowcommitment option
that appeals to some men.
Though women are generally relatively open about their procedures, “men are incredibly
secretive,” said Dr. Fisher. As a result, men opt for cosmetic surgery procedures that are less
obvious and for which healing can be carefully scheduled.
An occasional Botox injection to help erase crow’s feet or brow lines, for instance, might be more
appealing to men, he said, than a total facelift and its attendant longerterm recovery.
Before Sealing the Deal on Cosmetic Surgery
If you’re a man interested in a cosmetic procedure, Murphy said, “do your homework.” Take time to
learn about your options, and find the right doctor and medical team for you and your needs. You’ll
also need to do some background research to learn about your plastic surgeon. Look at their board
certifications, the number of similar procedures they’ve done, and patient referrals. Feel free to ask
for all of that information, and more, to help determine who would be the best cosmetic surgeon for
Also, feel free (and brave enough!) to talk with others about their experiences to get referrals and
ideas. And don’t hesitate to take someone with you to initial appointments. Fisher noted that men,
more than women, frequently come to consultations with their spouse or significant other for
support and insight.
Consider the cost, too. Elective plastic surgery is unlikely to be covered by a health insurance
plan, Murphy noted, which means that men will pay the full cost of their cosmetic surgery
procedures out of pocket. Prices vary depending on geography and the market, he said, so take
time to price shop. If you live in a major urban area but have a tight budget, looking for plastic
surgery clinics outside of the city center might offer some cost savings, even if you have to travel a
bit farther. And once you start talking with the doctor of your choice, you might find that lowercost
options, such as Botox, achieve your goals as well as a higherpriced procedure.
But whatever you opt for, he said, consider cosmetic procedures as an investment.