Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Men's Interest in Cosmetic Surgery Grows

Christopher Reitano was 44 and people were always asking "Do you have a cold? How are your allergies?"

Reitano was getting self-conscious.

"Basically, my eyes were baggy, especially on the upper eyelids. It was starting to get aggravating," says Reitano, a Voorhees, N.J., resident who is an international service manager for a global electronics firm. "I decided to do something about it."

Reitano did what many men are doing these days: He headed for the plastic surgeon where he had an operation on his upper and lower eyelids to reduce the puffiness.

"I look better, but more than that, I feel more self-confident," says Reitano. "I used to look down a lot, just so people wouldn't see. Now I give a better appearance in business and that is very important to me."

Making the cut
Women still account for the bulk of cosmetic surgery—91%, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). But plastic surgery has become more popular among men in the United States. ASPS-member surgeons performed 15,564 eyelid operations on men in 1998, nearly double the number in 1992. Eyelids are the second most popular procedure for men.

Number one is liposuction—the removal of excess fat from the thighs, abdomen, neck or other area of the body. In 1998, 19,789 liposuctions were performed on men by ASPS surgeons, more than triple the number in 1992.

"Women have always wanted to look younger and now men do too." says James W. Slavin, M.D., who is on the board of directors of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "If a man is 55 and his 53-year-old wife gets a face-lift, he doesn't want to look like her father."

Increasingly, though, it is not just for social reasons that men are undergoing plastic surgery.

"With career pressures what they are, people, especially in their mid-40s, want to compete with younger people for good jobs," says Richard Dolsky, M.D., the plastic surgeon who operated on Reitano's eyelids.

One kind of plastic surgery men seem not to be getting is rhinoplasty, the traditional nose job. Dr. Dolsky says that men don't perceive a nose job as making them look younger, or even handsomer.

Cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by medical insurance. ASPS estimates that surgeon fees for a male face-lift run an average $5,540; liposuction, $2,281; eyelid surgery, $3,234, and a tummy tuck, $4,418. There are wide regional variations in cost.

No miracles
Plastic surgeons offer this caveat to anyone considering a cosmetic procedure: Don't expect too much.

"There are unrealistic expectations some of the time. We can help, but we aren't in the miracle business," says Dr. Slavin. "If a man comes to me and says his nose is bothering him or he looks a little too heavy and that is why he isn't getting promoted, I wonder if he realizes that he might not get promoted no matter what I do. Sometimes if you have a patient like that, you might recommend psychological help."

But Christopher Reitano says his plastic surgery has given him such a psychological lift that he's started a trend among his friends. "Some of my friends have now had more drastic stuff than I did—liposuction and the like." he says.

Men shopping for a surgeon should pick wisely, Reitano says. "I would never want to go to someone who says, 'Oh, great, we're going to make you look wonderful.' You've got to have realistic expectations. It can help your life, not change it drastically."

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends choosing a plastic surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Here are other questions ASPS recommends you ask before deciding on a plastic surgeon:

  • Do you have hospital privileges? At which hospital? (Even if your surgery will be performed in your doctor's own surgical facility, he or she should have hospital privileges. It means the surgeon is subject to approval by his or her peers. Call the hospital to make sure.)
  • Where will you perform my surgery?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • How many procedures of this type have you performed?
  • Would it be possible to contact any of your former patients who have had this procedure?
  • How long of a recovery period can I expect?

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