Menopaunch: Is Male Plastic Surgery The Answer?


Beth Longware Duff, Medical Editor

Beth Longware Duff is an experienced writer and reporter whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines. Her health and medical writing credits include nationally distributed videos for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and she is the recipient of numerous awards including an American Cancer Society Media Award and a New England Press Association Award for Health Reporting. She holds a degree in Communications from Ithaca College.

May 19 2008

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Men on the March Against Menopaunch

Middle-aged men are discovering what women have known for years: cosmetic plastic surgery can go a long way to reversing menopaunch, often genteelly referred to as middle age spread. Although both sexes experience the phenomenon, society has traditionally cut men some slack in this department. Those days are over.

Famous men the world over – from politicos like Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to celebrities like Michael Douglas and Simon Cowell – have had a little nip tuck or a bit of Botox┬« Cosmetic, so the stigma once attached to cosmetic surgery for men is fading fast. With the life expectancy of the American male now hovering at 74, surgeons report a rise in the FAM (40- to 50-year-old alpha male) who aggressively pursues cosmetic enhancement as part of what one British newspaper calls "a mid-knife crisis".

Michael Olding, MD, chief of plastic surgery at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says he sees the phenomenon all the time among the men who make up about 15% of his practice. "When people meet someone, they respond to them based on how they look. It's a prejudice, I believe," the board-certified plastic surgeon says. "The key money making age is over 40, and part of the reason that Baby Boomers are having plastic surgery is to compete with a large, younger population at work."

Of course, there are benefits to be reaped in their personal lives as well. Dr. Olding notes that some of his male patients come in because they're impressed by how cosmetic surgery has transformed their wives' appearance. Others have jumped back into the dating pool and have certain expectations.

"Twenty years ago, women didn't marry older guys because of how they looked. They married them for status and stability, and they expected them to look older," observes Dr. Olding. "Today there are many men out there who want to look younger to attract a younger woman, but they also recognize that women have a lot more choices now and they want more attractive men."

These professional and personal challenges arise just as men reach andropause, the medical term for male menopause, which is associated with a gradual decline in testosterone. By the time a man turns 55, his levels of the male hormone are significantly lower than just ten years earlier. This deficiency results in reduced muscle bulk and strength, changes in hair growth and skin quality, and decreased self-confidence. Body parts start to shift, spread and congeal into a softer version of their younger selves – the spare tire, the bags under the eyes, the sagging jaw line, the man boobs.

To regain their edge, FAMs are turning to plastic surgery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 1.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2007 on men in the United States. Slightly less than one-quarter were surgical procedures like rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), liposuction, gynecomastia (male breast reduction), and hair transplantation. The remaining procedures are considered minimally invasive: Botox  injections, microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, chemical peel and laser skin resurfacing.

"Increases in facelifts and cosmetic minimally-invasive facial procedures were sizeable in the Boomer age groups, which is anticipated," comments ASPS President Richard D'Amico, MD, who adds that as we age, repositioning (lifting) and volume replacing (plumping) procedures become more popular.

Today's men seem to be more open to the idea of aesthetic enhancement, according to a 2008 consumer attitudes survey conducted by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). It revealed that 57% of men approve of plastic surgery and 79% say they would not be embarrassed about having some cosmetic work done.

Men may start with Botox and soft tissue fillers like Radiesse and Juviderm, but those products will only take a person so far, notes Dr. Olding. "When they were introduced, patients jumped on that bandwagon because they saw it as a way to be rejuvenated without surgical scars," he explains. "Now those people who benefited from noninvasive surgical procedures recognize that they need something more than that – and that's surgery."

He concludes that the uptick in male plastic surgery patients reflects a natural progressive trend among men of being less concerned about who knows that they've had cosmetic surgery. "Once there's a groundswell and people they respect have had surgery, it's much more palatable for another alpha male to accept having the same thing," he says.