Men, Masculinity, and Plastic Surgery

Though many more women still seek out plastic surgery than men, according to recent statistics, that gap is closing. In 2018, 1.3 million cosmetic procedures were performed on men. That is up by nearly 30 percent since 2000.

Men seek out these procedures for many of the same reasons women do: to increase attractiveness, to stave off the effects of aging, and to increase self-esteem. Increasing the appearance of masculinity is also a goal some men pursue through facial plastic surgery. 

“Of biggest concern to men and one that often times affects their masculinity and feeling of vitality is hair loss,” says Dr. Charles Slack. “I am seeing more men for this as I have started using the Neograft system for hair restoration. In my practice I would say that botox is the most common treatment for men followed by fillers and then eyelid surgery.”

A new study, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, showed perceptions of attractiveness, likeability, social skills, and trustworthiness all increased after surgery. Interestingly, this study showed facial surgery had little effect on the appearance of masculinity, however. The authors point out that this is contrary to similar studies that have shown significant increases in the appearance of femininity in women who have had facial plastic surgery.

The JAMA study was conducted using the before and after photos of 24 men who underwent a number of facial procedures at Georgetown University Medical Center. The procedures included one or more of the following:

One hundred and forty five people reviewed the men’s photos and rated them on attractiveness, masculinity, and a variety of personality traits, including aggressiveness, extroversion, like-ability, risk-seeking, sociability, and trustworthiness.

The ratings of each of these traits tended to differ with the type of facial surgery performed. For example, facelift and upper eyelid lift were associated with increased like-ability and trustworthiness. The only procedure associated with an increase in masculinity was a neck lift, which was also associated with perceived extroversion.

Oddly enough, chin implants, a procedure commonly sought to increase the appearance of masculinity, was the only procedure that had no effect on any of the factors: personality, attractiveness, or masculinity.

“It is really interesting that different anatomic areas of the face have varying degrees of contribution to overall personality perception,” says the study’s senior author Michael J. Reilly, MD in this press release. “And it is also noteworthy that the study did not find a significant change in masculinity. […] This suggests that the current menu of cosmetic procedures for men are likely not as gender-enhancing as they are for women.”

Regardless of this study’s findings, masculinizing plastic surgery is on the rise. According to statistics by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2018, nearly 10,000 men got chin implants, that is up five percent since the year 2000. They also underwent about 4,000 cheek implants, a procedure that can give a broader more masculine shape to the face. These were up 133 percent since 2000.

It should be noted, however, that these numbers are small when compared to the total number of cosmetic procedures performed among men in 2018: 1.3 million. Of those, one million were actually non-surgical or minimally-invasive treatments like botox, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, and fillers. The same trend is seen in women: of the 14.7 million cosmetic procedures performed on women in 2018, the majority (13.3 million) went in for non-surgical procedures.

These statistics tell us that while the gender playing field is still far from equal, when it comes to cosmetic procedures, the aims of men and women may not differ that much. And according to this latest research, increasing masculinity may not be as viable goal as once thought for men undergoing facial surgery.

All that said, no matter the reason you are seeking cosmetic surgery, it is a decision that should not be made lightly. Despite what national statistics or one research study tell us, all procedures affect each individual uniquely. If you are considering any cosmetic procedure, make sure you consult with an experienced board certified plastic surgeon. If you are in Collin County, Texas, call our office and make an appointment to see Dr. Charles Slack.