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Summary: This is the time of year when all sorts of plastic surgery statistics are released. It shouldn’t be surprising that, among the nuggets in this year’s numbers is the fact that plastic surgery for men is on the rise, as it has been for the last few years. Confronted by this evidence, it seems men are making some rash generalizations about why they get plastic surgery, saying that male procedure popularity is due to career-mindedness. We’re not so sure that’s the case, and we’re not so sure we like that message. Regardless, plastic surgeons in Milwaukee and Los Angeles are tailoring more and more procedures to the needs of men.

Male procedure popularity is one the rise.

Male Procedure Popularity on the Rise

When you start looking for a job, you’ve got to get your ducks in a row: you print off your resume, you line up some references, and you schedule an appointment with your cosmetic or plastic surgeon. Wait. What? That’s a surprising little development. We don’t typically think about cosmetic surgery—or any surgery, for that matter—as a necessary component of job hunting. This must be some kind of new development, right? Well, in a way, it certainly is, but in another way, it’s really not. Are you confused yet? Well, that’s to be expected. Let’s just jump right in here.

According to new data released by American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, which generally tracks how many plastic surgery procedures are performed each year and who they’re performed on, noted a definite uptick in the amount of procedures done on men this year. Indeed, according to the ASAPS, plastic surgery procedures for men have risen 43 percent over the past five years alone. That represents a huge increase (not just in people, but also in revenue for plastic surgeons—which helps explain why more plastic surgeons are targeting marketing campaigns at men).

A Long Time Coming

There are many reasons for this not-so-sudden increase in the popularity of plastic surgery among men. Certainly, there’s greater social acceptance at work here. Once seen as a traditionally feminine activity—much as with dieting, for example—plastic surgery as recently grown to be a bit more gender neutral even though the vast majority of patients are still women. My own personal sense is that plastic surgery was popular with women because the social definitions of femininity have historically been quite narrow—meaning that there have been intense pressures placed on women to look a certain way. As the years have passed, that pressure has also been expanded to include men, who now must fit into an ever more narrowly defined idea of masculinity.

It would be overly simplistic to say that our society is basically more shallow now than ever before—but that is the idea at its most basic. Of course, some have looked to defend the rugged qualities of men by suggesting that this rise in plastic surgery is not motivated by anything aesthetic, but rather by career-minded practicality.

There might be some truth to this, too. Since the Great Recession, there have been countless stories about age discrimination in the hiring process. Of course, age discrimination is notoriously difficult to prove, so it’s not as though people could just file lawsuits to get jobs. In the eyes of many companies, older workers are slower to learn and higher paid, so it was better to go with someone younger and cheaper. In an effort to retain employment, it was in the interests of many employment candidates to look younger—hence, the plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures.

Everyone Has Good Reasons for Wanting Plastic Sugery

With the relative inexpensiveness of treatments like Botox and dermal injectables, this seems at least plausible. What seems less plausible is patients getting facelifts to get ahead in business, or undergoing major elective aesthetic plastic surgery just to get a promotion. These are very, very expensive procedures that are rarely covered under insurance. In other words, these procedures would not pay for themselves in most cases (the exception, of course, is that huge promotion… but how often does that come up?).

Rather, I suspect that this rational is more about protecting the image of men as masculine, a vestige of the attitude that caring about how you look is a distinctly feminine activity. The desire to spin this particular trend towards a more practical cause—as though the reasons women undergo plastic surgery are not equal practical—strike me as somewhat sexist, holding up the masculine reasons for plastic surgery as reasonable and practical and downplaying the feminine reasons as trivial and shallow.

Plastic Surgery Makes You Happier (if you Want it)

The truth of the matter is that most people get plastic surgery to feel good. Man or woman, or transitioning between the two, plastic surgery is designed to make you feel comfortable in your own skin, and that’s why in most cases those patients who do go under the knife report an increased amount of self-esteem, self-confidence and quality of life. In other words, and there’s plenty of scientific and academic evidence to back this up, getting plastic surgery lets people feel more comfortable and makes them happier.

And this is pretty universally true for those who want plastic surgery. Yes, to some degree, it shouldn’t be surprising that getting what you want makes you happier, but it does show that male or female, people have similar motivations and similar reactions. We should leave this nonsense about men being wiser about how and why they choose to have plastic surgery behind us. As always, it’s not for your career—it’s for yourself.

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