The young and the beautiful
With more and more plastic surgeons moving to Dubai, the industry is cashing in on the demand for aesthetic surgeries. The newest and fast growing customer base is men, across ages and professional standings. But why are they pursuing these exotic procedures? And what is ‘Brotox’ anyway?
Published: Fri 15 May 2015, 4:01 PM
Last updated: Sun 26 Jul 2015, 3:59 PM
It’s hard not to at least disapprovingly smirk at the idea of ‘Brotox’ — or Botox for men; the it-thing for men &that’s apparently trending in Dubai. At least, that was the reaction when I brought up the topic with my mates. “The first thing that throws the whole thing off is that no ‘bro’ would call it ‘Brotox’, unless he was a douche,” said one of the guys, to which we all promptly laughed out loud. Admittedly, that does throw the appeal of getting Botox injections — and other non-invasive (and invasive) procedures under the cornucopia of aesthetic surgeries done in the name of improving male looks — a bit off-piste. But the more important question is, why are men increasingly feeling pressured to undergo such procedures? Is it because men, just like women, are increasingly being subjected to unreal standards of beauty (which is a whole different can of worms) or is it simply because of a growing desire to look and feel younger?
The truth of the matter is that everyone — men and women — wants to look and feel young. The legend of the mythical fountain of youth — one whose waters supposedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks from it — goes back millennia; as far back as the 5th century BC, perhaps even further. Today, however, the need to look and feel young can be fulfilled in many ways (who has the time to go on a quest to find the fountain of youth, am I right?), the least of which may be a few shots of Botox to the face, and the doctors are really cashing in. Dubai, after all, has the highest number, per capita, &of plastic surgeons in the world! According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), between 1997-2012, the number of aesthetic procedures on men has increased 106 per cent, and statistics from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) show that Botulinum Toxin (including BOTOX, Dysport and Xeomin) was ranked as the most popular procedure overall in 2013 &alone, with a total of 5,145,189 procedures of which 643,675 were men.
Basically, this is not going to slow down or go away any time soon. For Dr Alexandre Dionyssopoulos, an aesthetic plastic surgeon at Dubai Cosmetic Surgery, who’s also a professor of cosmetic surgery at the French College of Plastic Surgeons, business is good. Very good, in fact, says Dr Alexandre, who moved to Dubai just four months ago, joining the mass influx of surgeons to the emirate. His waiting room has a giant poster advertising hair transplants and for good reason since it’s a fast-growing demand amongst men who visit the clinic. “It’s not that this is a new thing, but the numbers have definitely increased,” says the good doctor. Another popular demand? Beard transplants — for the perfect and precise Emirati beard, even if you haven’t grown a follicle on your face. Ever.
He breaks down the men coming in for these procedures into four main categories — the models, the bodybuilders, the CEOs and the ‘athletic dads’. “You have to understand that a lot of them are doing these things because of their &work: either to secure a job or to keep the ones that they &already have. As workplaces hire more and more young people to project youthful exuberance as part of the company image or brand, older men, especially the ones who look the part, start feeling the pressure to fit in,” he says. “A big part of it, of course, is just plain vanity, and men and women in Dubai are definitely more image conscious. The common indicators for people in Dubai are young, successful, moneyed… But appearance takes precedence.” He adds that 20-25 per cent of his Botox — or Brotox — clients are men.
Nina Iskander, an image consultant in Dubai, meets dozens of men every week looking to make a good impression, whether it be for a job interview or just to improve the way they look during their time in Dubai. “Don’t believe what HR staff or recruiters tell you. It takes only seven seconds to judge if you’re the right person for the job or not. Whatever you say after that first impression doesn’t matter as much. This is the honest truth — image is everything, especially in Dubai. Skills are important, of course, but if you’ve got the wrong outfit — an ill-fitting suit, dirty shoes, unkempt hair and nails, then your skills — whether you’re the best at what you do or not — makes little difference,” says Nina.
She sees, firsthand, what kind of pressures men and &women in Dubai face to look like they belong, and often, looking younger signals, in their minds, a competitive advantage. “Even though some of the men are not really old, they still want to look younger. They’re not competing in terms of age, but appearance. Which is why you see many older men killing themselves in a gym. They want to look sexy, get the looks from women, be desirable… There’s nothing wrong &with it, but you have to look and dress your age,” says Nina. A man in his 50s sauntering around in ripped jeans doesn’t quite ring up an image of class or sophistication… “It just looks ridiculous,” she says.
According to her, a lot of men have difficulty accepting that they’re getting older, and will do whatever it takes to turn that around. “Self-esteem really does play a big role in the demand for these procedures. You should be happy with yourself and accept yourself, because if you can’t, you’ll find it very difficult for others to,” she adds. There’s also the obligatory cultural spin, with aesthetic surgery, both invasive and non-, becoming more acceptable for men in a region where it was considered mainly a woman’s pursuit.
Dr Alexandre feels that as people’s mindsets change, these things become more and more acceptable. Which is already evident in countries like Brazil and South Korea, where plastic surgery has skyrocketed and is very, very commonplace, especially for men. Even the lines of gender get blurred, with traditionally effeminate qualities like soft facial features, &bigger eyes and double eyelids being sought after by men emulating K-Pop stars. Closer to home, Lebanon has always been attached to enhanced looks — Nina says that banks even advertise personal loans for plastic surgery — but it’s not something that is very culturally acceptable for men to do. But that is changing.
“There is definitely a liberation of thought now. Men were afraid to do things like Botox or plastic surgery because they would be seen as doing something effeminate — getting surgery. Those discriminatory lines are now going away,” says Dr Alexandre. And with the liberation in thought comes &pressure too. “Just look at the media, the way that men are depicted on magazine covers. It’s impossible not to feel &pressured into looking a certain way,” he adds, going back to the vanity component of these procedures. One that’s less publicised, but growing in demand is penoplasty, or enhancement of male genitalia. Gynecomastia, or swelling of male breasts, is another increasingly common problem men are getting fixed. Even wrinkles get special care. “Some wrinkles are good on a man. Unlike women, we don’t remove all the wrinkles with botox. Brotox gives you the George Clooney wrinkles,” he laughs. TV is, of course, just as complicit as print and online media in perpetuating these demands.
Kirk Lobo, a Dubai resident, born and brought up, says he empathises for the guys who have to go in for aesthetic procedures. “I don’t condemn the act of getting work done on yourself; the nature of successful living in Dubai suggests that you either have it all or have nothing. It’s not only one of the most forward and developed cities in the Middle East, but a microcosm of the diverse world we live in. That being said, everyone battles it out for the ‘most’, ‘biggest’, ‘best’ superlatives in terms of anything that can be purchased with money and influence,” says Kirk.
He echoes Nina’s thoughts on the pressures of looking the part, saying that a good job, great qualifications, and a beautiful creative mind just don’t cut it anymore. “You have to look the part too,” he says. “You have to be the Persian Ryan Gosling or the Emirati Shah Rukh Khan or the Indian Gerard Butler. You’ve got to have the pecs, the abs, the routine, the clothes — the mise-en-scène in your own personalised Dubai movie! And if you think you’ve done everything and still don’t feel right, well, you’re going to probably have to get ‘brotox’, because if you can change your face, you can change your life!” Despite his blasé attitude, he says that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look ‘prettier’, echoing the common notion that “if women can get plastic surgery for their breasts and butts, why can’t men?”
“At the end of the day,” says Dr Alexandre, “we offer hope to people. Psychological health is connected to physical health, appearance and well-&being. We help them feel better about how they look and that helps them feel better about themselves as a whole.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Beauty and success
A 2014 study by Harvard University found that men who were deemed good looking were 36 per cent more likely to be successful than unattractive ones. However, the same factor did not come into play for women
“You have to be the Persian Ryan Gosling or the Emirati Shah Rukh Khan or the Indian Gerard Butler. You’ve got to have the pecs, the abs, the routine, the clothes... to be successful in Dubai”
Although the average Botox session only takes around 20 minutes, the clients who wish to keep their wrinkle-free look have to get two sessions every year for the rest of their lives!