Beauty has always been more than skin deep, and it’s not a new idea to conceive of aesthetics ― for men and women alike ― as a sign of social capital and status. Still, recent data indicates an uptick in elective cosmetic procedures for men.
The jury’s still out on whether this trend is specific to men, or if it speaks to how the general public is more willing to go under the knife than ever. Nonetheless, we had a look at what types of procedures are most popular with men and why they’re pursuing them now.
“Men tend to choose cosmetic procedures to minimize the signs of aging, and to boost confidence personally, socially and professionally,” said Dr. Adam Kolker, an aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon with a practice in New York.
The most recent data about trends in male plastic surgery can be found in the Aesthetic Society statistics report of 2021, which noted an approximate 55% increase in plastic surgery procedures in men from 1997 to 2018.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health in 2023 also indicated “an increase in male-centered plastic surgery procedures” from data collected in 2021 from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. This study used the Google Trends tool to measure the most popular search terms when it came to male plastic surgery. (The same Google Trends tool was referenced in studies about plastic surgery pre- and post-COVID, and is considered an effective way to “determine a relationship between public interest in plastic surgery after the celebrity popularization of specific procedures,” according to the aforementioned study.) The authors speculated that “male interest in plastic surgery will continue to increase with time.”
When HuffPost reached out to plastic surgeons in New York City and Los Angeles, they reported seeing more male patients in their practices. Dr. Catherine Chang, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who has been treating patients for over a decade, said she’s recently seen a 10% uptick of men in her office. Dr. Chris Bustamante, an aesthetic nurse practitioner with a doctorate in nursing, opened a practice in midtown Manhattan that caters to the male aesthetic. “At Lushful Aesthetics more than 95% of our patients are men, so we truly get to see these trends unfold,” he said.
One explanation? According to Chang, “being stylish and attractive is no longer considered vanity, which makes men more comfortable to improve their looks.”
What the data means
According to data compiled by both the Aesthetic Society and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, male plastic surgery over the past three years has accounted for between 5% and 13% of all procedures performed. In the most recent 2022 statistics database compiled by the Aesthetic Society, Kolker explained this means “male plastic surgery accounted for 5% of all cases performed.”
“Surgical procedures across all genders increased dramatically in the second half of 2020 and peaked in the spring of 2021 at 55% of pre-pandemic surgical counts, according to the Aesthetic Society,” Kolker said as part of the database summary. “Men contributed to this high water mark, however, in the same relative proportion as they have historically.”
Ahead, we break down three of the most popular elective male plastic surgery trends of 2023, and experts offer explanations for why these procedures are on our cultural radar.
A chiseled face can be achieved with jawline filler, which accounts for its popularity. “Male celebrities have been receiving jawline and cheek filler to contour their face for the camera for years,” Bustamante told HuffPost. “Now the everyday man is electing the [procedure]. Jawline enhancement is easily the most popular facial aesthetic procedure for men after Botox.”
In additional to jawline filler, Kolker noted that facial augmentation, specifically “contouring procedures, otoplasty (ear reshaping) surgery, neck lift surgery, and facelift surgery” as well as nonsurgical treatments like Botox, “have been, and remain, extremely popular among men.” He said that a subtle look when it comes to facial augmentation has “been associated with wider acceptance among men.”
“Men have also been increasingly comfortable seeking and discussing nonsurgical fillers, and energy-based resurfacing treatments,” Bustamante said.
The “you, but better” aesthetic is one that appeals to people regardless of gender, and supports an idea that your looks are something you can and should optimize. Moreover, there’s less of a stigma attached to this idea than in previous generations, since how we present ourselves in culture is seen as a mark of our overall success. And although the average man isn’t in the movies, he likely still has to appear on a screen sometimes, whether in his professional or social life.
“Post-COVID we’ve seen an uptick in older male patients coming in looking for a subtle refresh,” Bustamante said. “I think this is largely due to everyone having to be on Zoom more often than previously, and they’re not as satisfied with what they’re seeing on camera.”
Breast reduction (gynecomastia correction)
Another popular procedure is male breast reduction, according to Kolker ― especially among people who want to tone down their physiques.
“There are certain areas of the body that are unresponsive to diet and exercise,” Kolker explained. “Male breast tissue and recalcitrant areas of soft tissue excess around the midsection can be safely and effectively treated with cosmetic surgery.”
Girth enhancement, or the injection of hyaluronic acid into the penis for a fuller look, is a booming enterprise for Bustamante. “We’re doing about three to four penis filler treatments a day, making this our fastest-growing procedure,” he said.
He pointed out that platforms like X (formerly Twitter) are full of porn stars posting the results of the procedure, and the idea is finding its way into the “everyman aesthetic.”
“I think over the next 10 years we’ll continue to see a major increase in penis filler procedures and normalization of girth enhancement for men in the same way we’ve seen breast implants as a common procedure for women,” said Bustamante. “It’s going to be a lot more casual in conversation in the media and amongst close friends.”
What’s on the horizon for male aesthetics? Bustamante noted that it’s important to remember that “women are bombarded with beauty ads every second of every day.” Men, on the other hand, he suggested, don’t face the same thing, at least not as much. “Men are more streamlined in regards to aesthetic procedures,” he said. “They have more breathing room.”
But this is likely to change, if the rise in plastic surgery in the population as a whole is anything to go by.