Conversation with a Surgeon: The Rise of Male Plastic Surgery

Image via: OSU Collections on Flickr Commons

   Coming, as I do, from a working-class town in the north of England any type of male vanity or signs of narcissism were, until recent years, frowned upon by the men who inhabited the region and the old-fashioned ideals of masculinity they possessed. Moisteuriser was treated with suspicion and ownership of a wallet was considered "fancy".

   Yet, as anyone who has watched Geordie Shore on MTV or been on a night out in Leeds in the last fifteen years will testify, we have lived through a real shift in attitudes towards what constitutes manliness and what the ideal looks we should each aspire to are. Popular culture has influenced us and shown us that men must now boast gym-honed bodies, perfectly plucked eye-brows and skin which radiates due to the plethora of grooming products we use.

The Rise and Rise of Male Procedures

   In our continuing quest for perfection, reflected back at us through the ever-increasing perpetuity of social media and the unachievable images found all around us, it is little wonder that modern man has looked towards as many means as possible to upgrade his image. Increasingly, this includes seeking surgical help to correct perceived flaws with our features and our figures - according to the Washington Times , there has been a 43% rise in men seeking plastic surgery over a five year period. Procedures, such as "Brotox", are continually on the rise too.

   Is this, our collective striving for physical perfection, part of a modern phenomena, I wondered, or representative of a wider yearning rooted within the human condition of which technology has finally reached the stage to facilitate our long-held desires?

   Thankfully, to answer a number of questions I had on the subject, I was able to make contact with Dr. David Alessi - founder and medical director of the Alessi Institutes and the non-profit organisation Face Forward . Naturally, as the trend for males seeking plastic surgery appears to be on a continual up-swing as pioneering surgeries are regularly innovated, I sought out a professional opinion as to whether or not we'd hit a point in which cosmetic alterations would become mainstream and widespread.

   "Birds groom, mammals groom, humans groom. It is in our DNA." Dr. Alessi explained. "As surgical procedures become safer and readily available, the rise in cosmetic surgery would be expected. When pigment based makeups became safer and widely available in ancient Egypt, everyone started doing it. The same is likely to happen with plastic surgery."

Image via: Internet Archive Book on Flickr Commons

Social Media and Surgery

   Of interest, however, are the reports that plastic surgery has seen an explosion in male recipients throughout the twenty-first century. This, of course, coincides perfectly with the proliferation of the internet and our day-to-day lives - something which Dr. Alessi describes as "a huge topic." How, exactly, do the images we receive daily effect our perceptions of ourselves?

   "Social media," Dr. Alessi confirmed, "influences what people think is beautiful. It also trivializes plastic surgery and people come in thinking it is the equivalent of getting their hair done." There is, the doctor confirmed, a difference between the two. "Individuals should expect some bruising and swelling but remember it isn’t from trauma but from something to benefit."

   As we see, being exposed to digitally manipulated and heavily mediated imagery throughout our existence can skew our ideals, what we believe is natural, and, as such, I begun to wonder whether every candidate who puts himself for forward would actually benefit from physically altering themselves rather than approaching their "problems" from a psychological standpoint. Maybe, we should look to alter our minds rather than our appearances?

   Dr. Alessi confirms that not every person who approaches a surgeon for a procedure will be granted their request if, indeed, they are not of the right frame of mind: "If a patient has body dysmorphic syndrome, they will usually be denied.  Also, if someone has unrealistic expectations or doesn’t have an idea as to what they want, they will be denied." Further, he expands, only candidates who know exactly what they will be after will be considered: "Good candidates are patients with a well-defined idea of what bothers them. For example, someone comes in and says 'my nose is too big' or 'my neck sags' - they are good candidates. If someone comes in and says I don’t like the way I look, please do something - bad candidate."

Image via: Internet Archive Book on Flickr Commons

Pioneering plastic surgery procedures

   Knowing what is possible, and whether it is suitable, is an essential starting point for all plastic surgery candidates but - how many of us know what a procedure generally entails? How many of us have had our knowledge shaped by the images found in Hollywood movies?

   I asked Dr. Alessi to provide an example of a recent innovation in the field and what it entails to understand a little more what modern surgeons are capable of. The intricacies he described were astounding: "The invisible line brow-lift is a great option. When a person ages, their brow will drift down as well as the upper eyelid skin. We used to have to make incisions in the forehead to bring the brow up.  Now we can do it through a hidden eyelid incision. We hold the brow up with biodegradable plates that we implant."

   Having been bamboozled by the possibilities of modern surgery, I remembered the type of working-class northerner of the 1990s who may have sneered at such narcissism in twenty years ago but whom may well put themselves forward as candidates for such procedures themselves these days. Indeed, as Dr. Alessi himself notes: "As plastic surgery is becoming even more mainstream, men are seeking help more. Men can be as vain as women. Even normal 'dudes' like to get eye bags and turkey necks removed."

   Perhaps we're all set to become like the ancient Egyptians with their pigment make up?

Image via: Internet Archive Book on Flickr Commons

A huge thank you to Dr. Alessi for his time 

   Dr. Alessi is licensed in the US and the UAE, and is known for pioneering less invasive cosmetic procedures including the single incision eyelid and eyebrow lift. In addition to being a facial expert, Dr. Alessi is also a philanthropist, dedicating his time and skills to helping physically abused women around the globe by providing all pro-bono reconstructive surgery for the patients of his charity, Face Forward.

   You can find out more about Dr. Alessi and his work by clicking on the following links:
Dr. Alessi's Blog
The Alessi Institute in the press
The Alessi Institute on Twitter
The Alessi Institute on Facebook

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