For a long time, botulinum toxin, otherwise known as “botox”, was the overpriced elixir of Hollywood’s elite. Come the ‘90s, however, and the mass production and availability of this clock-freezing protein meant it was no longer just the, ahem, preserve of the rich and famous.
In 2021, botox is the globe’s most popular non-invasive treatment, with 4.4 million procedures carried out last year. And with prices starting from around £150 per area, procedures taking around 15 minutes and no downtime, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
Last year’s Zoom Boom left many of us feeling fatigued from looking at our own drawn reflections on video calls, booking in to see our nearest botox practitioner as soon as the doors opened to clinics and surgeries nationwide. But it wasn’t just women forming an orderly queue. More men than ever before have been dabbling with anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers.
Research conducted by Uvence cosmetics revealed that nearly 2 million British men were considering a treatment this year, alongside a 30 per cent rise in the number of men enquiring about cosmetic treatments. This, in part, may be down to alarming figures from the same research that indicate that “11 per cent of men in Britain feel that they look at least five years older as a result of the stress and anxiety brought about by lockdown and the pandemic”.
Dr. Olivier Amar, leading cosmetic surgeon and CMO of Uvence who saw the change first hand, found it “shocking” to see “just how seriously the consequences of the pandemic have impacted the health, wellbeing and vitality of millions of men in Britain.” As he says, “it’s great that the taboo around men and cosmetic treatments is being challenged, but it is important that all patients ensure that they are only seeking treatment for the right reasons.”
Dr Magdalena Bejma, founder of Dr Bejma Medical Clinic, reaffirms what we already know to be true. “It is a myth that Botox is only for women. Men love looking good and they are just as keen on aesthetic treatments as women.” She also notes that men on the whole are after “a ‘fresh’ not frozen look, as they feel keeping certain lines give them more of a masculine look.” Dr Bejma’s male clientele’s main areas of concern are “their frowning area and crows feet, with lots asking to keep all horizontal lines as a choice.”
Of course, male skin is different from women’s skin. How does that change the procedure for a practitioner like Dr Bejma? “Well,” she pauses, “male skin tends to be thicker and their forehead muscle is stronger, hence often higher doses of botulinum toxin are needed. A good injector is the key here, as the pattern of injection will be different to when injecting a woman. We need to remember that men naturally have flatter brows and if your injector does not assess the face properly a man could potentially end with more of a feminine look.”
Clearly the gender binary is still at work, even if men are becoming more open to tweakments: “One thing I have noticed is that men are less likely to talk about having cosmetic treatments, while women seem to be much more open about it,” added Dr Bejma.
This is true of one “brotox bro”, who asked to remain anonymous for this piece and will be referred to as Adam. He’s 26, works in events planning in London and is queer. “I got botox after lockdown,” Adam explained. “I live with three girls who all work in media and fashion, and, honestly, I think they rubbed off on me. We binged watched a lot of Real Housewives and I had a lot of spare time during lockdown, like everyone. I’d sit scrolling on Instagram and I think it definitely pushed me into booking an appointment.”
While 26 might seem a little young to start with injectables, Adam says that he’s “always looked older than I am.” He’s Irish and partially blames exposing his pale skin to too much sun as a teenager. “I have these deep crow lines around my eyes that really bothered me,” he says. “I completely stopped smiling in pictures!”
Dr Bejma explains that “there is no certain, recommended age to start anti wrinkle injections”. The majority of her male patients are “in their early 30s and quite often feel they have a better chance of progressing in the work environment or getting a better job if they look relaxed and fresher.”
Adam’s happy with his natural looking visage, but does notice that he’s hankering for more. “I’m definitely thinking about getting a top up, it is addictive. I’m wondering if I could get a little bit of a brow lift effect if I had more [botox] injected.” For now, he’s just enjoying the glow up. “I get compliments on my skin pretty much every day, but I’m keeping my cards close to my chest. I just think it’s my business what I do with my face and I don’t want to be taken less seriously at work.”
Another straight, 30-year-old man who lives in North London hasn’t bitten the bullet yet, but won’t rule it out. “I originally thought plastic surgery all fell into one category and that Botox was the same as getting lip filler,” he says., “Then my partner explained that it’s for wrinkles and I felt differently.” He’s currently happy with how he looks, but it’s something he’d consider “in 10 years when I’m 40, if I felt I needed it. Overall, I think men having plastic surgery is great, whatever makes you feel good.”
Dr Kaywaan Khan, aesthetic doctor and medical director at Hannah London, speculates that “fillers beneath the eyes and in the cheeks” will be the next biggest trend amongst male treatments. “Hyaluronic acid filler works to increase hydration and therefore volume in the skin, and it’s a great way to reduce the appearance of hollows and dark circles under the eyes, which can make someone look tired or under the weather,” she says. “Many men feel that under eye fillers help them to look more awake, alert and healthy.”
Dr Khan has a different take on the impact of lockdown on our sense of self, believing we developed a YOLO mentality that has it’s upswings. “Lots of us have developed a ‘life’s too short’ kind of attitude during the pandemic. After being cooped up for so long, we’re ready to worry less about what people think and give new things a try in the interests of getting as much joy out of life as possible,” she muses. “In the past, guys may have considered Botox and worried that it wasn’t something men were ‘supposed’ to do. Now, who cares what we’re supposed to do? Life’s for living however we see fit!”