John Lui – Straits Times Singapore
Singapore. The sex barrier is coming down in clinics that fix frown lines, zap away wrinkles and fill out facial furrows.
Singaporean men, now a common sight in mani-pedi spas and in the skin-care product sections of stores, are invading the clinics and going under the laser, knife or needle to look younger and fitter.
T.F. Tan, an investment banker in his 40s, started Botox treatments at the Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic three years ago and has been going back every six months to get refresher jabs. The injections around his forehead fix a pet peeve of his: three horizontal lines across his forehead, which deepened as he aged.
He has also had the frown grooves between his eyebrows smoothed out with filler injections.
‘It’s all about self-confidence,’ says Tan, who is single.
Knowing that he has stopped the clock on his face eases his worries about looking worn-out, allowing him to focus on more important things, he adds.
Dermatologists, plastic surgeons and doctors attached to aesthetic centers says that over the last two years, male customers have grown from around 10 percent of the client base to around 30 percent – and this does not take into account the men who head to Indonesia and Thailand to take advantage of lower prices.
For example, the National Skin Centre (NSC) has over the last two years seen an increase of up to 30 percent in the number of men seeking aesthetic treatments.
This is all part of a larger cultural pattern, say doctors, that is placing a growing importance on male beauty. The Internet and television reality shows are also showing men what can be achieved with new technology, they note.
In pop culture, the abs-fest known as the Manhunt Singapore male pageant will roll into its 23rd edition on July 28, while singer-songwriter Dick Lee spoofs the men who preen and pose for prizes in his new play, Beauty Kings, which opened last week.
Dr Low Chai Ling, medical adviser at The Sloane Clinic, a chain whose aesthetic services include plastic surgery and dermatology, says that men are just playing catch-up with what women have been doing all along.
â€śMen also see the benefits their female counterparts have achieved with such procedures and are more accepting of them,â€ť she noted.
Indeed, in grooming centers such as Browhaus, blokes are beginning to get hooked on techniques that women have been using for years. Browhaus’ Brow Resurrection, in which a semi-permanent dye is etched into the skin to give the look of full eyebrows, has seen a growth in uptake.
From just 3 percent two years ago, men now comprise 15 percent of customers who opt for the method, which costs S$1,200 compared with under S$100 for less lasting techniques.
The same holds for men’s skin care. A report from The Singapore Association of Perfumes and Cosmetics Distributors said the men’s skin-care market grew 12.6 percent from 2008 to 2009.
The women’s skin-care market, in contrast, went up by 8.1 percent over the same period. But a large part of the surge, however, must be attributed to the fact that the male skin-care market is starting from a smaller base, say experts.
Dr Georgia Lee, who runs the TLC Lifestyle Practice, has seen more men come forward for beauty treatments, although they opt for gentler methods that do not leave obvious traces.
â€śMen do not like to take leave for treatments,â€ť says the doctor who has just launched a men’s skin-care line catering to Asian skin.
At her clinic, older men like to target problem areas, so they opt for Botox, fillers and treatments that lift the skin. Younger males opt for scar reductions, but both are willing to spend.
â€śThose treating their scars feel that having a better complexion will help them more in their work and also socially,â€ť she says.
â€śThose targeting wrinkles and deep lines are keen to do it because there is more information about these treatments now and they also like the fact that there is no or minimal downtime.â€ť
Dermatologist Eileen Tan of Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic agrees that men generally prefer non-invasive procedures such as chemical peels, intense pulsed light for facial skin and hair laser therapy.
â€śBotox and fillers are minimally invasive procedures that are also increasingly common among working professionals who want to look good,â€ť she says.
Low says clients at The Sloane Clinic run the gamut. â€śWe have high-flying professionals such as lawyers who come for procedures such as eyebag surgery in order to reverse their tired look and businessmen coming for Botox to make them look more approachable,â€ť she says.
Calvin Chan of the Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic adds more reasons, such as bridegrooms who want to look their best for their wedding.
â€śMany male patients are brought by their wives for weight loss or anti-ageing treatments,â€ť he says.
Affordability is also a driver. Treatments range from under S$500 to more than S$5,000, offering something for men in every age group and income bracket.
The cost of treatments at various clinics ranges from around S$300 to S$500 an area for Botox and S$800 to S$900 an area for fillers. It goes up for cosmetic surgery jobs: S$3,200 for eyelid surgery and S$4,500 for liposuction.
For blokes with deeper pockets, there are more extreme treatments. Chan says that along with the growth in demand for invasive procedures such as liposuction to shrink beer bellies and love handles, men are also opting for more male-specific treatments.
Gaining attention in Singapore is â€śVaser Six-pack Etchingâ€ť liposuction. It is a method of sucking out fat that recreates the valleys and ridges of a rippled torso, says Chan.
He showed photos of a patient who had the procedure done and the result looked uncannily close to the real thing. The cost of looking like a man who does a thousand crunches a day starts at S$6,000.
However, clients seeking help must know that each treatment carries different health risks. Senior consultant Dr Chua Sze Hon of The National Skin Centre advises those seeking certain kinds of treatment to exercise caution.
For example, some places offer non-invasive slimming by either heating or cooling the skin’s fat layer, which destroys it and causes it to be excreted by the body.
Chua notes: â€śInappropriate treatment may result in excessive localized fat destruction, causing unsightly skin depression and dimpling. Damage to the surface skin may also occur, causing blisters, skin erosion and subsequent scarring.â€ť
Toning the skin using radio waves should also be approached with discretion. â€śInappropriate treatment may result in skin damage, causing skin burns and possible scarring. Deep skin nodules from deep scarring may occur if the lower layer of the skin is heated up excessively,â€ť said Chua. â€śThe treatment may also cause pigmentation if the upper layers of the skin are heated up excessively.â€ť
Tan adds that during consultation, the patient should be told that certain treatments need to be done several times for full effect. â€śNon-invasive treatments require maintenance,â€ť she says.
Low adds: â€śWhile fillers and Botox help to improve their condition, the results are not permanent and will require maintenance treatments over a certain period.â€ť
Customer T.F. Tan is aware that people still get into a lather over the idea of men who go under the needle or knife. Men have to look better than their fathers did when they were the same age, he argues, but they have to pretend that they have not put any effort into primping because it looks unmanly. This is why he chose not to give his full name.
But as Singapore becomes more cosmopolitan, the desire for eternal youth in both men and women will grow, as it has in the West.
â€śFor men, the search for youth is here to stay. It’s no fad,â€ť Tan declares.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to
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