Cosmetic Procedures for Men

As discussed previously, relatively little research has been conducted into the beauty market for men. Similarly, considering cosmetic surgery demographics, it is unsurprising that the majority of studies into the representation and experience of cosmetic procedures has focused on women. However, as the representation and marketing of cosmetic procedures aimed at both women and men are both addressed here, available research into representations and experiences of men undergoing cosmetic procedures will be highlighted here.

In her analysis of Plastic Fantastic, an infotainment show broadcast in the early 1990s, Kathy Davis (2002: 54) indicates that cosmetic surgery was presented as equally relevant for men and women; however, “while the patients and experts seem to find it understandable and even ‘natural’ for women to have their bodies altered surgically, a man who has cosmetic surgery seems uncomfortable or deeply ashamed”. What is more, when the programme discussed men as patients, the side effects and risks of cosmetic procedures were emphasised. Davis’ findings are echoed in Adams’ (2009: 118) analysis of newspaper reports on body modification practices, which portrayed cosmetic surgery as predominantly belonging to the female realm. When male patients of cosmetic surgery were discussed, the procedures were rationalised and justified; moreover, procedures for men were mainly explained in terms of remaining competitive in the job market (cf. Balsamo 1996; Dull 8c West 1991).

Related to the idea of remaining competitive in the workplace, Atkinson (2008) found that male cosmetic surgery patients reframed cosmetic procedures from a passive act to an active endeavour and a form of masculine character building. Interestingly, the men Atkinson interviewed also described cosmetic procedures as “a vehicle for fitting in [and a] technique for building self-esteem” (ibid: 75). Moreover, the male cosmetic surgery patients indicated the desire for a ‘socially common body’ and emphasised that they wanted to “fade into the crowd as a ‘regular’ guy” (ibid). This wish for a ‘normal’ body can be found across cosmetic surgery marketing messages and in women’s accounts of undergoing cosmetic procedures (e.g. see Fraser 2003; Mendelson 2013; Orbach 2009; Woodstock 2001).


  • 1 H. G. Liddell &C R. Scott. ‘A Greek-English Lexicon’, 9th ed., digitised by the Perseus Project.
  • 2 The cosmetic surgery industry also grew substantially before 2003; however, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) started recording the number of surgical procedures conducted in the UK in 2003.
  • 3 Breast implants produced by the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) were banned in 2010 as it transpired the implants were manufactured with unapproved (industrial-grade) silicone gel. In 2012 the Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) breast implants: Final report of the Expert Group, led by former NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh, was published. This report highlighted the unsafe nature of the implants, noting that they are “significantly more likely to rupture or leak silicone than other implants” (Department of Health 2012: 1).
  • 4 According to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (2015: 10), 85% of all hair restoration surgery patients are male.
  • 5 Personal correspondence with Dr Greg Williams (10 January 2017).
  • 6 In Belgium, for example, advertising for cosmetic procedures was (re)banned in 2014. Moreover, France banned the advertising of cosmetic procedures in 2005. However, despite the bans, it has proved impossible to counter marketing on the Internet, “which [makes] regulation difficult at a time where most advertising is done online” (Nigel Mercer, former president of BAAPS, quoted in Tungate 2011: 208).
  • 7 As no official documents have been released for the Cosmetic Surgery (Standards of Practice) Bill, the transcript of the ‘Motion for leave to bring in a Bill’, which was put forward on 19 October 2017, was used here.
  • 8 The NHS is available to all UK residents and is free to access (except for some charges relating to prescriptions, optical services, and dental services). For details on how the NHS is funded, see in-a-nutshell/how-nhs-funded
  • 9 See for example the controversy surrounding Josie Cunningham’s breast enlargement, which was financed by the NHS (cf. Winter 2013).
  • 10 It is worth noting here that in one study, conducted by Harris-Moore (2014: 18), the medical side of non-invasive procedures was foregrounded. Although this result was surprising, Harris-Moore offered the explanation that by drawing on cosmetic surgery, the non-invasive procedures were imbued with a sense of effectiveness and “powerfulness”.
  • 11 Currently anyone in the UK can administer non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections, chemical peels, and laser hair removal (see Save Face’s “Laws and regulations for the non-surgical cosmetic industry”).
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