Your surgery is so cosmetic, man

Men are being lead by the nose to plastic surgeons. Lynne Eaton smells a rat
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The Independent Culture
FASHION-CONSCIOUS men are becoming more discerning in their aesthetic and cosmetic tastes, it seems. "Jamie Theakston is very popular with the chaps right now. His nose is masculine, well defined with a strong bridge," Mel Braham. a plastic surgeon, enthused to one newspaper last week.

Perhaps. Whatever men are hoping to achieve from cosmetic surgery, whether a better love life or a better paid job, they are rapidly catching up with women in realising the enormous potential of the scalpel. According to the Harley Medical Group, one of the country's leading cosmetic surgery clinics, around 40 per cent of procedures are now performed on men. Five years ago, it was only 18 per cent

The biggest rise in male surgery is in liposuction," says Peter Coles, director of the group. "More and more men are increasingly confident in turning towards cosmetic surgery to help them achieve the look that they desire."

Last year, the group's main male cosmetic surgery procedures were rhinoplasty (nose jobs) at 21.5 per cent; liposuction at 9 per cent; otoplasty (reducing size of or pinning back ears), 16 per cent; laser surgery (to improve skin texture), 10 per cent; and laser assisted uvula palatplasty (Laup) to stop snoring, 10 per cent.

You can even go for penis enlargement - both length and girth. A piece of tissue inside the body called the suspensary ligament is cut, allowing more of the penis to fall outside the body cavity. Fat extracted from the inner thighs can also be deposited along the shaft to thicken the penis.

"A lot has got to do with the advent of many more quality men's magazines," Mr Coles admits. "They will read avidly about ways to make themselves attractive. Half of it is to improve their appearance, the other to improve their sex life."

Dai Davis, a consultant plastic surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital, London, who also works privately at Stamford Hospital in Hammersmith, believes the increase in male cosmetic surgery may be simply because: "More and people have more disposable wealth. Chaps with ears that stick out or people with big noses are much more likely to spend a couple of thousand pounds."

Although gay men, who have tended to be more body-conscious than most, do have cosmetic surgery (removal of facial hair is particularly popular), most of the men at the Harley Medical Group clinics are straight, says Mr Coles.

"They are just Mr Average. Their tummy sticks out, or their penis is too small. They don't look a freak, but they think they do." One patient, in his forties, had been troubled all his life about his large ears: "He was a very pleasant man, who came to the clinic with his wife. He had long hair, which looked odd at that age. It turned out that when he was young, he was teased because his ears stuck out, and had deliberately grown his hair long to hide them.

"When I told him we would be able to help, he just burst into tears. He was just so relieved that he wouldn't have to worry any more."

But buying an "off-the-shelf" nose, like the "Theak beak", is as frowned upon by cosmetic surgeons as much as asking for a Rachel (from Friends) hair cut is, by a hairdresser

"We understand that people tend to identify with famous figures," says Mr Coles. "We have to be careful to say that though we will try to make it look like that person, that doesn't mean that you are definitely going to look like them."

While women worry about "cellulite", beer guts are one of men's biggest worries. Christopher Douglas, 26, was 6ft 2in tall, and weighed in at 17 stone when he went for liposuction back in February.

"I had this beer belly and big fat thighs," says Christopher. "It was quite embarrassing on the beach, or changing for sport. I had dieted, got lots of exercise, and had even given up drinking. But it was having no effect.

"As I was reading through the magazines, liposuction caught my eye. It was extremely expensive pounds 2,500 - but I had inherited some money, so I decided to go for it. Friends laughed at first, but then agreed with me. Men are much more vain and self-conscious than they used to be.

"It wasn't painful, just uncomfortable," he says. "They don't take that much off - only half a stone. But there was a difference straight away. I could get into trousers that had been bursting at the seams.

"I've really gained a lot of confidence. I'm not embarrassed chatting up girls.

"And, yes," he admits. "My love life has improved."

For further information, contact the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, who will send a list of members if you send them a large sae: 35 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3PN (0171-405 2234).

To find out whether a surgeon is qualified in plastic surgery, contact the General Medical Council (0171-580 7642). The British Association of Cosmetic Surgeons (0171-323 5728) tends to represent surgeons in private clinics who may not be qualified plastic surgeons. The Harley Medical Group runs a helpline on cosmetic surgery: 0870 603 4444