A dramatic increase in the number of men having breast alterations helped to fuel a big rise in cosmetic surgery last year, with more than 34,100 procedures performed in Britain – three times the number just five years ago.
Male breast reduction, up by 44 per cent, outstripped the rises in overall breast augmentation and tummy tucks – both up by 30 per cent on the previous year. And male eyebrow lifts increased by 60 per cent, according to figures to be published tomorrow in the latest annual audit by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps).
A combination of pressures have driven increasing numbers of British men to submit to the surgeon's scalpel. Media images promoting healthy men at their physical peak are blamed; as is the desire for men to keep up with youthful partners or compete with younger rivals at work.
Rajiv Grover, a consultant plastic surgeon and Baaps secretary responsible for the UK audit of cosmetic surgery, described the rise in breast reductions and brow lifts as "dramatic".
Male breast reduction, known as gynaecomastia or a "moob job", has replaced the facelift as one of the top five procedures for men. Liposuction is used to reduce flabby breasts, through small incisions made under the armpits. Although people can return home the same day, it can take three months before they are fully healed and able to move freely. More than 320 moob jobs were done last year, compared with just 22 in 2003.
More and more men are suffering low self-esteem because of the state of their breasts, according to Bryan Mayou of London's Cadogan Clinic, who first introduced liposuction into Britain 25 years ago. "I'm seeing an increasing number of men coming into my clinic with body-image problems and low self-esteem because of this particular condition," he said. "Many of these men have been teased since school or in the gym about the fat on their chests, and some even refuse to take their T-shirts off in front of their partners, they are so embarrassed about the problem."
He added that the increase in moob jobs "means men are addressing the problem rather than living with it and the low self-confidence it can bring".
Men now account for almost one in 10 of cosmetic surgery patients. The rhinoplasty, or nose job, is the most popular option for men going under the knife, with almost 700 operations last year. And hundreds of men are having eyelid surgery, ear corrections and liposuction each year. Overall, men had more than 3,000 cosmetic procedures in 2008, up from 2,881 in 2007.
But the recession is taking its toll on the industry, which is fuelled in part by people taking out loans to get work done on their bodies. Earlier this month, it emerged that one top cosmetic surgery clinic, Cambridge Private Hospital, had been forced to close because of the credit crunch. The hospital's principal surgeon, Anthony Erian, said: "I've been a plastic surgeon for 30 years, and I've noticed people cannot afford big surgery any more."