Silvio Berlusconi has admitted to having his eye bags removed, but many believe he has had a full facelift / AFP/Getty Images
As the shame goes out of having surgery, practioners say men are embracing cosmetic procedures in ever-increasing numbers. Rachel Shields reports

Once famous for his stiff upper lip, the average British male might soon be better known for his smooth brow and taut jawline. New figures reveal that the country's plastic surgery clinics are seeing an unprecedented boom in the number of men who are happy to splash the cash on surgery in exchange for a youthful visage and taut tum.

Leading plastic surgeons, including the Harley Medical Group and Transform, report record numbers of men shelling out thousands in pursuit of perfection.

Once the preserve of women who had had children, tummy tucks are now topping the wish list among British males, with the Harley Street Clinic recording a 51 per cent increase in men undergoing the procedure over the past 12 months.

There was a 44 per cent increase in chin lifts, a 17 per cent increase in facelifts, and a 57 per cent increase in Botox treatments over the past 12 months. Similar increases were found at Transform clinics, where men now account for 10 per cent of all patients.

Men opting for surgery offered a variety of reasons, with those in their 40s and 50s citing fears that they may be passed over at work in favour of younger colleagues. Second marriages were also a source of anxiety for many middle-aged men, who told doctors they were afraid of looking too old for their younger wives.

"Most men just want to look younger," said Dr Riccardo Frati of Harley Street Clinics. "But it is important they have realistic goals, as men are more likely to have unrealistic expectations of surgery than women."

The male grooming industry is now big business, worth £8bn globally, a figure that reflects a shift in social attitudes towards male vanity. Simon Cowell has openly admitted to having Botox injections, insisting: "Every guy I know in the city is having it now." Stars Pete Burns and David Gest are clearly fans of facial plastic surgery.

Some remain coy about "having work done": Cowell denies claims that he has had a full facelift; Paul McCartney refuses to admit to a nip and a tuck; and Cliff Richard insists that he has resisted the scalpel.

Nevertheless, public figures are getting in on the act, too. Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, 71, had his under-eye bags surgically removed in 2004.

"I don't think having plastic surgery affects how seriously a politician is taken," said Ross Clarke, director of Live PR, which offers advice to government departments. "Image is important for politicians in the age of electronic media. When they are on TV people will be paying more attention to what they look like than what is coming out of their mouths," Mr Clarke said.

Recent photos of the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, looking remarkably fresh-faced have sparked rumours that he may have had plastic surgery, with one commentator saying it "looks like he's overdosed on Botox". "I'd say that he's had a chemical facial peel, and he's having regular Botox. There also looks to be some sort of filler in his cheeks," said Dr Lorraine Ishak of Transform Plastic Surgery clinics.

A spokesperson for Mr Mandelson denied that he had had surgery, insisting that his youthful looks were down to "green tea, exercise and not drinking too much alcohol". "I'm no expert in Chinese medicine, but I can't imagine even holy water would have that effect," insisted Dr Ishak.

Peter Mandelson

The famously image-conscious politician has been looking much more youthful of late, which surgeons believe could be down to a variety of procedures. It is thought that Botox jabs have softened his wrinkles; chemical peels have improved the texture of his skin and artificial fillers have fattened up his sagging cheeks. A spokesman for Mr Mandelson denied that he had undergone surgery.

Silvio Berlusconi

The perma-tanned Italian Prime Minister has admitted to having his eye bags removed, but many believe he has had a full facelift. And while most people's hairlines recede with age, Berlusconi's seems to be moving further down his forehead – a classic sign of hair plugs.

Pete Burns

Frequently held up as an example of botched plastic surgery, the Dead or Alive singer threatened to sue the surgeon who tried to remove his overblown lip implants, with Burns claiming that the operation left him looking "like he had been mutilated with a Stanley knife".

David Gest

Another case of bad surgery, Gest said his facelift, nose job and cheek implants came from low self-esteem. 'I've always thought I looked terrible,' he said. He was encouraged after seeing his friend Michael Jackson's surgery. Later married Liza Minnelli, another fan of plastic surgery.

Paul McCartney

He worried that no one would love him when he was 64, but at 66 Sir Paul still looks better than men half his age. This has prompted some to claim that he had surgery to rejuvenate his face – accusations he has always denied.

Simon Cowell

The 48-year-old pop guru is a Botox fan – but it doesn't stop him from frowning on 'The X Factor'. Those pearly whites are also down to the intervention of a dentist; they are expensive veneers – all the better for smiling at his young model girlfriend.