Shaun Clark, 39, was looking at photos of himself on Instagram when he noticed the first signs of aging. “I was being obsessive when looking at certain pics, like, ‘Oh, fuck, there are some lines,’” he says.
So Clark decided to get Botox around his eyes and forehead. A series of injections of botulinum toxin, Botox works by temporarily relaxing the facial muscles that cause wrinkles by blocking the nerve synapses from firing. ”My women friends swore by it. I just wanted to look younger,” Clark says.
It’s a ritual he’s maintained ever since. Clark says he now gets Botox injections every three months, and it costs about $250 each time.
That was in 2010. Since then, there’s been a 20 percent increase in the number of men getting plastic surgery in general, with most of them getting minimally invasive procedures like injectables or fillers like Juvederm, which can reduce wrinkles as well as add volume to areas like the lips or temples. The number of men getting Botox specifically has jumped 27 percent during that time span, leading media outlets to deem the trend “Brotox.”
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Deepak Raj Dugar, MD, says that he has also seen an increase in male patients requesting Botox and fillers in recent years. He estimates that about 30 percent of his Botox patients are male, as are 20 percent of his filler patients, who often request fillers in their cheeks, jawlines, and temples.
So why is Brotox on the uptick? The short answer: social media.
While it’s not exactly news that the rise of Instagram has put more pressure on us to improve our appearances, guys like Jon LeBlanc, 40, are responding to that pressure by shelling out their cash for monthly injections.
“I do think our society is way more vain [because of social media]. I’m guilty of succumbing to that,” says LeBlanc, who was inspired to get Botox when he spotted his first forehead lines. “But I like good things and willing to pay for it.”
Psychotherapist and sex therapist David Ortmann, who has personally had Botox and fillers a number of times, says that given the relatively low cost of the procedure (it costs (it’s about $250-$500 per treatment area), it’s a quick fix for guys who spot perceived flaws in their Instagram photos. He sums up the reasoning thusly: “Instead of putting a picture of yourself up there from five years ago, why not have [this procedure] done?”
“Instead of putting a picture of yourself up there from five years ago, why not have this done?”
In fact, the influence of social media is so strong that some surgeons have developed specific procedures intended to enhance your appearance in selfies. Dr. Dara Liotta, a facial plastic surgeon on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is the creator of the LitLift, which uses a cocktail of both Botox and filler on six different areas of the face. The LitLift is intended to recreate the effect of contouring, the makeup effect popularized by the Kardashians that aims to add definition to the face. “Essentially, the goal is to make you look like you are always well-lit, like in a Snapchat or Instagram filter,” Liotta explains.
Liotta says that since she created the LitLift in 2017, about 20 percent of her clients have been men. “Botox and filler does not discriminate on the basis of gender,” she says.
Dugar agrees. “Men do notice how they look in photos, and I think men, despite being macho or whatever, are very sensitive to comments,” he says.
A post shared by Dr. Dara Liotta MD FACS (@doctordaranyc)
But at the same time, even though more men may be choosing to go under the needle, they’re not any more open to talking about it. As stigmatized as cosmetic surgery is for women, it’s even more so from men. “Men are discouraged from looking in the mirror and wanting to be beautiful,” says Ortmann. He notes that this is particularly true for straight men, who might consider the desire to improve their appearance “feminine.”
Cy*, 42, says this stigma is rapidly changing — at least in Los Angeles, where he lives. While he was initially reluctant to get Botox and fillers, he changed his mind after seeing friends on Instagram rave about the procedure. “There’s now this radical acceptance,” he says. “So I just went with it.” Liotta agrees that it’s becoming less taboo, at least for the Instagram generation: “Millennials in particular seem to view Botox and filler as part of regular maintenance,” she says.
“Men are discouraged from looking in the mirror and wanting to be beautiful.”
Still, the way that Botox is marketed for men would seem to indicate that the hold of toxic masculinity is just as strong as ever. Medical spas like The Club House in Manhattan, for instance, offer events like “Poker Brotox Night” to put its male clientele more at ease, and even the existence of the cutesy term “Brotox” is arguably a sign that the procedure is still not entirely normalized for men.
It’s also worth considering the impact that the rise of injectables has on health and safety — especially in cities like New York and Los Angeles, where it can seem like every nail salon on the corner offers Botox. While Botox is widely considered to be safe in small doses, Dugar advises men interested in the procedure to use “a board-certified doctor or a dermatologist, or someone who has significant experience with injectables” instead of having a nurse administer an injectable at a private spa.
Liotta also cautions men who want to avoid looking like a wax dummy “to seek out an injector who has experience with men, since the exact placement of injections, and amounts of Botox and filler injected, are a little different for men and women.”
Despite the risks of injectables, as well as the implications it might have for our youth and appearance-obsessed culture, guys like Shaun Clark still clearly think it’s worth it. “For me, it just came down to wanting to look good,” he says. “I love getting Botox, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
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