‘I decided I would get botox when I was driving my girlfriend to the clinic for hers,’ says Darren Moss, 33, a personal trainer from Widnes, ‘I’d never really given much through to it before.’ Darren is one of the increasing number of men who seek cosmetic procedures, with Save Face – the national register for people who provide non-surgical cosmetic treatments – stating that more men than women now visit their site.
The result is also an increase in complaints from men who are now suffering the complications when procedures go wrong, according to the standards authority. With a BBC survey also finding that 50% of men between 18-30 ‘might consider’ having a procedure, the research comes just as the government is set to launch a campaign in England tackling botched cosmetic treatments.
England’s Department of Health are set to investigate how well-informed the public are when seeking both invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures after an increasing number of people have sought Brazilian butt lifts abroad - the second death of a British person from this procedure was reported in October.
The campaign hopes to educate the public on seeking well-informed professional advice regarding botox, fillers and beyond. Save Face have since stated that men can be more likely to fall foul to botched procedures because they’re less likely to openly discuss having a treatment. According to Ashton Collins, from the register, ‘there is still a barrier to talk about it openly with friends as women would which can leave them falling foul to bad practice and falling in to the wrong hands,’
‘There are a lot of men that are going on social media and finding the cheapest price they come across,’ she told the BBC, ‘which inevitably leads to complications.’
For Steve King, a 50-year-old writer and actor who started having botox near 20 years ago, it’s much more confusing now for young people seeking cosmetic procedures. ‘Back in the beginning it was always word of mouth because people didn't advertise that they offered botox,’ he told Grazia, ‘Now, it's available on every street corner, you can go to any beauty salon, hairdressers, dentist and it's so confusing to newbies because you're trusting someone to inject something in your face that could potentially cause a lot of harm and in some cases, disfigurement.’
Steve started getting botox while working in the women’s magazine industry, when these type of procedures were, according to him, secret treatments that only celebrities were having. ‘The main reason was to preserve a bit of youth, make yourself feel a little better, and those reasons still stand today,’ he said, ‘We talk about the pressure for girls and women to look good but the pressure is equally on men now, women have higher standards and so do gay men, it's just the way of the world, people expect people to take better care of themselves.
‘I tend to get it every 4-5 months,’ he continues, ‘When I look in the mirror and I see those wrinkles I think “aw, come on, I don’t feel that old”. Every year there'll be another 5-10 lines on my face that even botox won't be able to get rid of, but it takes the edge off them, it smooths them and makes me feel better when I look in the mirror.’
Despite the pressure Steve says many men face, he insists he only does it for himself. ‘I'm not worried about what other people think about me,’ he says, ‘I'm worried about what I think about myself.’
It’s a sentiment repeated by many of the men I speak to about botox, including Jeff*, 29, from Liverpool. He first tried botox when his mum became a qualified nurse and began to administer it, and in fact he doesn’t think he ever would have bothered if she hadn’t started offering it.
‘As it’s something that interested me I just thought “why not?”,’ he says, ‘I don’t feel any pressure to get it, and if I couldn’t ever again I wouldn’t lose sleep, but I feel more positive about myself after getting it and it’s only minor. I just see it as going the gym, having a tan or a haircut, every little helps.’
The seeming lack of thought it also a common theme with the men I speak to, as is the case with Darren, whom hadn’t considered it until he was driving his girlfriend to her appointment. He too doesn’t feel pressure to look good, despite noting that the industry he works in is very focused on appearances, he simply describes himself as a ‘pretty vain person’.
‘I don’t take hours to get ready or anything but I do like to take care of myself and I’ve always planned on trying to stay as youthful and as healthy as possible for as long as possible,’ he says, ‘I don’t want to have those thick deep lines set in across my forehead and I know that once they would set in that it would take more than just some simple Botox to make them disappear.’
While he states the he wouldn’t have fillers because he believes ‘the appearance they give is more suited to women’, he does expect to continue getting botox and also had a hair transplant last year. In fact, another man I spoke to had also had a hair transplant, hoping to grow a fuller beard. Like many of the men who were looking for botox or fillers, he admits he too did little research.
‘I’d been thinking about getting it done for maybe 6 months before deciding to go ahead,’ says Imran Syeed, a 32-year-old from Birmingham, ‘I did very little research, I just picked the first link that came up on Google and did a quick search for reviews on the company.’
However, unlike most of the other men, he admits that his choice to get cosmetic surgery was in part due to the overwhelming pressure to adhere to traditional beauty standards. ‘I got the procedure for my own self-confidence,’ he says, ‘but I do feel pressure to look good, I think society as a whole tends to lean that way because of TV shows and advertising. After the procedure, I felt like a problem had been fixed, I was happy.’
It’s clear that the images of perfection were fed daily are starting to both subconsciously and consciously impact the way men feel about their appearance, in part likely due to the rise of image-led social media and normalisation of photoshop and filtering our everyday pictures. Open your front-facing camera and within one swipe you can morph your face to appear more traditionally beautiful (often by very problematic standards).
Dr. Esho, a cosmetic doctor of the award-winning ESHO Clinic, states that in his clinic alone men account for 20% of his clients. However, he warns that government regulation and campaigns like the one announced today are a necessity to ensure clients of every gender are going to reputable places for their cosmetic procedures.
‘Dermal fillers in this country aren’t seen as a medical device which is crazy,’ he says, ‘It means that people can get hold of them without much difficulty but the harm they can do is catastrophic. From hematomas to infections, abscesses and tissue necrosis (where blood vessels become blocked with filler leading the tissue in that area to die), there are so many consequences to consider,
‘Lobbying, public awareness and practitioners being ethical is a key part in how we can put a stop to this, but the government has to input a model that will help control things,’ he continues, ‘We are already seeing an increase in vulnerability of the new generation with the phenomenon I described as “Snapchat Dysmorphia”. My fear is that something really bad will happen before people take note, which is why I’ll always be fighting for legislation. The UK is at the forefront of so much medical innovation that we should be leading by example.’
For people like Steve, who has been getting botox since its infancy, legislation is a necessity. ‘There are so many pitfalls when choosing where to get it done and it really is quite frightening, just about anyone can inject something in your face these days.’
*names have been changed
If you're considering botox, or any other cosmetic procedures, visit the NHS website for more information.