Social media and competition in the work place have made men turn to medical aesthetic treatments to look like better versions of themselves. FitFab Club learns more about this trend from Dr Leo Kah Woon, from the Dr Leo Aesthetic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

With the economic downturn and hiring freeze in some sectors, it is getting harder to obtain and hold on to a job, leave alone be promoted, so competition is stiff. Executives realise that a good work ethic and can-do attitude — while necessary — might not be sufficient to remain competitive, so many are consider undergoing aesthetic treatments to improve their looks. This may be particularly true of those who regularly meet people in their line of work such as those in marketing, sales, banking and finance. They realise that first impressions count and can help them establish rapport and long-term relationships as well as clinch contracts more easily. The younger executives are ambitious and want to climb the corporate ladder quickly while the older executives want to remain relevant even when surrounded by younger executives. Youth plays a part in looking like an alpha male: it is about looking like you are approaching or at your prime, not past your prime.

Social media has become a constant source of information for both men and women, and taking good selfies and wefies for posting on Facebook and Instagram are also driving men to be more self-conscious of their looks. Korean boybands and actors influence male patients — particularly the younger generation — in that the seemingly perfect features of these celebrities are making them more aware of their own facial and bodily imperfections. Aesthetic treatments are seen as instrumental in improving such imperfections. “This, coupled with higher disposable income and greater access to a plethora of cosmetic procedures have led to more male patients taking active steps to improve their looks,” says Dr Leo Kah Woon from the Dr Leo Aesthetic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. “It is no longer taboo for men to turn to medical aesthetic treatments to look younger and feel more confident,” he affirms.

The shortfalls of the East Asian male face

The East Asian male face is perceived to have “imperfections” such as a receding forehead, chin and/or jawline, and a poorly projected nose which may feature a lower nasal bridge, flatter nasal tip, shorter nasal septum (the partition separating the left nostril from the right) and/or wider alar tips (wings of the nose). “Although these facial features are perfectly normal, the media has influenced beauty standards and perceptions such that any physical attribute not aligned with them is deemed unattractive. For instance, the faces of top male actors and models often feature characteristics that are quite the opposite of that of the typical East Asian male face, such as high cheekbones, chiselled jawlines and confident chins.”

Non-surgical aesthetic procedures

Although Dr Leo often sees male patients who seek surgical procedures such as eye lifts (upper blepharoplasty), and surgical face lifts, he also sees a growing number of regular male patients who undergo minimally or non-invasive lunchtime procedures involving energy-based devices and/or injectables such as hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers. “HA fillers such as Restylane can rejuvenate one’s appearance by restoring volume loss and stimulate collagen production. The effects of the treatments can be seen within minutes and without the risks and downtime associated with surgery,” Dr Leo says. “Another reason why HA fillers are so popular is because HA fillers can last up to 12 months, so busy professionals in particular find it convenient that they only need to visit the doctor for the treatment once every year or so,” he adds.

Multiple factors must be considered when choosing the right filler whether you are restoring lost volume or augmenting the face, says Dr Leo. “Factors such as particle size, the type of crosslinking agent used, the degree of crosslinking, and the percentage of cross-linked HA and elastic modulus, affect the filler’s characteristics including indication for use, ease of injection, longevity of the product and the degree to which it can fill tissue. This is why we have moved from the notion of “one filler fits all” to different fillers with different characteristics to suit specific anatomical regions of the face,” Dr Leo clarifies.

HA fillers may be considered as part of the treatment plan for addressing concerns such as a receding forehead, chin and jawline. Numbing cream is applied to the treated areas to improve patients’ comfort during the treatment. Injections can be performed with either a sharp needle or a blunt cannula, depending on which areas of the face are to be treated, the plane of the skin that the injections need to be administered, the patient’s concerns and preferences, and the doctor’s experience and skill. In Dr Leo’s practice, he uses adjunctive aids such as hand-held vein illumination devices which reveal veins beneath the skin, so that he can avoid them when injecting and reduce the risk of bruising. Generally, the treatments take no more than 15 to 30 minutes. When augmenting the faces of male patients, Dr Leo is more judicious with how much filler is introduced, as male patients tend to prefer “not to look done”.

Nose augmentation with fillers are often requested at Dr Leo’s practice. For Dr Leo, augmenting the nose usually involves introducing sufficient HA filler to fill up the bridge of the nose (nasal dorsum) through a single injection point near the nasal tip with a blunt cannula. Where indicated, the filler can also be injected at the base of the nose (anterior nasal spine), for better tip projection. “The procedure is very well tolerated by most patients and they leave happy as outcomes are instantaneous,” Dr Leo shares.

Downtime and side effects

Although HA filler treatments require low downtime and results can be seen immediately, some patients experience side effects such as bruising and redness (erythema) which may last one or two days. Other procedural complications include infection and skin irregularities. Dr Leo adds, “Although patients are welcome to resume their day-to-day activities immediately after treatment, they are advised not to go for spa treatments, saunas, and facial massages for two weeks as these may cause the injection sites to be infected,” says Dr Leo. More serious complications such as vascular compromise may bring about skin necrosis or blindness. However, such complications are few and far between, especially when treatments are performed by skilled hands.

Dr Leo Kah Woon is an experienced plastic surgeon accredited by the Ministry of Health and currently runs his own plastic surgery practice, Dr Leo Aesthetic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, located at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. Dr Leo is experienced in modern techniques and best practices in cosmetic surgery as well as non-invasive methods of facial and body rejuvenation. He is actively involved in the academic training and development of budding young surgeons. Additionally, he is an Examiner for the Plastic Surgery Exit Examination for qualifying plastic surgeons in Singapore. Previously, he was also an examiner for the Final M.B.B.S Surgical Examination for the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.