Nine out of 10 cosmetic procedures in the US are performed on women. Yet to a growing number of high-flying men, nips, tucks and injections have become stealth weapons to deploy in a Darwinian battle for corporate survival.
It’s not just about advantage in a youth-oriented workplace. As gender roles evolve, vanity is losing much of its stigma for men in general. The beauty buffet, once ladies-only, is now open to all, with men increasingly moving from the hors d’oeuvres (grooming, beard cultivation, skin care, dieting and exercising) to the appetizers (cosmetic dentistry, hair replacement, hormone therapy) and on to the entrées (Botox, fillers, non-invasive fat reduction) before ordering up the pièce de résistance: plastic surgery. Chanel, Fenty and Tom Ford now also offer a once-unthinkable side dish: makeup for men, leading them into the realm of foundation and eyebrow gel.
Men don’t use the word “beauty,” of course. “Women talk about beauty. Men talk about vitality, virility, competitive edge—that’s a masculine way of describing what is essentially vanity,” says William Liu, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, who specializes in issues around masculinity. “But what they are really talking about is warding off existential anxiety around death.”