Botox - man's new best friend

By Sharon Stephenson

It's one of the world's most popular cosmetic treatments, the "no scalpel" anti-aging cosmetic treatment that smoothes the foreheads of everyone from stressed executives to youth-obsessed celebrities.

It is, of course, Botox, a type of botulinum toxin first developed in 1946 as a tool of biological warfare, and later used to treat cerebral palsy in children. Fast-forward to the Noughties, and Botox has become infamous and used almost ubiquitously for wiping away the years. It works by temporarily paralysing facial muscles, reducing the contractions that can cause new wrinkles and ironing out existing ones.

It's a weapon women have had in their anti-ageing arsenal for well over a decade. And where women go, the blokes will generally, if belatedly, follow.

Although national figures don't exist, anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of Kiwi men using Botox is steadily increasing. Not as much as in the UK, however, where Botox for men is such big business (one-fifth of all patients are now men), it's even earned a nickname: Boytox.

It's a trend fuelled by celebrities, such as the music industry's self-styled Mr Nasty, Simon Cowell, who's no stranger to the needle. "Botox is no more unusual than toothpaste," he's been reported as saying. Others who have admitted to trying the treatment are Sir Cliff Richard, Donny Osmond and Peter Andre; and many more, including George Clooney, are under suspicion.

Aucklander Dr Catherine Stone has been treating male patients since she opened New Zealand's first specialised Botox clinic in 2001.

But she's noticed a definite increase in the numbers knocking at her door. "A few years ago, I'd see about two to three male patients a week. Now we're injecting around 10 to 15 men a week."

Dr Stone, who appears on TVNZ's programme 10 Years Younger, says men have Botox or fillers (to plump out deep smile lines) for a number of reasons, including the pressure not to look past one's sell-by date.

"That's especially relevant for men who work in a youthful industry, or those who see younger guys coming up the ranks at work and think they could be passed over for promotion because they look older.

"But it can also be as simple as men wanting to look less stressed and exhausted at work, or appear less grumpy to their kids."

It takes three to six injections to soften lines around the eyes, while around five shots can relax the forehead. Effects are visible within 48 hours, but it takes about five days to see the difference.

It's a similar story over at CaciMedispa where, a few years ago, around 4 per cent of clinical nurse specialist Jackie Smith's clients were men. "That's now around 6 per cent, which isn't a huge increase, but there are definitely more men in the waiting room these days."

Most of her clients are also those who need to look good for work.

"Industries such as marketing, advertising, real estate and TV all require a youthful and appealing presentation. Given that much of a man's self-esteem is tied up with his job, remaining competitive in the workplace is vital."

Those worshipping at her altar of self-improvement also include men "back on the market" after a relationship break-up.

Botox can be used to treat patients with excessive sweating, migraines, neck spasms and Bell's palsy. But most seeking Smith and Stone's services are there for cosmetic reasons.

There is no "typical" male patient, and both treat an equal number of gay and straight men. "All sorts of men come to us - fathers, professionals, plumbers, farmers, salesmen, entrepreneurs, stars and business owners," says Stone.

Gone too are the days of men furtively seeking treatment.

"Men are starting to be more open about getting Botox and, because most procedures only take an hour or so, people don't have to take time off or make excuses for their absence.

"As with women, some men will tell everyone, while others prefer to let people think they look great naturally."

Smith believes Botox is a treatment that fits in well with the male psyche. "It's quick and simple, and you can see a significant difference in a short space of time."

Men, however, often need a higher dose of Botox than women, as they generally have stronger and larger facial muscles.

But they need only repeat the treatment with the same frequency as women - every three to six months.

So far, so impressive. But how safe is Botox, and what about the rumour that it can affect a man's reproductive abilities? "It's just that - a rumour," says Stone. "The Botox and dermal fillers we use have a very localised action, so they work where we put them, and they have an excellent proven safety record."

Globally, some of the reported complaints levelled against Botox are that it can cause a "droopy brow", headaches, double vision or sagging facial muscles. In extreme and rare cases, it can cause anaphylactic shock - an allergic reaction that can be deadly.

But, despite the risks, curiosity and vanity seem to be winning out, and more and more Kiwis - of both sexes - are lining up for the opportunity to keep wrinkles at bay.

While cosmetic treatments are generally cheaper than going under the knife, they aren't for the light of wallet. Below are costs for common procedures for Kiwi men:

Botox: through the frown ($360-$600), crows feet ($250-$600), and horizontal forehead lines ($250-$500); lasts three to six months.

Dermal filler: to fill the deep smile lines (nasolabial folds) which age the face ($700-$1800); lasts six to 18 months.

Lip enhancement: to plump out thin lips ($500-$800); lasts six to 12 months.
Permanent hair reduction on the chest and back: treating the neck and face is also popular to reduce the amount of shaving required. $500-$700.

Control of excessive sweating: $1500; lasts eight to 12 months.

- Herald on Sunday

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