Men and Cosmetics: Social and Psychological Trends of an Emerging Demographic

September 2015 | Volume 14 | Issue 9 | Original Article | 1023 | Copyright © September 2015

Evan A. Rieder MD,a Euphemia W. Mu MD,a and Jeremy A. Brauer MDa,b,c

aThe Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY
bLaser and Skin Surgery Center of New York, New York, NY
cDivision of Dermatology, Lenox Hill Hospital, North Shore LIJ, New York, NY

Though still accounting for a small fraction of all cosmetic procedures in the United States, men are an emerging and rapidly expanding demographic in the field of aesthetic medicine. In this article we highlight the trends contributing to the rise of male aesthetic procedures in dermatology, touching on social influences, psychological motivations, and treatment outcomes.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(9):1023-1026.


Cosmetic procedures have dramatically increased in popularity over the past two decades. According to an annual survey by the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), an estimated 10 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures valued at 12 billion dollars were performed in the United States in 2014.1 Men represent a growing percentage of all consumers. The number of cosmetic procedures performed on men has increased by 273% since 1997.1 And last year, for the first time over 10% of all elective aesthetic procedures were performed on men.1 Shaping the new face of masculinity, cosmetic interventions reflect evolving social and psychological influences. This article will highlight the trends contributing to the rise of the male demographic in the use of aesthetic procedures in dermatology.
Pursuing beauty is one of the most deeply ingrained human drives. In one study, infants three-months of age were observed to stare for longer periods of time at more attractive faces.2 This seeming innate preference for certain physical features grows more apparent with age. Attractive pharmaceutical representatives boast higher sales, beautiful West Point graduates achieve higher military ranks, and better-looking quarterbacks earn higher incomes.3-5 Consumers are naturally inclined to seek out procedures that may help to enhance their aesthetic appeal.
According to the US Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, cosmetics are used to beautify, promote attractiveness, or alter one’s appearance without affecting structure or function.6 The field of cosmetic dermatology offers growing options for gender-specific aesthetics. Classically, physical features deemed attractive in women include high cheekbones, smooth skin, thick hair, and full lips; in men, appealing traits include jutting chins, wide jaws, and other testosterone-related features.7 Catering to these needs, the top non-surgical cosmetic procedures are listed by gender (Figure 1). While worth mentioning, the use of anabolic steroids and treatments for hair loss by men are outside of the scope of this article.

Social Factors and Psychologic Motivations Influencing Men

In the 1980s, a general objectification of the male body began to pervade popular culture. The commercialization of masculinity coincided with a surge in lifestyle magazines, television and movies promoting men’s fashions, grooming products, and fitness merchandise.8 The pursuit of appearance-enhancing