Why Men Are Turning to Cosmetic Procedures for a Competitive Edge in the Boardroom

Not long ago, a successful Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur decided to make a risky new investment he’d been toying with for years. “I’d just hit 50 and sold my second company,” he recalls. “I looked at myself and thought, I have another 20 years of work in front of me, so I’m going to go do this now.”

Marc paid $25,000 for a lower face-lift and a nose job. (His name and those of the other patients who spoke to Robb Report have been changed at their request.) “One of the best investments I’ve made,” he says. Unlike other investments in Marc’s career, this one was a closely guarded secret, known only to his doctor, wife, brother—and now you.

Nine out of 10 cosmetic procedures in the US are performed on women. Yet to Marc and a growing number of high-flying men, nips, tucks and injections have become stealth weapons to deploy in a Darwinian battle for corporate survival. “I play in the high-tech and start-up world, where older individuals will be passed over,” says Marc, who also got his first Botox shots this year. “The software wars take a lot of energy and commitment. I simply aligned my outer appearance with my inner perspective.”

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.”

“The idea of stigma has changed,” says Marc. “Women should not always have to look made-up, and men can wear makeup. Those mores are changing. There’s still a little bit of raising an eyebrow right now, but it’s becoming much more acceptable. Some people like to spend money on expensive cars. I like to spend money on myself—I consider my body to be the vehicle I drive in.”

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