South Africa: The ‘fair’ advantage – and how to get it

10 June 2014: Once upon a time, the aesthetic market was the sole reserve of the so-called fairer sex. But today, as the media feeds us just as many images of beautiful men as of beautiful women, the less fair sex is acknowledging the benefits in becoming more fair.

Dr Natasha Chapman, a general practitioner specialising in aesthetics and a member of the Allergan Medical Aesthetics Academy, agrees that there has definitely been an increase in the number of male patients seeking aesthetic procedures which is in keeping with worldwide trends.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2013, 9% of total cosmetic procedures and 8% of minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures were done on men. This represents an overall increase of 22% since 2000, and a massive increase of 65% for minimally-invasive procedures.[1] Furthermore, the British Association of Plastic Surgeons reveals that 9.5% of all cosmetic procedures undertaken in the UK in 2013 were by men, an increase of 16% on 2012.[2]

“Eight years ago, less than one percent of my patients were men. Today that figure is closer to 10%, and it is growing annually,” says Dr Chapman.

Dr Chapman agrees that this increase is primarily due to the increased media attention on men, which has resulted in an overall increased focus on male appearance. Once upon a time, women were judged according to their appearance and men were judged according to their achievements, now both sexes are judged according to both their appearance and their achievements – and the two are quite often inter-related.

“In the workplace, as in life, youth and good looks have become a real advantage for men,” says Dr Chapman.

In the past, society revered age and wisdom, but today, a youthful complexion, strong jawline and lean body have become the signature of a man in the prime of his life and in control of his destiny. Although no one is saying that a pretty face and hard body is a viable alternative to talent, hard work or dedication, there is no denying that the combination provides what one might call a‘fair’ advantage.

Dr Chapman says that the numbers are likely to increase at an intensified rate over the next couple of years, as the market becomes less of a ‘stealth’ industry and more mainstream.

“Non-surgical aesthetic treatments are becoming more and more popular, with a greater number of people coming in for treatments and more people talking about them. The more open our patients are about what they have experienced, the more likely their friends and colleagues are to come in for a consultation,” says Dr Chapman.

Dr Chapman adds that it’s an exercise in education. There are so many more options available to both men and women than there were in the past. Gone are the days when a surgical facelift was the only answer to regaining your youthful appearance. Today, non-surgical options range from anti-wrinkle injectables and fillers, to laser treatments, non-surgical skin tightening and body sculpting.

“There are injectable medicines available for treatment of glabellar frown lines and hyperhidrosis, a condition of excessive sweating which affects underarms, hands, and feet.  Sweat-stained armpits often cause serious embarrassment for men when they take off their jackets,” says Dr Chapman, “and decreasing the amount of sweating can often alleviate this problem and restore confidence.” Similarly, injectable toxin use has increased in men with severe frown lines who want to appear more relaxed and less stressed.

Fillers (such as the Juvederm® range available from Allergan) are also becoming increasingly popular, because they act to lift and define facial features, in this way revitalising the face, actively enhancing features that may have become less pronounced over time. Says Dr Chapman: “Fillers are also relatively easy to administer and even reversible. As an added bonus – particularly for the male market, which still stigmatises many aesthetic treatments – fillers are less overtly noticeable, leaving minimal bruising and swelling.”

“Very few people would notice that a friend or colleague has had a filler, but they would definitely notice that the friend or colleague looked better, more refreshed and relaxed – almost like they had just returned from holiday,” says Dr Chapman.

Other treatments that are gaining popularity in the male market include non-surgical skin tightening which lifts jowls and sagging necks; laser hair removal, particularly for men who are prone to shaving rash, as well as for those who have unsightly back and neck hair; and then body sculpting via the likes of cryoliposis, which actually freezes fat cells and has been quite successful for helping men deal with traditionally stubborn areas, such as their love handles.

All of the treatments above take time for the full effect to take shape, another big plus for the male market as a gradual change in appearance doesn’t necessarily require in-depth explanation.

“While more men might be coming in for treatments, the reality is that the stigma associated with aesthetic treatments remains. For the most part, men do not want anyone else to know that they have had any work done on their faces or bodies. But this, too, is changing – just as it did for women,” says Dr Chapman.

Fact Box

Although there are no official local statistics on the number of cosmetic procedures performed each year, plastic surgeons agree that South Africa tends to follow in international footsteps.

In the US:

Anti-wrinkle injectables are the most popular minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure among men, accounting for 6 321 160 of the 12 827 957 procedures performed on men in 2013.

Soft tissue fillers are second on the list, accounting for 2 225 304 of the 12 827 957 procedures performed on men.

Chemical peels and laser hair removal rank in third and fourth place respectively, followed by microdermabrasion.1



[1] The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2013 Cosmetic Surgery Gender Distribution. Found at Last accessed 12/05/2014.

[1] The Guardian, UK Cosmetic Surgery Statistics 2013: which are the most popular. Found at Last accessed 12/05/2014.