Getting it off your chest -- why more men are going under the 'vanity knife'
From 'moob' jobs to face-lifts, it's not just women who are getting a nip-and-tuck, writes Joe O'Shea
Old sports injuries, sticky-out ears, tired eyes and man-breasts -- an increasing number of Irish men are turning to cosmetic surgery to correct the imperfections that God or hard living has given them.
Ireland's leading plastic surgeons estimate that two out of every 10 of their patients are now male.
Rhinoplasty (nose-jobs), otoplasty (surgery to correct prominent ears) and face-lifts are the most popular surgical procedures for Irish men.
But a growing number, particularly 20-somethings who were overfed by their parents while growing up in the prosperous 1990s, are opting for surgery to reduce their "man-boobs" or "moobs".
And in a curious kind of blow for equality, increasing numbers of Irish men are proving to be just as susceptible as women to pressure from the fashion industry and the media when it comes to body image.
From Tony Blair to Simon Cowell, John Travolta to Arnold Schwarzenegger, moobs are the male celebrity version of cellulite, bad skin or too-skinny thighs and gleefully seized upon by the glossy mags. New figures released in the UK show an 80pc rise in breast reduction operations carried out on men.
Yearly statistics from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) reveal its members carried out 581 male breast reductions last year, up from 323 in 2008.
The procedure is now the third most popular cosmetic operation carried out on men, behind nose jobs and eyelid operations to remove fat.
Exact figures for the number of Irish men opting for breast reduction surgery are not available.
But plastic surgeons here report a significant increase in the number of men seeking a surgical solution to large, flabby breasts after trying and failing with diet and exercise.
"Breast reduction is particularly in demand from young men who have now come of age after growing up during the late '80s and '90s, when prosperity meant a lot of parents were overfeeding their children," says Aileen McDonnell of Dublin cosmetic surgery consultants River Medical Group.
"Many of them are now well into their careers and they decide that it's finally time to do something about their breasts.
"They often find that no amount of exercise or careful eating can get rid of enlarged breasts, we do have guys who come to us with six-packs and fantastic bodies and yet they could wear a bra."
It is estimated that up to 30pc of males suffer from deposits of excess fat in the chest area, leading to rounded, slightly protruding breast tissue (the medical term is gynecomastia).
In some cases, the chest area looks bloated similar to feminine breasts and there are also cases in which the male nipples look puffy or even distorted or asymmetrical.
The development of man-breasts is linked to genetics, diet, exercise and hormones. Alcohol can be a major factor -- beer contains xeno-estrogens, which mimic the female hormone oestrogen.
An overindulgence in beer leads to a conversion of testosterone into oestrogen, giving men female-like qualities such as rounded breasts.
Consultant Plastic Surgeon Dr Labros Chatzis of the River Group regularly carries out breast reduction operations on Irish men. And Dr Chatzis says the main concerns of his male patients is that they will be able to have the surgery without noticeable effects.
"They are often very concerned about being able to return to work or exercise without people noticing that they have had surgery.
"The procedure itself is relatively straight forward. Depending on the type of heavy breasts we are dealing with, it can involve liposuction to remove fat cells or the removal of glandular tissue."
Dr Chatzis says most patients can return to full-time work within a week, although they do have to wear a special vest for a short period and will suffer from bruising in the chest area.
While breast reduction is an increasingly popular procedure for Irish men, the number one surgical procedure is still rhinoplasty.
Dublin-based Dr Kambiz Golchin is a leading consultant ENT & facial plastic surgeon, specialising in "everything from the neck up".
'Many of my male patients are looking to correct sports injuries," he says.
"Irish men are becoming much more open to the idea of cosmetic surgery and I don't think it is really about vanity.
"In many cases, they may be competing for jobs and many studies have shown if two people have the same experience and the same CVs, employers will usually choose the person who is more physically attractive.
"People tend to associate good, healthy looks with success, with ability or vitality.
"Also, I think it is more usual now for Irish people who have divorced in middle age to go back on the dating scene and live very active social lives and I think that is a factor for men."
Dr Golchin, who heads the About Face Clinic in Dublin, says there are many options for men, including non-surgical procedures such as botox, wrinkle-fillers and skin-peels, that can make a big difference to appearance.
Aileen McDonnell, clinic manager for the River Group, says they do notice differences between their male and female clients. "Men tend to do all of their research on the internet, by themselves, before they come to us," she says.
"They don't talk about the procedures with their friends and they tend to be very anxious about keeping it as private as possible, whereas women tend to be much more open and to talk to friends and colleagues. But it is definitely less of a taboo subject for Irish men now."
Cosmetic surgery is also becoming more affordable: ear correction surgery starts at around €4,000; rhinoplasty at €6,000; and breast reduction surgery also starts at €6,000.
However, Ms McDonnell stresses prospective cosmetic surgery patients should take care in choosing their surgeon.
"Make sure you have a consultant plastic surgeon who is on the specialist register and ensure you are having the procedure in a fully equipped private general hospital," she says.