If Don Draper were around in 2019, by now he would have traded his three-martini lunch for a little midday dermal filler. “Men in suits are lining up for their next fix,” says New York City plastic surgeon Sachin Shridharani, MD, who has seen a significant rise in cosmetic procedures among his male clients.

And he’s right. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, while men made up just 6% of injectable wrinkle reducer procedures in 2017, that number is a 347% increase since 2000. Certain invasive procedures, like liposuction, are showing a year-over-year increase as well. Still, because the majority of aesthetics marketing is targeted toward women — coupled with the fact that men aren’t talking about it with each other — it continues to feel taboo.

According to some experts, one of the biggest reasons men are seeking out these treatments is a changing workplace that increasingly values youth over experience. “Ageism is a very real thing, and many men feel highly pressured to stay relevant in their field,” says dermatological physician’s assistant Laura Dyer, MSHS, who has seen an increase in male patients asking for injectable wrinkle reducers and dermal fillers to help them look younger.

These men don’t want full-on makeovers, but rather subtle tweaks that won’t completely erase their age. “Men don’t want to look like they did 20 years ago, they just want to look like the best possible versions of themselves,” says Dr. Shridharani. “They want to look distinguished to add credibility, but young enough to not be irrelevant,” adds Dyer.

It’s a fine line made even finer by the fact that many men keep it a secret. Ahead, we talked to five men — who all requested anonymity — about their decision to get work done to get ahead at work.

Kybella

Steve* is a media executive in his late thirties who got Kybella almost two years ago because he was self-conscious about his double chin. He has kept the treatment entirely secret from everyone in his life. “I saw my best friend 72 hours after the procedure, and he still has no clue I had it done,” he says.

This secrecy is common — at least, according to Steve. “No straight male is ever going to talk to another straight male about plastic surgery,” he says. After extensive research, the non-invasive nature of Kybella is what sold him on it. “In my job, I don’t have the luxury to take five days off,” he says. “I can’t even take one day off. Now, you have a treatment for something that bothers me with only a 48-hour recovery period. That’s pretty incredible.”

While he may not have sought out treatment explicitly for his job, his performance at work soared. “We’d be kidding ourselves if we thought looks don’t matter,” he says. “No one gets a promotion because of plastic surgery unless they’re in porn. But, does it provide you additional confidence to do your job every day? Emphatically, yes.”

Injectable Wrinkle Reducers & Liposuction

Derrick, a 35-year-old freelance stylist, has been getting injectable wrinkle reducers since he was 29 and filler for about three years. The first time he got it was on an impulse, when a doctor client offered him a free treatment as a favor. Working in an image-focused industry, he admits he was probably more open to it than other men, and also started earlier. “I didn’t have one line on my face and I still don’t all these years later,” he says. “I don’t believe in a stigma, but I have to be careful. When a man starts to look too ‘done,’ that’s when things get tricky.”

His decision to get liposuction, much like injectables, was also for himself. After working out every day for years, he felt he needed extra help to get the body he wanted. After his procedure, his confidence went through the roof, but he still keeps it secret. “No one knows I got it done,” he says. “When you give somebody the ability to look at you and say, ‘Oh, that’s why you look like that,’ they take away everything that you worked for to get there.”

Still, that extra boost has proven to be invaluable in his career. “Now I’m able to walk into a room and own it,” he says. “It’s allowed me to land bigger jobs, not because my work is better, but because I’m able to sell myself better.”

Fillers & Gluteal Fat Transfer

The first time Jesse, an entrepreneur in his 50s, got liposuction was after the end of a long-term relationship. Despite a regular workout and diet routine, he was bothered by love handles that wouldn’t go away. “I was happy with the results of the first procedure,” he says. But 15 years later, he decided to do it again to refresh and detail the previous job. This time, he also opted to have some of the fat transferred to his butt, at his doctor’s suggestion. “When you age, you turn into a melting candle,” Jesse says. “Now I feel 10 years younger.”

Since then, he’s also started getting dermal fillers in his cheeks and around his eyes. While he says he wasn’t specifically thinking about his career when making the decision to get work done, it was a factor. “I want to stand in front of my clients and be on point for myself, number one, and also for my brand and my business,” he says. It is possible to go overboard, though. When he first started getting dermal fillers in his face, he admits he went a little too far. “When you don’t look like yourself in pictures, that doesn’t feel right,” he says.

His goal through it all is to “look like a refreshed version of myself,” he says. But the lasting effect of his procedures, especially the liposuction, is the ability to focus more on his work rather than his body. “I am the type of person who can obsess, and I don’t want to waste energy over a roll of fat,” he says. “I have a clarity now that allows me to focus on things that are more important.”

Injectable Wrinkle Reducers

When he was 10 years old, Marc, now a 42-year-old celebrity hairstylist, suffered a severe burn on his face that required skin grafts and surgery. Since then, he’s been diligent about taking care of his complexion. “You would never know that happened to me,” Marc says. “My skin-care routine is ridiculous. I do a lot of facials and lasers and stuff like that.” He credits his Latinx heritage for his investment in beauty, and also for his willingness to embrace cosmetic procedures. “Open up any Spanish magazine and it’s full of Botox ads,” he says.

The demands of his job led him to start injectable treatments. “My hours are so long and it became so tiring that it showed on my face,” he says. “I needed something to help me stay fresh-looking.” He was also interested on behalf of his high-profile clients, who regularly ask his advice on all sorts of beauty treatments, especially injectables. “New York women, and New Yorkers in general, have very high standards. How am I supposed to be an expert if I’m not doing it myself?”

Now, injectable wrinkle reducers are a cornerstone of Marc’s skin-care routine. “Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about my skin, especially after they find out how old I am,” he says. He’s happy to talk openly about his procedures, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what he sees in the mirror. “I’ll be exhausted from my schedule, but I’ll wake up and see that I don’t look as tired as I feel and that’s a great feeling,” he says.

Injectable Wrinkle Reducers & Fillers

Chris*, an advertising executive who is about to turn 40, started getting injectable wrinkle reducers and Aquagold facials (which deliver a small amount of dermal fillers and neurotoxins through a microneedle -type device) to stay competitive in his youth-obsessed industry. The brands he works with are increasingly focused on millennials and Gen Z, and want experts who can speak to that audience. “There’s an added level of credibility to people who look like they’re young enough to belong to the Zuckerberg generation,” he says.

In his industry, Chris says, experience is valued, but looking like you started in the workforce before smartphones existed is a detriment. “The perfect balance is somewhere between 35 and 50,” he says. Which is why, when he started getting injectable wrinkle reducers, he didn’t want to completely erase every line. “I don’t want to look like I did something,” he says. “I’m okay with maintaining a little bit of wrinkles, just enough so that it looks like I’m a slightly younger-looking version of myself.”

All it took for him to seriously consider injections was a few senior-level peers, in short succession, telling him he looked tired. “Right now, the ad world is obsessed with hustle culture,” he says. “If you look tired, it looks like you’re not keeping up.” To him, those comments confirmed he’d hit a slump. But once he got injections, the comments stopped and he found his mojo again. “My job is about getting great talent to join the company and convincing clients to hire us,” he says. “You have to be persuasive in every interaction and being somebody who appears to take care of yourself makes you a more persuasive person.”

*Names have been changed.

No Filter is a week-long series of frank, honest stories about cosmetic procedures — without judgment, sugar-coating, or stigma.

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