The Secret World of Male Face-Lifts

Face Lift Graphic - P 2012

Face Lift Graphic - P 2012

Debating if they're good or bad is just old school. The male face-lift is proliferating in Hollywood -- but definitely behind closed doors.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Not everyone is George Clooney. For a variety of reasons -- not the least of which is bravery. A few years back, in an interview with Oprah, the now 51-year-old actor defiantly announced, "I had my eyes done. Can you tell? It's important to look awake."

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Outside of Mickey Rourke (age 60), who had to admit to his flagrant face- and cheek-lifts meant to repair early boxing blows, virtually no male actor -- not even Rupert Everett -- has confessed to submitting to knife or needle. (Even Clooney later claimed he was joking.) The faces tell the story, though: These days, there seem to be more aging A-listers dying to hold on to not just careers and authority but looks.

Welcome to the new male face-lift trend. But guys who get surgery face challenges women do not. "It's much more pussifying for a male actor to be seen in before and after pictures," says one major producer. "They're allowed to be vain, but not act vain. It takes away from a tough-guy image." Can you imagine Harrison Ford or Dennis Quaid exchanging doctors numbers at a cocktail party? And yet, says a major casting director: "I definitely see a proliferation in men having face-lifts. Like Nicholson and Pacino, they want to keep working and can't look much older than female counterparts."

It seems impossible that men like Michael Douglas (68) and Sylvester Stallone (66) haven't had face-lifts. But the desired end result isn't as aggressive as it is with women. These days, doctors know they need to leave some reality -- i.e., wrinkles -- in the picture. "Today, a man over 50 wants to stay looking 45," says dermatologist Dr. Stuart Kaplan. "No guy wants to look 'done' or like he's trying to look 30. The end result has to be rugged, masculine, healthy." A common cry among male patients is, "Don't make me look like I did anything." And for that, it'll cost about $20,000.

Simon Cowell, 53, isn't discreet; he's famous for saying, "Botox is no more unusual than toothpaste." His American Idol co-star Ryan Seacrest once quipped, "Simon Cowell's had so much Botox, he can't scowl!"

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Not only do men in the industry want to keep up with women, straight men now have to keep up with gay men, who, according to some plastic surgeons, are more likely to do fillers and face-lifts in their 40s. Their heterosexual counterparts wait longer, making for dramatic changes -- a dead giveaway. They're now learning that certain techniques such as filler face-lifts and neck lifts can make them seem to age much more gradually. "I just did a man in the business who felt like his wife looked young and he didn't," says plastic surgeon Dr. John Joseph. He felt the same way at work. " 'I hired all kids,' he told me, 'and I don't want to look like a dinosaur.' "

Going bald turns out to be two strikes against a youthful look. "If a guy has good hair," Joseph explains, "we can hide incision scars. But if he has male pattern baldness or the hair is thin near the ear, the scar will show, and you can't make it shorter -- the longer the incision, the longer the result."

Still, there are smart ways to camouflage scars on men. "When I cut their hair," says stylist Yuki Sharoni, "I leave it longer in that area to hide the scarring." Offers Beverly Hills derm Dr. Peter Kopelson, whose clientele is half male: "They can also have laser treatments to lighten the scars."

Plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Nassif says he's seen more male neck-lifts in recent years. "Men are most concerned about turkey necks. You can lipo that -- but if the neck's too loose, you can pull it together in one incision. If the man's older, he will need those incisions behind the ears." Nassif invented a technique to minimize scarring. "A good surgeon," he says, "will bring the hairline underneath the ear. If the man is bald, I do scar camouflage -- a zigzag scar. The eye won't follow it, and you won't see that much."

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Appearance-educated men are more willing to do "the liquid face-lift": using fillers under eyes, near jowls and in the temples for semi-permanent lifting. It doesn't alter eye shape like surgery does. "Treating the brow slightly with Botox lifts the upper eye, which is perfect for men," says Kopelson. "But my most popular solution now is injecting the temples with Sculptra." A volumizer, not a filler, Sculptra requires an average of three treatments, once a month for three months -- and lasts two years or more. The procedure stimulates collagen, lifts the upper facial area and fills in an area where tissue starts diminishing in one's 40s. Kopelson adds: "There's no scarring, and the patient looks less bony, less drawn -- their whole face looks tauter. Men love this because it requires no downtime or recovery."

And as it turns out, doctors have a much easier time treating men. According to Joseph, "Men don't whine as much or need hand-holding. Women call every day during their recovery process. When you ask a man if it hurts, he always says: "NO! And don't give me any pain pills!"

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Arnold Schwarzenegger, 65, has denied using Botox or surgery, saying his face "is the real thing."

Mickey Rourke's plastic surgery has been documented in photos online.

Sylvester Stallone hasn't admitted to surgery, but the action star continues to look youthful.

John Travolta The 58-year-old's more chiseled-looking face of late has rumors flying.