I remember the first time someone called me a pretty boy. I was 13, and it felt awful. It wasn’t a compliment to my good looks; it was a call out for being effeminate. There was some truth to that grade-school slur as I had impeccable grooming habits. In middle school, I was blowing out my hair on the daily and spraying it with a plume of L’Oréal Elnett. By high school, I was using my mom’s Prescriptives alpha hydroxy moisturizer followed by Clarins self-tanner. When I came out of the closet in college, my beauty regimen further evolved, and that’s when others took notice. Being gay and well-groomed turned me into some sort of expert for my female friends. Soon I was highlighting their hair in my dorm bathroom, helping them apply their makeup, and serving them with tips and tricks I had learned throughout my youth.
After college, I worked at JPMorgan in New York City and was running a cottage industry from my cubicle consulting my female colleagues on their skincare regimens. Eventually my love of beauty tipped the scales, and in 2005, I went from the bank to the beauty counter. I was seeing a cosmetic dermatologist to get laser treatments to remove years of sun damage from obsessive indoor and outdoor tanning. He was in the process of launching a luxury cosmeceutical skincare line, and I wanted to work for him. Three weeks and a pay cut later, I went from patient to employee.
It was an absolute dream job. I worked in product development and got to try every high-end skincare product on the market for “research.” In between, I dabbled in almost every procedure his practice offered: Botox, chemical peels, laser facials, electro-current facials. I even got a little bit of laser lipo on my man boobs — something I’ve never admitted. (Somehow this article feels like a safe space to let that out.) The skincare business operated out of his dermatology office, and there were almost as many men roaming the halls as there were women. At first I was surprised to see straight male executives coming in for Botox, filler and laser hair removal. But there was always a disclaimer for these guys: “It can’t look like I’ve had anything done.” Yes, men wanted to accentuate their beauty, but there was an element of secrecy.
Almost 15 years later, male beauty is exploding, and there’s no way to keep it quiet. The handful of Queer Eye seasons has led male beauty forward, with Jonathan Van Ness at the helm rocking a full beard and a tulle skirt preaching to the masses the importance of hyaluronic acid. Fashion god Tom Ford has been open about his love for Botox and fillers for years, and at 58, he looks as fresh as the day he walked away from Gucci. George Clooney got an eyelift, Gordon Ramsay has a chin implant and Josh in the cubicle next to you just got Botox. What some might pass off as vanity is really a shift in cultural acceptance. And the reality is it’s considered necessary rather than excessive.
In 2016, Forbes coined the term “Brotox” when it reported on the increase in men seeking out injections to get rid of the furrow between their brows. According to a recent American Society of Plastic Surgeons study, almost half a million men get Botox each year and the male customer base for this industry is growing by 8% annually. A recent Fox Business article claims guys are turning to Botox to keep up the appearance of youth in order to climb the corporate ladder without aging out of it. I’m 42 and definitely have had moments when I wonder at what point will I walk into a client’s office and they’ll think I’m too old to be relevant. Two years ago, I told a cashier at my local drugstore that I was turning 40 and she said, “I can’t believe it!” I was relieved until she followed up with, “I thought you were older.”
I felt panicked. I had always looked younger than my age. I have always taken great care of my skin, and I know my way around a good concealer and brow groomer. This woke me up. Had I let myself go? I didn’t run out and get a face full of fillers, but I started seeking out new treatments, professionals, gadgets and products to keep me looking 38 forever. Luckily for you, I’ve documented everything I’ve discovered along my personal beauty journey.
If you’re going the injectables route — whether it’s a little Botox to smooth out your forehead lines or a bit of filler to make your jawline more prominent — find doctors or board-certified physician assistants who will take the time to get to know your face. I got Botox from a high-end dermatologist years ago, and it was a disaster. He waltzed into the room, gave me a few shots of Botox and left. I had a sagging eyelid for three months because he hadn’t taken the time to get to know my face and injected in the wrong area.
The demand for noninvasive aesthetic procedures is growing by roughly 10% a year, and men are an important factor in fueling this. Cartessa Aesthetics is the exclusive U.S. supplier for the Tetra CO2 laser used to do a CoolPeel, a facial resurfacing procedure that employs a laser to improve skin texture, minimize pores, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and sun damage. CO2 is nothing new, but it came at a cost of looking pretty awful for days (or weeks!) after a treatment. (Think back to that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha got a “lunchtime peel,” and her face looked like beef carpaccio at Carrie’s book launch party.) The Tetra’s ability to cool the skin during the treatment lets the laser do its best work without heating up the skin, so you’ll only be red for a couple of days and it’s not enough to draw attention in the boardroom.
There’s another route for guys who aren’t ready for Botox or lasering: radio frequency microneedling. This procedure pokes many tiny holes in the skin to jog your own collagen production while delivering radio frequencies to tighten skin and reduce wrinkles. Why should men care about collagen? It’s what gives your skin its elasticity and plumpness. As we age, collagen breaks down, skin begin to sag and we spend all our money trying to get it back. This death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach follows the theory that you need to break your skin down so your collagen builds itself back up. Microneedling has been around for a long time, but newer versions from companies like Vivace have better delivery systems that tone the skin.
A few years ago, I started seeing at-home LED light therapy on the shelves of drugstores claiming to clear skin and reduce the signs of aging. I became a huge fan of the Neutrogena Red & Blue Light Therapy Acne Mask and have absolutely seen a difference. I’m currently trying a new at-home LED device, the SpectraLite, which targets the area where most of my aging concerns are present: my eye area. Dr. Dennis Gross created this FDA-cleared eye mask, which showcases a full spectrum of therapeutic light and takes only minutes to use. I put it on when my alarm goes off in the morning and wear it while I snooze.