Bro-tox: the man’s gift of the jab

Notice any friends who haven't been able to frown recently?

Women and gay men have been dabbling in facial immobilisation for many years.  Now, more and more straight men are picking up the 'Bro-tox' wand and aiming it directly at forehead lines and crinkly eyes.

I think a lot are at the age where their hair is receding and they’re becoming self conscious.

Lisa Sullivan

"The perception is that it's just gay men who do it," says Dr Jacinta Keoghan from Zecca Cosmedical in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria. "But that's not the case, we see men from all walks of life. Tradies, builders, doctors, lawyers. Often their wives or girlfriends have done it, so they'll come in, too."

Back up a second. Tradies? Builders? Those most macho of Aussie blokes - who not so long ago would have been taking the mickey out of Hollywood actors with a frozen face - are now lining up for anti-wrinkle injections?

"A lot of them work outside so are affected by the sun. They say they didn't like looking cranky when they weren't," Keoghan says.

It's becoming more popular for men. "Five years ago men were between one and five per cent our wrinkle injection business, today they're about 15 per cent."

The next step for men

Bro-tox, as it's sometime known, is the next step for the metrosexual man who has grown up taking care of his appearance and now is hitting his late 30s and early 40s.

Raymond Ware, a 41-year-old product developer from Mascot, has been getting Botox for five years.

"I've always been someone who talks with their eyebrows and had lines across my forehead," he says. "A friend of mine suggested Botox and straight away, it made a massive difference.

"I've got fair skin so I felt like I was ageing more rapidly than my olive-skinned friends. I didn't mind looking the same age as them, I just didn't want to look older. I probably get it twice a year."

Lisa Sullivan, a registered nurse and co-director at The Clinic in Bondi Junction, says the Bro-tox phenomenon has gained steam since the global financial crisis. "A lot of men over 50 want to freshen up their look so they can compete with younger men for jobs," she says.

"There are also men who have younger wives and do it on the sly, and we get a lot of homosexuals too. About 20 per cent of our clients are men."

Botox as an aperitif

So, GFC aside, is the Bro-tox boom generally down to a larger proportion of men being more aware of their ageing appearance and wanting to do something about it?

"I think a lot are at the age where their hair is receding and they're becoming self conscious," Sullivan says. "But we also have clients like these two beautiful guys in their early 30s, straight not gay, who come in together and go for dinner afterwards."

Botox as an aperitif? I've heard stranger things. But while the younger blokes are open about it, older men like to keep it on the down-low.

"And the men with younger wives don't tell anyone," Sullivan adds.

Not just for the face

Botulinum toxin, sold in Australia as Botox, Dysport or Xeomin, is mainly used for relaxing muscles in the immediate vicinity of the injection to smooth away fine lines, but it also has other uses.

"My husband is a landscaper and had Botox in his masseter muscle to stop grinding his teeth in his sleep," Sullivan recounts. "His doctor said 'I'll just pop some in your forehead and see if your wife notices. I never thought he would have it, but he did."

Nathan Williams, a Botox fan for over 15 years, also gets it under his arms to stop hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).

"I started Botox on my face when I was in my mid-20s and am now 43. I used to get it twice a year, but as I've gotten older, I need it every three months," he says.

"If you look at me and my older brother, there's no comparison, I'm only three years younger but I look 10 years younger. I also get it once a year under my arms to stop sweating."

And while many women now opt out of the 'frozen face' look, the gay clientele at Zecca love it.

"I did have one incident when I had to go to my ex's wedding in London and I wanted to look like the hot ex-boyfriend," Ware recalls. "But having Botox and jumping on a plane wasn't the best idea because it just looked like I couldn't get any emotion on my face at the wedding!"

Sullivan's clientele prefer a more relaxed look. "We have one gorgeous client who is very sun damaged and very wrinkled, and the wrinkles never go completely, it just softens them," she says.

Australians get around 250,000 anti-wrinkle treatments annually, according to the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, and it's the most popular form of cosmetic "surgery" in the country.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons predicts that 85 per cent of all cosmetic treatments will be non-surgical, and there is a similar trend in Australia. In an industry dominated by females, men are slowly beginning to catch up on all the insider tricks women have been using for years.

"I think maybe what women have always experienced is now also directed at men." Ware says, "Men aren't in the position any more to say 'you know what, I look like s***,' and get away with it."

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