Jab-happy execs dodge the needling

If some of your male colleagues are looking refreshed after the holiday, perhaps they have been - with the help of a syringe. Call it Santa's Little Helper for hardworking professionals. Or, if you must, Botox.

Perhaps the boss has come back looking brighter, or the guy in the next office strangely serene after a week or two at home with the kids. They could well be among the men who have taken advantage of the summer break to have a little cosmetic enhancement. This way they have avoided the risk of tell-tale bruising while arriving back at their desks smooth-browed, taut-jawed and primed to hold on to their jobs for another year.

While women are becoming less reticent about their use of fillers and Botox, men "definitely do not" tell colleagues or peers if they undertake anti-ageing treatments, according to cosmetic physician Dr Sean Arendse.

While women can use makeup to cover any unsightly marks, men will often use the excuse of a sporting injury or DIY accident to explain any bruising at injection sites. With their tougher skin, men are often more vulnerable to bruising from injectables.

"There's a certain group open about it but not the general straight guy," says Arendse, who has noted a big increase in the number of executives seeking consultations at his skin clinic in Melbourne's exclusive Toorak.

If they can't manage an appointment during their holidays, the high-flyers will make one on a Friday afternoon so that they have the weekend to recover. Or play sport and/or do DIY for Monday morning conference storytelling.

"Men wouldn't bother with Botox unless they could see a real strategic benefit," says corporate image consultant Nicola Barnard. "If you're older and you're working with younger guys there would be value in it."

The real value that Botox, and its market rival Dysport, can provide is in "relaxing" a furrowed frown and "lifting" a heavy brow for up to five months. Restylane, Juvederm and similar fillers provide volume to a sagging face. A typical Botox treatment costs a non-tax refundable $600, and fillers about twice that.

Most men are in their late 40s or 50s when they make their first appointment for these treatments – often up to two decades after their female colleagues take the plunge.

"It'd be nice to get them earlier, to educate them about looking after their skin," says Arendse. "Men want instant results. They come in thinking they know what they want but it's not always what they actually need. They want to get rid of crow's feet and they don't see the major volume loss in the cheeks or that their skin is terrible. We have to say 'well, your money is better spent here'."

Dr Gabrielle Caswell, president of the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia, says men are not seeking Botox to smooth the character from their faces. "They use it to look less cranky."

That explains the fresh-faced boss then. Who may well be explaining it – to himself – as a "medical procedure". This makes Botox seem a sound, legitimate professional move.

"Men prefer to consult with the plastic surgeon while women will come in and have facials from the treatment menu," says Maria Nagaoka.

She's a dermal therapist at the Melbourne-based Erase clinic, which is recording a 10 per cent increase in male clients year on year. "Men don't want ongoing. They want once-off, then they get told to come back in three months and they do as they're told," Nagaoka says. "They take the specialist recommendations seriously."

It's not only white-collar men who like to be told what to do. All types are seeking treatment - businessmen and celebrities, obviously, but also tradesmen, creatives and dads. And all are equally clandestine. "Men are taking more of an interest in their appearance," says Arendse, "but quietly."

Men might know what they want, when they want it and are prepared to pay for it, but they do not necessarily want the whole world – and especially the workplace – knowing about it.