Botox is now being used by men, some of whom did not even run for President. The number of men in the U.S. who paid to get a series of tiny injections in their face nearly tripled from 2001 to 2007--to 300,000, or about 7% of the total Botoxed population. And despite the recession, those numbers aren't going down yet; one of the many things the laid-off cannot afford is to look their age.
Men usually get Botox to remove those two vertical lines between their eyebrows that make them look angry and confused and thus, one could argue, masculine. They also use the product to smooth out the horizontal creases in their foreheads, though, unlike women, they don't tend to worry about crow's feet. Men do, however, fret a lot more about the pain. "They get so jacked up worrying that it will hurt," says Botox enthusiast and nine-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Spitz. "Maybe that's why women have babies and we don't."
When 1970s Olympic heroes--and mustachioed ones at that--get work done, it would seem to mark social acceptability among guys. Spitz, though, is a spokesman for Allergan, the company that makes Botox and has started to market directly to men via its website. Sure, Spitz first considered getting the world's most common cosmetic procedure after a friend, former Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci, told him that the wrinkles between his eyes made him look old and overly serious, but he got a whole lot more interested when Allergan started paying him.
Who, then, are the other 299,999 dudes getting Botox? And are any of them not famous or not gay? I searched among my friends for a straight male Botox user and quickly found out that Bill Torres, a heterosexual fifth-grade teacher, had done it. Yes, the 42-year-old lives in Los Angeles, and yes, his wife is Jackie Guerra--the actress who wrote Under Construction, about losing 170 lb. (75 kg) and rebuilding herself with plastic surgery--but he is straight. So I went to his house with Dr. William Murphy to see Torres get Botoxed up.
If you were very sick and could barely move, you wouldn't be able to find a doctor to make a home visit, but lots of M.D.s will happily travel to your house to temporarily paralyze your facial muscles. Murphy, who wears a bow tie, cuff links and monogrammed sleeves, is an ophthalmologist, but he spends almost no time working on eyes and almost all of it driving from Palm Springs to L.A., youthanizing people for $500 to $600 a session. (Prices could start to come down nationwide if the FDA approves the first Botox rival, Reloxin, possibly as early as April.) He has given out offers for free procedures in gift bags at the Emmys and Latin Grammys and says three-quarters of the recipients--including the men--cashed them in.
The vast majority of Murphy's male clients are indeed gay, though he has several straight actors and even a hetero sportscaster among his regular stops. Compared with his female clients, the men--in addition to being far more nervous about the pain--are extra-cautious about making sure they don't overdo it. "Five years ago, everybody wanted that frozen look," he says. "Now they tell me, 'Make me look refreshed. As few lines as possible, but I still need to have expression.'"
It isn't long into Murphy's visit before Torres' reason for getting Botox becomes obvious: his wife stands inches away, urging him to get as many injections as possible. And she gets so excited when the doctor suggests erasing the furrowed brow lines in addition to the "11s" between her husband's eyebrows that she throws up her hands in victory. "Thank God!" she yells. "They drive me insane. It's like when somebody has a big zit on the side of their face and they don't pop it. Just pop it!" She had already persuaded Torres to dye his hair, go for massages, shave his chest and get regular manicures and pedicures, but Botox took a little longer, in part because it meant scheduling appointments every four months.
While Torres breathes his way through some painful-looking injections right over his eye as part of his "lunchtime lift," i.e., a mini-face-lift so speedy and subtle you can go back to work that day, the good doctor asks me if I'm ready for my shots. At 37, and complimented more on my skin than on any of my other stunning physical attributes, I didn't expect to be told I needed Botox. "I would suggest just lightly across your forehead," he says. As I ponder this, he keeps going. "You have a very thick brow and deep-set eyes. It would be nice to do just a little brow lift so you have a more serene, refreshed, younger look." And then: "And a little bit around the eyes." When I demur, Murphy tells me that if I wait, the wrinkles will set deeper and require a bigger dose of expression-limiting Botox. "Honestly, with you I would start now," he says. "It would make such a difference."
Though Torres and his wife are cheering me on and the thrill of expensing Botox during a recession is compelling, I wimp out. It's not that I don't believe it would make me look better or that I'd be glad I did it. Shallow as it is, I just don't want to think of myself as a guy who gets cosmetic surgery. Plus, those needles really did look like they hurt.