updated 28 Jan 2010, 09:04
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Thu, Jan 28, 2010
Urban, The Straits Times
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Looking sharp
by Hong Xinyi

British comedian Ricky Gervais kicked off his hosting gig at Sunday's Golden Globe awards with this wisecrack: 'Just looking at all the faces here reminds me of the great work that's been done this year... by cosmetic surgeons.'

The joke elicited a wave of mumured giggles from the assembled stars and it was not just the women who have faced plastic surgery rumours either.

Actor Mickey Rourke, for instance, is well-known for having had extensive plastic surgery on his face to repair damage sustained during his brief boxing career.

The likes of Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas and Sylvester Stallone have been linked to plastic surgery rumours as well.

Then there are American Idol judge Simon Cowell and British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who have openly admitted to having had Botox jabs.

It is not just showbiz types who are getting in on the fantastic plastic action either. Those climbing the corporate ladder - and those perched atop it - are jumping on board.

A hot topic here in recent weeks was the Dec 30 death of property firm chief executive Franklin Heng, 44, who had liposuction before he was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

British newspaper Daily Mail reported earlier this month that almost one in five Botox patients in Britain are now male, with bankers leading the pack.

Dubbing them 'Boytoxers', the report said: 'Britain's males are recognising (that) the increasingly tough job market means personal appearance is more important than ever and are prepared to emulate women by turning to cosmetic surgeons for help in slowing down the ageing process.'


Plastic surgeons and aesthetic doctors here that Urban spoke to also reported a corresponding jump in the number of high-profile men among their growing group of male patients.

Dr Marco Faria Correa, a plastic surgeon at East Shore Hospital, says that about 30 per cent of his patients are men, up from less than 20 per cent a few years ago. Of these, half are high-profile types from the corporate and entertainment sectors.

'Vanity is not exclusive to women,' he says. 'Looking young and fresh helps boost self-esteem and self-confidence and is also something that many people look for in a leader.'

For aesthetic doctor Amal Dass, male patients have formed 30 per cent of his clientele since he started his practice in Orchard Building in 2008.

Of these, high fliers from the business, entertainment and fashion world form about half.

This is a jump compared to the numbers he saw when he was undergoing training in aesthetic medicine and surgery in Japan and England in 2006 and 2007.

Then, men typically formed about 5 to 10per cent of total cosmetic surgery patients, he says.

'Nowadays, there are many TV shows that expose people to aesthetic medicine and surgery, which is also mentioned regularly in magazines and newspapers,' he says. 'So it's not surprising that more men have become more well-informed about and receptive towards such procedures.'

What men want when they seek a few nips and tucks usually depends on their age.

Says plastic surgeon Dr J. J. Chua, whose number of male patients has jumped 20 per cent in the past three years: 'Those who are in their 20s and beginning to make some money tend to want double eyelids or a sharper chin - procedures that will make them look more handsome and attractive.

'Those in their 40s to 60s want to look younger, so they ask for procedures that will get rid of wrinkles, blemishes like age spots and droopy eyelids.'


Dr Chua adds that his male patients also tend to be more sure about what they want.

'Usually, my male patients would have done their homework and decided what they want when they come in for consultations. Women tend to be less sure and are still shopping around, so they tend to ask more questions about the different procedures.'

High-profile patients share one characteristic, notes Dr Woffles Wu, who counts celebrities and corporate honchos among his clientele. Men have made up 40 per cent of his patients since the 1990s.

'These are very busy people who want to get back to their lives as quickly as possible, so they tend to be concerned about how much downtime is needed after a procedure.'

To cater to these needs, he perfected ways of doing facelifts that require a week of downtime instead of the usual three weeks for traditional facelifts.


If you are keen on getting nips and tucks, here is some advice from Dr Marco Faria Correa, a plastic surgeon at East Shore Hospital, on what to look out for.

- Plastic and cosmetic surgery require sedation and anaesthesia. As with any surgery, a patient has to undergo a full medical check-up to be sure that there is no underlying medical condition that will interfere with or increase the risk of the procedure. Patients who have hypertension, diabetes or other medical conditions have to obtain a clearance letter from their physicians to ensure that they are fit for cosmetic surgery.

- Clients are responsible for searching for the right surgeon and taking care of their own safety. Check with the Singapore Medical Council ( to verify the surgeon's credentials. Go to the clinic and have a proper consultation. Sit in the waiting room and see if the clients there are happy with the doctor's treatment and if they also underwent the same procedure you are considering, to be sure that the doctor is really experienced in that procedure.

- Attend public forums and search the Internet to learn about the procedure and find out what you really need. For instance, do you need just a filler or a facelift? Should you go for liposuction of the abdomen or a tummy tuck if you have a hanging belly?

- There is always a risk of an unknown drug allergy to cause anaphylactic shock, arrhythmia and so on. This can happen even in a procedure such as a nose job, chin augmentation or breast augmentation. This is why it is important that the procedure be done in a well-equipped medical facility, such as a hospital or a day surgery centre, to ensure that one can get immediate attention for life support in an emergency.


Jonathan Lee, 22, runs his own business in the lifestyle industry

Although he is barely in his 20s, Lee has already spent about $35,000 on plastic surgery - and he is not done yet.

It all began when he was 18. Having 'always wanted a smaller nose', he saved for months his earnings as a waiter and spent about $900 on a nose job, done in a 'really cheap' hospital in Bangkok.

With the help of an implant, he got a higher nose bridge. A year later, he decided to get more work done. 'I wanted to improve my nose by getting a narrower tip,' he says.

'I also wanted to get some work done on my eyelids because I wanted them to look more even and symmetrical.'

He had taken a break from university and was then doing marketing and manning an online store for a product promotion company owned by a friend.

This time, he went to a plastic surgeon who worked in one of the best hospitals in Bangkok and spent about $3,000 on the procedures.

However, the doctor did not inform him prior to the operation that he would be removing some cartilage from Lee's ear to use as support for his narrower nose tip. So he was shocked when he woke up after the operation and discovered a scar on his ear, which the doctor assured him would heal in a few weeks.

But to this day, he says, the scar remains red and inflamed and he has to take regular steroid shots to calm it down.

He was also not pleased with his new nose. 'There were subtle irregularities - one side looked slimmer than the other,' he says.

Things were about to get worse though. About eight months after the operation, he fell in the shower and landed on his face. The impact caused the newly inserted cartilage to protrude.

He returned to the same doctor, who operated on him again to push the cartilage back in.

A week after this operation, he returned for a routine follow-up visit, during which the doctor informed him that infection had set in. He went under the knife yet again and all his implants were removed.

The result, which he still lives with today, is a small dent at the tip of his nose, as well as a bit of discolouration.

Undeterred, he found a new doctor in Bangkok seven months after the series of operations and underwent another one in an attempt to improve the state of his nose.

The doctor put in a new bridge implant and tried to fix the dent at the tip, but there was not much he could do as his wound was still fresh and his skin had been worn thin by his previous operations. This cost about $1,500.

He has lived with his dented nose since then - the dent is now about half the size of a pinkie nail.

The experience has affected him immensely, he says. 'I still feel very disappointed and self-conscious about my nose. I'm not as sociable as I was before this happened,' he says.

Despite his harrowing experience, he has not given up on plastic surgery.

'Everybody has this intrinsic desire to look good and I don't think there's anything wrong with plastic surgery. I only regret not making more informed decisions and getting it right on the first try.'

Indeed, he has gone under the knife twice since his last nose job - he got a chin implant and had surgery on his eyes to improve on the last eyelid job.

Both operations were done by local plastic surgeon Dr Woffles Wu and cost $9,000 and $6,000 respectively.

Dr Wu is also currently thinking of the best way to repair his nose.

His nose aside, Lee says: 'I look like a better version of myself today.' While his main wish is for his nose to be fixed, he does not rule out getting facelifts and other nips and tucks when he hits middle age and needs more maintenance.

But you can be sure that he will be rigorous with his homework if he ever gets more work done. 'Every time I look at my nose, I think of the mistake I made in not doing enough research on the surgery and the doctor,' he says.

'I screwed it up really badly and I think about it all the time.'

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This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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