In Hollywood utopia, a beautiful woman is matched by a man with killer looks. Yet, until not too many years ago, this was not the case in real life. Women have usually paid much more attention to their looks than men.
But things are changing in Singapore and elsewhere, if the evolving clientele of cosmetic doctors are anything to go by. Take freelance actor Kevin Ang, 42, who has monthly laser treatments at EHA Clinic in Scotts Road to tighten his skin and remove pigmentation.
Every half a year, he supplements that with botox injections, which reduce wrinkles by relaxing the underlying muscles. With the treatments, which cost $400 to $600 a month, Mr Ang believes he can easily play a 30-year-old character.
It makes him more versatile at work, he said, as it is much easier to apply make-up to look older than to look younger.
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The perks for him go beyond the screen. "The main benefit is confidence in the way you appear on screen, in auditions and even the way you meet people day to day... Beauty is no longer a female domain," he told The Sunday Times.
Furthermore, the results are more lasting than what one gets from skin therapy at a spa, he said, adding that he knows he is in safe hands as doctors have to comply with strict Singapore Medical Council regulations.
The world has changed because of information technology. We see photos of ourselves more than we did 10 years ago. People are more critical of what they look like.
DR TAN YING CHIEN, on the increasing pursuit of beauty.
EHA Clinic's medical director Elias Tam said the proportion of men going for cosmetic procedures has been growing over the last five years. While men previously made up about 5 per cent of the clinic's patients, they now constitute about 20 per cent.
He foresees that as the population ages, the number of men requiring aesthetic treatment will increase. "Men are not spared from ageing and competition, he said.
"First impressions count and can often make or break a deal. We are seeing men finally catching up with women in terms of taking better care of their appearance."
Dr Tam added that wives are becoming more supportive of their husbands over this, often accompanying them during their sessions at the clinic.
Men are also appearing more often at plastic surgeon Tan Ying Chien's clinic at Novena Medical Centre. Dr Tan's The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre has seen a 15 to 20 per cent annual increase in male patients since around six years ago.
Treatments that have been done mostly on female patients, such as nose modifications, creation of double eyelids and liposuction of the tummy, are seeing more men, he said.
There has also been an increase in those going for treatments usually preferred by men, such as the fixing of thick lips and protruding ears, and even saggy pectorals.
"The world has changed because of information technology," said Dr Tan. "We see photos of ourselves more than we did 10 years ago. People are more critical of what they look like."
He added that people may even be influenced by what they see on TV, such as Korean dramas. Plastic surgery is said to be widespread among South Korean celebrities.
Dr Tan said his clients include lawyers, bankers, doctors, accountants and even teachers, with the first two constituting 20 to 30 per cent. "In the job market, if your competitor is equally qualified, how presentable you are is important as well," he said.
For example, one of his male patients, a 42-year-old finance executive who declined to be named, said he often got comments from friends and clients that he looked tired, even if he had had sufficient sleep. The patient has since had his eyebags removed in a two-hour operation that cost about $4,000.
"It definitely adds to my self-confidence," he said. "My wife also agrees that I am a younger and fresher version of my previous self."
Dr Tan explained that with improving technology, cosmetic procedures have become easier and more widely available, and recovery is faster.
"With today's techniques, you can't tell (that a treatment has been done) unless you're trained and know what to look for," he said.
Information on the Internet also allows prospective patients to understand the procedures better.
The trend is seen elsewhere too, such as in the US. A Bloomberg report last month said millennial men in the US are increasingly interested in cosmetic procedures, either surgical or non-surgical, and reasons ranged from the desire to feel better about themselves, to pleasing their partners or to remaining competitive in their careers.
It also said social media had made people more aware of their looks.
Meanwhile, Mr Ang's wife supports his quest for a better look, and encourages him to go for the treatments. Sometimes, one or two of his three sons - who are six, seven and 15 - tag along.
"They are very curious and will ask questions, and the doctor will explain to them. It is an educational experience, that beauty could be attained via science," he said.