For most of his career, model-slash-influencer Christian Bendek never really considered doing anything to his face.
“I just paid attention to my hair — that was the only thing that mattered to me,” says Bendek, who grew up in the Caribbean and moved to New York City in 2012 to pursue modeling.
A few years into his career, Bendek succumbed to the apparent necessity of a daily moisturizer. Soon after that, routine facials were on the menu, too. “When I turned 30, something switched in my brain — you just start to notice little things in your face,” he says.
By 2017, Bendek was ready for Botox, a form of botulinum toxin that prevents wrinkles by blocking movement in the facial muscles.
“The first time I did it was at Peachy in New York — it was like $375 for the whole face, no matter how many units,” says Bendek, whose key areas of concern were — and still are — his forehead, crows feet and the 11s, which are vertical lines residing between one’s eyebrows, just above the bridge of the nose.
“You kind of make fun of people doing [Botox] until you do it yourself,” continues Bendek, who still frequents Peachy for his injectable fix. He’s also tried BodyFactory Skin Care on the Upper East Side, and, thanks to his sizable social media following, a slew of other med spas across the city that have offered him free services. “I’ve been to so many random plastic surgeons that I’ll sometimes find myself in Midtown like, ‘You should not be here getting free Botox — they’re going to steal a kidney from you.’”
Bendek — whose kidneys are indeed still intact — is among a growing group of men whose self-care regimens are extending beyond product and into the realm of minimally invasive treatments, a movement some have playfully dubbed “brotox.”
Says Tiffany Demers, founder and chief executive officer of med spa booking app Upkeep: “I think once the [injectable] stigma lifted on the female side, it’s now slowly moving over to men. They’re now being allowed to tap into that side of themselves where it’s OK to want to take care of yourself, it’s OK to want to look good.”
Launched in 2021, Upkeep boasts an average male user base of 20 percent, above the industry average of 15 percent. Through the app, users in Los Angeles, Orange County, New York, Miami, Palm Beach, San Diego and Texas can browse and book treatments from nearby med spas at their convenience.
“Medical aesthetics is rapidly becoming the new personal care,” says Demers, who anticipates it won’t be long before most people over the age of 18 are actively immersed in the space. “A lot of the time men will dip their toe into [treatments] with their girlfriend bringing them in and making them do Botox. Then they see nothing bad happens to them, and they love it.”
Last year, Joe Jonas rocked his Zillennial fan base when he joined the ranks of Gwyneth Paltrow and R&B singer Teyana Taylor as a face of Xeomin, an FDA-approved Botox alternative. “I’m getting older, seeing more frown lines, so [Xeomin] was an option that I thought was really intriguing and I loved the result,” the singer told WWD at the time.
And though it’s hardly a new phenomenon for men in Hollywood to splash out on intricate maintenance routines, it is relatively nascent for them to speak openly about said routines.
“I remember even five years ago going to dinners and everybody would lean into the table and whisper, ‘Are you doing Botox?’ like it was this big secret,” says Amy Schecter, CEO of Ever/Body, a med spa which entered the market in 2019 and now counts 11 U.S. locations. “Now you go to dinner and everyone’s like, ‘Oh, I do it here, here and there’ — people are sharing best practices, asking each other questions. We as an industry almost came out of the closet.”
A report by Data Bridge Market Research valued the medical aesthetics market at $14.4 billion in 2022, estimating it will reach $41.3 billion by 2029. One key driver of this growth is increased Millennial and Gen Z spend on medical aesthetic treatments: Research by Guidepoint Qsight indicates Millennial and Gen Z sales per U.S. practice have risen an average 82 percent from 2018 to 2022. This growth is likely to get even steeper.
“I get guys coming in who are anywhere from age 25 to 65,” says Dr. Alonso Martin, who operates a popular namesake practice in Miami, one of the largest medical aesthetics markets in the country. “Men are often in for procedures that require little to no downtime — they don’t want to be recovering in their house for four, five, six days.”
Stem cell micro-needling on the face and scalp are among Martin’s most requested procedures by male clients. “Increasingly, I’m getting clients that have never done anything to their face — they’re in a market now where everyone looks much younger, healthier — more youthful I guess would be the best term — and they want to keep up,” he says.
Even in New York, where the medical aesthetics market is a little more “old school” compared to Miami, says Demers, the pressure to keep pace is real.
“If I have a kid and move to the suburbs, maybe I’ll just make peace with it and not retouch my face, but right now, living in New York City, you need to keep up with all these kids,” Bendek says.
Ever/Body’s male client population grew by more than 200 percent from 2022 to 2023, with men comprising roughly 14 percent of the company’s total clientele. Schecter says the top three treatments men come in for are Emsculpt NEO (a body contouring treatment typically opted into by men who are already in shape, but want an additional boost), Hydrafacials and wrinkle relaxers Botox and Xeomin.
“As much as we’ve grown our older client population in the past year, we’re also bringing in a lot more younger male clients; they’re starting earlier like their female contemporaries instead of waiting,” Schecter says.
Social media is the biggest factor fueling young people’s growing tendency toward preventative Botox and aesthetic procedures.
“I think Instagram has totally changed the way men show up in the world,” says Candace Marino, founder of The L.A. Facialist whose clients include Kourtney Kardashian Barker, Miranda Kerr and a number of male A-listers who are comfortable enough to get facials and other aesthetic treatments but not yet comfortable enough to be name-dropped in an article about them (baby steps).
“I would say most of the men that come in for facials are also getting in on the Botox game,” Marino continues, noting that filler for men, by contrast, is still more niche.
“With my gay clients, anything that can help them preserve and look youthful they’re into, but I would say the furthest I’ve seen a straight male client go [with filler] is in the jaw and chin line, to make them have more of a masculine appearance,” she says.
Los Angeles-based Dr. Alexander Rivkin, who invented the non-surgical nose job, echoes Marino’s sentiment. “Men want to have that more masculine appearance to their lower third of their face, but they still want to look like themselves.”
To that end, Rivkin’s male nose alterations tend to err on the side of subtlety. “The last thing men want is to suddenly have a nose that is markedly different from their nose two, three weeks ago and they go into a meeting or locker room and people are like, ‘what happened?’” he says.
On TikTok, where aesthetic practitioners and plastic surgeons like Dr. Miami, Anthony Youn and Dr. Cat count millions of followers, consumer access to the formerly hush-hush aesthetics space has never been greater.
“Content tends to be the highest converter; the medical aesthetics category is one of the most searched [beauty] categories on social media,” Demers says.
Beyond popular figureheads who share client before-and-afters and respond to viewer requests, average TikTok denizens have begun documenting their Botox journeys, too. The #Brotox hashtag on the app counts more than 17.8 million views, with many videos tagged depicting first-timers sharing their treatment experiences and initial reactions, and women showcasing their male significant others’ Botox results (“Couples who Botox together stay together!” reads the text overlay in one such video).
While the brotox trend on social media is still in its relative infancy, it’s the latest manifestation of a larger trend wherein male influencers are demystifying self care for other men.
TikTok creators like Rasik Kaiser, Dontrell Britton and Matthew Campos have grown to prominence for showcasing their skin care routines, self-care rituals and daily habits, essentially demonstrating to their male audiences that self care is indeed masculine.
“Routine is something that’s always been instilled in me,” says 24-year-old Kaiser, who lives in Dallas and has more than 600,000 TikTok followers. “Not only do I show my routine, which my female audience loves, but I also teach men my routine — that’s how I keep that balance of both [audiences] on my platform.”
Beyond social, male beauty is evolving in the product realm, as well. Though Jean Paul Gaultier’s now-defunct male makeup line, Le Male, may have been ahead of its time when it launched in 2003, brands today are increasingly going big on men’s grooming and, in some cases, men’s makeup.
Chanel, for example, launched its first line of men’s makeup, Boy de Chanel, in 2018. Today, the line includes foundation, brow pencils, lip balms, moisturizers and nail polish, ranging in price from $27 to $90. Clinique for Men and Dior, meanwhile, have continued to steadily expand their assortments of men’s skin care and grooming products, with the latter most recently welcoming a 2-in-1 face mask and cleanser last spring.
Indies are getting in on the action, too — Francois Nars’ former assistant, makeup artist Jamie Melbourne, teamed with industry veteran Tony Lecy-Siewert to launch a new men’s makeup brand last month called Apostle.
The brand debuted with one stock keeping unit, the Reclaimed Tinted Moisturizer, which retails for $26 and comes in 12 shades. It comes in navy blue, palm-sized packaging.
“We have this joke that we want women to go into their boyfriend’s or husband’s kits and steal products from them, as opposed to the other way around,” Lecy-Siewert says.
Melbourne adds that a bronzer, loose powder and nail polish could be on the horizon for Apostle, but the brand’s product footprint ultimately comes down to where it sees the most demand.
“In our research, we found that men walk into Sephora, Ulta Beauty, any retailer, and they ask for eye cream, concealer and tinted moisturizer — those are the top three products,” Lecy-Siewert says.
And just like with their aesthetic treatments, when it comes to beauty products, most men want to keep it simple.
“We found that efficacy, reliability and price point are the three drivers for men purchasing,” Lecy-Siewert says.