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Pitching fillers as a way to increase the masculinity of your face is one way to do that. But the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic—lost jobs, social isolation, hours spent staring at oneself on an unflattering Zoom camera—also seem to have created an environment in which the idea of investing in one’s appearance seems to be resonating with men.

“For men now with the way people lost jobs and are getting back into it, it’s competitive. It’s competitive as to who is going to get jobs, and they want to look the best they can,” says Dr. Jason Emer, a board certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. “They want to be as youthful-looking as possible. And they see celebrities, they see Snapchat filters and Instagram filters, and I hate to say this, but facetuning apps and other things like that, where people have that chiseled, shredded jawline, where they have those really sculpted features.” Emer found that advertising that he specialized in men allowed him to stand out in a crowded market of Beverly Hills dermatologists and plastic surgeons. He frequently shares his transformations of male patients on Instagram and YouTube, showcasing everything from male facial sculpting to penis enlargement.

The coronavirus pandemic may have exacerbated these pressures, but it did not create them. Brian*, a 26-year-old Los Angeles native who works in sales, first tried facial fillers two years ago in his jawline and chin along with a small amount in his lips, and has been maintaining them ever since. “It’s just a way for me to feel more confident. It definitely gives me more masculine features I would say, while still being subtle,” he says.

In his profession and location, he says, looking more attractive is just part of the job requirement. In that sense, getting fillers is not so different from maintaining an exercise or skincare regime. “I think that they’re all leading to the same outcome, which is a better you,” he says.

Dr. Rupert Critchley, founder of VIVA Skin Clinic in London, also reports a “Zoom boom” in patients as UK lockdown procedures have lifted. “Ten years ago, I had guys coming in with a cap on, sitting in the corner of the waiting area, head down. Now people are coming in with much more confidence,” he says. “I have seen that as an evident change in the mentality of guys getting fillers, but there still is a little sheepishness.”

Improved techniques have allowed doctors to offer more customized procedures, with less downtime, Critchley says. That includes the introduction of cannulas, small tubes that can administer fillers to multiple parts of the face through just one entry point, resulting in fewer needle pricks and less bruising. 

“Years ago when I first started, we were just injecting lines,” Critchley says. “We take much more of a full-face approach nowadays.” New products have also kept up with evolving beauty norms: in 2019, Allergan launched Juvéderm Volux, a hyaluronic acid-based filler designed with a denser consistency specifically for use in the lower face. Critchley says he uses the product for both men and women, but for men is often using a larger quantity to add width to the jawline, rather than just definition.

Fillers may be non-surgical procedures, but that doesn’t mean they pose no risk at all, Linkov notes. Unlike Botox, which the FDA classifies as a drug, fillers are classified as an implant because they don’t entirely dissipate, though hyaluronic acid-based fillers can be dissolved with hyaluronidase. “The aesthetic impact is there for X number of months. But the filler doesn’t completely just vanish. And that’s why when people keep going back for more and more filler, you start to look kind of unnatural, and you have this kind of blown up look,” he says.

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