Why so vain?
That's one question Mr Kelvin Quah has often been asked since he went for eye-bag and double eyelid surgery about five months ago.
But Mr Quah, 45, a project director in the construction industry, takes such ribbing in his stride.
"Some of my friends and regular customers will say, 'You're so old already, why do you still want surgery?'" he said.
"But it's okay. There's nothing to be offended about. I know they're just joking."
He said he spent $9,000 on the two procedures done by Dr Chua Jun Jin, a plastic surgeon who runs JJ Chua Rejuvenative Cosmetic and Laser Surgery.
The trend of men going for aesthetic treatments came under the spotlight last week.
Last Monday, make-up artist Yuan Sng, 40, was awarded $250,000 and costs by the High Court after he sued aesthetics doctor Dr Amaldass N. Dass, who had performed a rhinoplasty - a nose job - on him in February 2008.
Mr Sng ended up with an infection and a dent on his nose among other things.
Dangers of a botched job
Dr Dass admitted to medical negligence and a breach of duty of care.
In the Subordinate Courts, there is an ongoing coroner's inquiry into the death of chief executive Franklin Heng, 44, who died after liposuction in December 2009.
Aesthetic treatments can be performed by doctors who are not plastic surgeons, provided they adhere to the Ministry of Health's licensing requirements.
In Mr Quah's case, he didn't like his eye bags.
"My customers would say things like 'Why? Last night didn't sleep ah?'" he said.
When he raised the idea of going under the knife to his wife, she was supportive.
"She helped me find out about the doctor, how much it would cost and how long it would take," he said.
And it was with her encouragement that he went ahead with the 11/2-hour operation, just a week after the consultation. He returned to work the next day.
Said Mr Quah: "Those who used to see me often noticed the change. Some couldn't even recognise me."
Quest for beauty
Quest for beauty
Although he has recovered fully from the eye-bag operation, it will take one more month before his eyelids "look natural".
That is the reason he declined The New Paper's request to be photographed.
But he isn't embarrassed if people find out about the operations.
"Since you're already going to do it, people will know...You can't hide," he said.
Two other men who had also had work done to improve their looks told TNP that they're open about it too.
Celebrity hairstylist Addy Lee, 40, is one.
He has had laser treatments done on his face for acne and mesotherapy - a treatment in which drugs are injected to dissolve cellulite - on his waist area.
"I want to be beautiful. You must look good, especially in this industry...If you're ugly, (people) won't have confidence (in you)," he said.
He is planning to go for a nose job next.
"Whatever I can do, I'll do. I just have no time," he said.
"I know a lot of guys who do plastic surgery. I think it's very normal."
Another man, a 32-year-old make-up artist who declined to be named, said that over the past nine years, he has had three nose jobs, a double eyelid operation, and a procedure to make his chin sharper. They were done here, in South Korea and Thailand.
"It has nothing to do with anyone pressurising me. I knew it was available and I wanted to try," he said.
"I was in secondary school when I first thought about plastic surgery. I think I like making changes aesthetically."
Seven plastic surgeons and aesthetic doctors TNP spoke to said they are seeing more male patients these days.
Dr Marco Faria Correa, a Brazilian plastic surgeon who has a clinic at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said now, 25 per cent of his patients are men, as compared to just 15 per cent a decade ago.
Likewise for Dr Tan Ying Chien, a plastic surgeon at The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre. In the past few years, he has seen a 25 per cent increase in male patients each year.
And these men cut across all age groups and professions.
What differentiates them is that the older men, in their 40s and upwards, usually seek treatment for age-related concerns such as balding, a bulging tummy and wrinkle lines.
The younger ones in their 20s and 30s look for procedures to enhance their looks. These include rhinoplasty, otoplasty (an operation to pin back prominent ears), chin augmentation, and treatment for acne.
Dr Chua, who operated on Mr Quah, said that more men now see plastic surgery as "a lifestyle choice".
"Instead of spending on the latest computer, they would rather spend to 'upgrade' their looks," he said.
Safer, with better results
Dr Tan added that advances in technology also mean that the procedures are safer and produce better results.
Dr David Loh, who runs David Loh Surgery and is the honorary secretary of the Society of Aesthetics Medicine Singapore (SAM), said the shorter downtime is one reason men are finding plastic surgery more attractive.
And the lunch hour is when many men slip out to get a "quickie".
Said Dr Loh: "The popular term is 'lunchtime facelift' and people take it literally, doing it during lunchtime, even though they could come in at 4pm.
"It's very fast. If they're coming in for botox, it'll take just five to 10 minutes."
For older men, looking good gives them a leg up at work.
Dr Leslie Kuek, a plastic surgeon at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said his older male patients "come mainly for rejuvenation because they're looking more tired and it affects them in their work, especially for those who have to meet clients and those in sales".
He said: "Today's competitive society is such that you'll need whatever little edge you can get over your competitors or colleagues.
"For older men, sometimes they feel that they need to get a makeover to improve themselves."
This article was first published in The New Paper.