Confidence and cosmetic surgery: Taking the taboo out of cosmetic surgery for men

Cosmetic surgery: Is it empowering our patients’ confidence or hurting it? 

This is one of the biggest debates I’m hearing discussed in the health care sector, and I find the answer isn’t black and white. Cosmetic procedures have become increasingly popular and celebrated among today’s female patients. But what about male patients? 

Cosmetic surgery can invite patients to appreciate their bodies more, enhancing their appearance and reducing flaws that keep them from doing so. And while younger generations advocate for these benefits, this support and transparency mostly comes from women. 

Yet, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 1 million men had cosmetic surgery in 2020. Over the past 20 years, the number of male cosmetic patients has tripled. Still, as a physician who provides nonsurgical penis enlargement with dermal fillers, I find many male patients embarrassed during consultation. Often, they seek advice on how to open up to their partners about it. 

In my experience, this ties back to the taboo around men and mental health. Cosmetic procedures play a significant role in patients’ self-esteem and body image. In fact, the number one reason men seek penile enhancement isn’t to increase size but to increase the confidence that comes along with it. Opening up about self-esteem and body image challenges is the first step in understanding this taboo divide. We often exclude men from body-image and self-esteem problems; but the truth is, eating disorders affect about 10 million men in the US alone. That’s 25% to 36% of those who are diagnosed with an eating disorder. Who knows what these statistics would look like if men felt safe opening up and talking about body image.

Surveys suggest men are often self-conscious about their height, weight, and penis size. Society pokes fun at men’s size on TV shows and movies, comedy skits, and social media posts. Locker room syndrome, harmful media, and a lack of mental health support validate the finding that nearly half of men aren’t satisfied with their current size. Many believe the “average” penis size is over an inch longer than what it is. 

That’s why men report a significant increase in self-confidence, body acceptance, and self-esteem after their penile enhancement procedure, even 6 months later. 
Cosmetic surgery isn’t a solution on its own. However, it can be a gamechanger for patients’ confidence, especially when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy. By taking the taboo out of the conversation, we can empower men’s mental health, self-esteem, and body image. Part of the problem is that we aren’t talking about it. 

Empowering doesn’t mean you have to change your body. It’s about accepting it. Safe, clinical cosmetic procedures can play a major part in propelling this acceptance.
—Jack Chang, MD 

Suggested reading 
CBS San Francisco. Silicon Valley ageism prompting increase in men seeking cosmetic procedures. 26 February 2020. CBS News. Accessed 10 March 2023.

Freeman M. Increasing diversity in plastic surgery starts with transparency from men. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 25 July 2022. Accessed 10 March 2023.

King BM. Average-size erect penis: Fiction, fact, and the need for counseling. J Sex Marital Therapy 2021;47:80-89.  

Moon DG, Kwak TI, Kim JJ. Glans penis augmentation using hyaluronic acid gel as an injectable filler. World J Mens Health 2015;33:50-61.

National Eating Disorders Association. Eating disorders in men and boys. Accessed 10 March 2023.

Pappas S. Size doesn’t matter: “penis shame” is all in guys’ heads. LiveScience. 4 October 2013. Accessed 10 March 2023.

Pollock Clinics. Why are men choosing penis enlargement? Accessed 10 March 2023.

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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