Picture : Rabbie Serumula

The day has finally arrived for Khensani Mashele. The 23-year-old has spent months saving up for something he has wanted for a very long time.
It isn't new sneakers, new clothes or a new gadget that's just hit the market.

Mashele is actually on his way to get his first ever botulinum toxin (commonly known as botox) injections.

Mashele is nervous, but keen as he was about to undergo the procedure at Jade Lotus Aesthetics, a health and beauty clinic, in the south of Joburg.

“I've never had needles in my face so it does worry me a little bit, but the research I've done says it's not painful so I should be okay,” says Mashele.

Mashele, who is currently self-employed and a student, had never imagined getting such a procedure done until he saw the results on a close friend.

“I was taken aback at how great it looked, so I started doing my own research on it, and began saving money, and here I am today.”

He is eager to firm up his forehead and remove the lines on it, which are pretty evident when he frowns. Most frequently, men want the toxin injected around their eyebrows and eyes, say the clinic's doctors.

“Your face is like your business card right?” Mashele proclaims. “So, you should always look your best if you want to succeed in everything in life.”

Mashele is one of the thousands of males who undergo aesthetic procedures like botulinum toxin treatments in South Africa. Prices of the injections can range from R1 500 to around R4 000.

Picture : Rabbie Serumula

Over the past 10 years, there's been a more than 270% increase in aesthetic procedures performed on men worldwide.

Aside from the popular botulinum toxin procedures that men in South Africa undergo, other popular non-surgical modalities include fillers, plasma rejuvenation for droopy eyelids, threads, hair rejuvenation, chemical peel treatments, and platelet-rich plasma to enhance the male face.

While some men tend to shy away from telling their male compatriots about the procedures they have undergone, Mashele has no qualms.

“Why shouldn't I tell them, right? I'm undergoing a procedure that's only going to enhance my features, and so, I will gladly tell them all about it this weekend. I guess for years guys have never talked about such stuff because there has been a certain stigma around it.

“Also, males think it's not masculine to undergo such procedures, but in all honesty, these days it's all about aesthetics sadly, so you either jump on the bus or get left behind.”

Mashele will be getting his injections from Dr Anjana Bhana, who has been in the medical aesthetics field for the past nine years.

Mashele won't be getting many injections, and the procedure shouldn't take more than half an hour.

He lays down on a reclining bench as Bhana inserts a tiny needle into Mashele’s forehead. He doesn't squirm at all.

Men don't make skin care a big enough priority, says Mashele.

“As guys, we worry about the other things like what car you're driving, what clothes you're wearing, what shoes you have on, so why can't we take it to another level and worry about our skin? As men, we don't take care of our skin.”

The procedure, he believes, will help boost his confidence.

“I'm sure when I step out of here, I will be feeling way better.

“I'm doing a procedure, and so there has to be something that's changed whether it's within or facially, you do have that confidence booster.”

Mashele is not surprised that medical aesthetic treatments are popular among males in SA, especially “in the young black crowd, like the doctors and lawyers.

“It's sad, but aesthetics is everything. You can't be driving the best car and have the best clothes, but then you look all wrinkly.”

Picture : Rabbie Serumula

Bhana tells how she has seen a huge upturn in male clients in recent years. “In the past two or three years, there's been a boom of male patients. We don't have a demographic at this particular practice. We get all ages, and all races coming in for these procedures.”

There are many reasons why more males are undergoing medical aesthetic procedures, says Bhana.

Men feel pressurised to look young and may believe that a more youthful appearance might help them to retain their jobs for longer. 

“People are living a lot longer now, and so they want to look the way they feel.

“They are still active in the job market, and there is competition with males among their peers especially in these high-end driven industries.

“They're simply having more procedures done because they want to maintain the competitiveness in an increasingly ageist workplace.”

Social media, too, she says, plays a huge part. “Unfortunately, people want to be what they see on Instagram.

“There is also the celebrity culture. These male celebrities will Instagram pictures of the treatments they're getting, and so people see that it is a normal thing to do as a man. It's no longer just about beard oil and hair styles. There are other things that can go into treating your face and body.”

Bhana explains that partners and spouses can also play a part in convincing a man to step inside the plastic surgeon's office. “I have quite a few clients who tell me that their wives or girlfriends have convinced them to do these procedures. Sometimes they even come in with their wives and get treatments done together.”

The subject is also no longer taboo among males and is just another form of upkeep and enhancement - the same as going to the gym and dressing well.

“Medical aesthetics is a huge field and it's constantly growing. People are so scared of all these treatments. But it's not to make you look any different, but to enhance your confidence and yourself.

Picture : Rabbie Serumula

“There are people who are still very wary about these procedures and who think that this is plastic and its fake, and you shouldn't be altering your body. But for the most part, people's perceptions have changed.”

Sixty-one-year-old Peter Rademeyer, a managing member at Kenshau Pipe Flange and Fittings, has been using Bhana’s aesthetic services for over four years.

“Both my wife and I are always impressed with our results. We've done a number of professional procedures, and all I can say is that I highly recommend it.”

Kamal Ramjee, another patient, tells how he was convinced by family and friends to undergo certain aesthetic procedures.

“After much convincing and requests to look at my face after my weight loss, I consulted with Dr Bhana. My concern was the tear troughs, which left me looking tired all the time.

“The plan was to add volume to my cheeks, as well as fill my tear troughs. The results were immediately noticeable and added to my confidence. I feel like a model with a more aesthetic face.”

The procedures are also fairly safe. “There are generally safe if you go to a practitioner that's experienced. However, all medical procedures carry some risk, so it's important to do research before doing any of these procedures,” Bhana points out.

Video shot and edited by Rabbie Serumula

“It's pleasing to see that, and more males have become interested in undergoing medical aesthetic procedures. Men mainly come in because they feel that compared to other men, they're starting to look old. Also, their confidence is low compared to their wives, and they feel they don't look as great. My advice would be not to worry about what people think.”

While Mashele will take a couple of days to heal, he already feels like a new man. He plans on saving up again so he can continue to look after his skin. “I cannot wait to show off my new looks this weekend. I already have more confidence.”

The Saturday Star