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LIFTING MORE THAN THEIR SPIRITS; PLASTIC SURGERY GAINS POPULARITY AMONG MEN GOING IN FOR NOSE JOBS, LIPOSUCTION AND MORE.

Byline: Phil Davis Daily News Staff Writer

Comedian John Byner was tired of the grumpy face that greeted him in the mirror each morning. The downturned corners of his mouth, puffy eyes and creases on his face prompted one fan to remark: ``I can't believe all that humor comes from such a sad-looking man.''

His grim visage wasn't keeping him from landing roles on sitcoms like ``Dharma & Greg'' and ``Caroline in the City,'' but the 61-year-old veteran television and movie actor didn't feel the way his face looked.

``I felt good inside, and I'd go by a mirror or a window and I'd see this grumpy-looking guy,'' Byner said. ``I thought I looked tired.''

So Byner joined the growing ranks of men who are shaving off years of worry and wrinkles with cosmetic surgery. On March 8, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Richard Ellenbogen gave Byner a full face lift, sucked the fat deposits from under his eyes, lifted the corners of his mouth and raised his forehead. The surgery was broadcast live on the Internet as a publicity stunt.

Byner got the surgery for free - one reason he's talking about it while most men keep their cosmetic nips and tucks a secret.

``I feel good,'' Byner said last week. ``I don't even think about it anymore. I don't like to think about it in terms of how many years the surgery took off. I look at it in terms of looking the way I feel - and that is a lot less grumpy.''

According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, more than 99,000 men underwent cosmetic surgical procedures in 1998. That accounts for about 10 percent of all procedures performed last year.

Statistically, the percentage of men seeking cosmetic surgery has increased only slightly since experts starting tallying numbers in 1992. But overall, both men and women are seeking out plastic surgeons in record numbers - up 153 percent from 413,000 patients in 1992 to more than 1 million in 1998.

Liposuction - sucking away love handles and other fatty deposits - leads the way for both men and women. But men also are signing up in record numbers for blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), followed by face lifts, rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and male breast-reduction surgery to correct the condition known as gynecomastia. The popularity of short hairstyles also has men seeking oloplasty, surgery that aligns the ears closer to the head, in numbers nearly equal to women.

Dr. John Gross, an assistant professor of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California, said now that men are living longer and healthier lives, it's natural they also want to look better.

``I think the stigma that used to go along with plastic surgery - that it is only a female thing - has passed,'' he said. ``As the comfort level increases, it will be talked about more and eventually will become the norm.''

But, for now at least, there are centuries of machismo to overcome.

``It's still not the macho thing,'' Gross admitted. ``I just saw a husband and wife in their 60s. I'd already done their daughter's face lift, and the mother is coming in to have her face lift. The husband really wants his neck done, but I can tell he's too macho to do it.''

That doesn't stop men entirely. It just makes them more stealthy than women.

``When a woman has breast enlargement surgery, she shows everyone,'' Ellenbogen said. ``Men are a little less showy. They'll talk about it, but they just don't volunteer much. That's the crux of the matter.''

Surgeons also say they're seeing more than just actors and executives on their operating tables. Notice the UPS delivery man looking a tad younger?

``It's all of the above,'' said Dr. Michael Rabkin, an expert in using lasers to zap fat from eyelids. ``I've done professional wrestlers, guys who work for the phone company, even a UPS driver.''

``It amazes me who does this stuff,'' echoed Ellenbogen. ``I have a patient who is a Harley-Davidson biker who came in for liposuction. He's the last guy in the world you'd think would be unhappy with his beer belly. But he had his girlfriend's breasts done a few months ago, and while we were in the office he lifted his shirt and asked, `Can you do anything about that?' ''

High costs still make cosmetic surgery a luxury. A face lift costs more than $4,500. And upper and lower eyelid surgery will set you back nearly $3,000, according to the ASPRS.

Until the last decade, cosmetic surgery techniques favored women over men. Men's skin is looser than women's, and if it's just pulled back it can leave a feminine look. Then there's the beard; surgeons have to be mindful not to change the locations of the beard or sideburns when moving skin.

Male fat also tends to be more fibrous. But new ultrasonic liposuction techniques liquefy fat and make it easier to suck out.

Most importantly, new techniques using lasers and laparoscopy (performing surgery via cameras inserted through small incisions) mean the recuperation time that used to be associated with plastic surgery is minimal. Now a man can slip away from the office on Friday to get his eyelids done and return to work on Monday looking well-rested.

``We've actually brought plastic surgery to the masses by bringing it to outpatient centers instead of the hospital,'' Ellenbogen said.

Plastic surgery isn't for everyone. Surgeons love the boom but warn image-conscious consumers to shop around and make sure they have an understanding and rapport with their doctor before surgery.

``People need to have realistic expectations about how they are going to look,'' Gross said. ``Don't expect more than can surgically be delivered. You can't take a 300-pound, markedly overweight man and make him look like an athlete.''

Byner is happy with his results, and he's not sorry he went public, either.

``Sometimes people will look into my face like they're looking into a crystal ball, trying to see what I had done,'' Byner said. ``But most people are hip to it, as they say in the music world. They say, `Hey, you look great. You still look like John Byner, and you look younger, too.' ''

POPULAR PROCEDURES

Here are the top five cosmetic surgery procedures performed in 1998. Overall, there were 1,045,815 cosmetic surgery procedures done in 1998 - up 50 percent from 1996.

MEN

Liposuction: 19,789

Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery): 15,564

Rhinoplasty (nose): 13,143

Male breast reduction: 9,023

Face lift: 5,960

WOMEN

Liposuction: 152,290

Breast augmentation: 132,378

Retin-A skin treatment: 101,615

Face lift: 64,987

Chemical peel: 62,715

Source: National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery Statistics, American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, Box

Photo: (1--Cover--Color) FACE IT

Cosmetic surgery is becoming a guy thing

(2--3) Actor and comedian John Byner, before, left, and after getting his full face lift, which was shown live on the Internet. ``I thought I looked tired,'' he says of his pre-surgery face.

Box: POPULAR PROCEDURES (See text)
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 10, 1999
Words:1176
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