Pedro Alfaya lost more than 50 pounds, but in the process, he gained excess skin around his middle that he just couldn’t shed.
So last month, he got a tummy tuck.
“I feel much better about the way I look. But more importantly, the weight loss leaves all that skin that you are carrying around like luggage, and I feel like a weight has been lifted from around the belly section,” said Alfaya, 42, of Miami.
Plastic surgery has come a long way since Alfaya first began thinking of a tummy tuck in his 20s. It wasn’t accepted then, he said.
“This time around, it’s like getting a haircut,” he said. He has unabashedly told his friends and family about his surgery.
“I’m not ashamed to say I had it done,” he said. “On the contrary, I feel like I haven’t felt in a very long time.”
Alfaya is not alone. While men still significantly trail women in the number of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures performed nationwide, they are becoming increasing commonplace in South Florida waiting rooms, doctors say.
Dr. Johnny Franco, a plastic surgeon with Miami Plastic Surgery in Miami, who performed Alfaya’s tummy tuck, said more men come in for everything from Botox and dermal fillers to liposuction and tummy tucks.
“There’s not a day that goes by on the schedule, where you don’t see a man for something, which wasn’t true five years ago,” said Franco, who estimates that 10 percent of his patients are men.
Overall, 14.6 million cosmetic surgery procedures, including both minimally invasive and surgical, were performed on males and females in the United States last year, up 5 percent from 2011, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Men’s percentage of the total is not yet available for 2012, but in 2011, it was 13 percent for cosmetic surgical procedures and 9 percent for minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, or 9 percent overall, according to ASPS data.
Doctors say that men are often motivated to look better by their significant others, or they may be experiencing a difficult life transition such as a divorce.
Since 1997, men’s cosmetic procedures have increased 106 percent, said Dr. Onelio Garcia, Jr., a plastic surgeon with Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Miami and a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The top five cosmetic surgeries for men are liposuction, rhinoplasty (nose jobs), eyelid surgery, gynecomastia (removal of excess breast tissue) and ear reshaping, he said.
“The taboo of men having plastic surgery is gone,” said Garcia, who figures that 10 percent of his patients are men.
He attributes the rise in part to an increase in eyelid surgery for men who find themselves competing with younger male co-workers who don’t have bags under their eyes — hence the nickname for the procedure: “executive surgery.”
Now, the latest surgery in demand by young men is “high definition liposuction,” a body sculpting that gives a better delineation of an abdominal six-pack, Garcia said.
“It’d done with VASER, an ultrasonic device that melts the fat before you remove it, and it causes tissue contraction and allows us to sculpt under the skin, and creates the visual ridges that you see in a six-pack,” he said.
“Whereas liposuction for males 10 years ago was because they had a paunch, a spare tire, they said, ‘I can’t wear jeans anymore,’ and it was more for reducing, now they are coming in and asking for body sculpting,” Garcia said.
Doctors say their male patients tend to differ from women in subtle ways. In general, men prefer a less aesthetic procedure in exchange for having less down time, less of a recovery process and less pain and discomfort, Garcia said.
And while it’s harder for men to make the decision to visit a plastic surgeon, once they do, they want the procedure done the next day, Franco said, adding that women tend to prefer to spend more time doing research and thinking about it.
Minimally invasive procedures, such as neurotoxins Botox and Dysport, as well as dermal fillers, make up the majority of all cosmetic procedures, and are growing in popularity among men, said Dr. Ivan Camacho, a dermatologist in private practice in Coral Gables and South Miami, who is also a voluntary assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“Our rejuvenation goals and aesthetic goals are different,” he said. “We’re not looking for beauty. We want to look refreshed and feel confident.”
For men, the results also have to be subtle and natural looking, said Camacho, who recently made a presentation on the surge in cosmetic procedures for men at a meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Miami Beach. “Men more than women are going to be very sensitive about having exaggerated results.”
Men’s skin also differs from women’s. It is 20 percent thicker, and men have less subcutaneous fat, he said.
“Knowing that we burn so much fat, dermal fillers are catching up with neurotoxins because volume loss is one of the most important factors in the aging process in men,” said Camacho, who estimates that 20 percent of his cosmetic patients are men.
One of the most popular filler treatments, he said, is under the eye, for patients who say they look tired and whose eyes have a sunken appearance due to the loss of fat.
“They just want to go back to where they were 10 years ago, to reverse the changes that have happened with the natural processes of aging,” Camacho said.
Other treatments men are benefitting from include CoolSculpting, which freezes fat on the abdomen and flanks — and which Camacho even used on himself — and laser hair removal, which can remove hair on the lower neck area that gets irritated from razor burn, or on the back.
It’s often men’s wives and girlfriends who drag them in for back hair removal, Camacho said.
“They say, ‘I’m here because my wife is killing me about my hairy back, and we’re going on vacation.’ ”