03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Saving Face: Cosmetic Options for the Modern Man

It's a young man's world. At least that's what the old adage claims. And although the saying has stood the test of time, our appearance has a tougher time of it. This is one area where the gender gap is closing quickly. The ravages of age are no longer the bane or sole concern of the middle-aged woman. Men are judged by their youth and vitality as well -- just in a different way.

Let's face it -- looks matter. It's natural to be attracted to beauty. Ladybugs and cockroaches are both insects but one is endearing and the other disgusting. Same with squirrels and rats. Both rodents. One lovable, the other despicable. Looks. That's what it comes down to. Nobody goes to a museum to see ugliness.

If you're single, it's understood how your appearance factors in with regard to attracting a partner, but beyond the dating scene there's the undeniable influence it can have on career. A great looking guy may not carry the sexual cache of the super-hot female stunner, but when it comes to getting that dream job, (or keeping it), making a powerful impression, exuding authority and demonstrating leadership, experience may still be paramount but it only goes so far. That 30-year-old in sales has quite a bit of experience as well. And he's hungry. He'll work harder and longer and look good doing it.

If you're reading this you've probably considered for a while now that even though you've stayed a step ahead of the game, you can no longer kid yourself that those wrinkles and slackened jawline connote wisdom and knowledge. You're looking tired. And that makes you feel tired -- which makes you more tired. Even if you stay fit, your face is starting to show its age. Can you be sure others aren't seeing those sags and droops and wondering if your best years are behind you? You put it in the back of your mind and think 'Maybe someday I'll get some work done, when it's time.' Well, guess's time.

That's the reality I had to face. Not that I'm looking ancient. In fact, I think I look younger than my years. (Doesn't everybody?) Nevertheless, when I went from being addressed by 20-somethings as "Yo, my man" to "Excuse me sir," I realized I wasn't presenting quite the youthful exuberance I had thought. That picture by my headline is five years old - taken at age 50. That's pretty recent, right? Or is that an indication of aging as well? To a 25 year old, five years is a long time. (I guess it's time for a new pic).

This is why I began investigating some options to keep up with the young lions. I've always been a bit of a metrosexual as it is. I'll admit I use a cream at night. I work out 5 days a week. I pay attention to grooming. I've even tried some of those home electronic gizmos that claim to rejuvenate the skin. The result -- nothing. Creams can smooth out wrinkles but don't go deep enough to make a structural change. And those gadgets are superficial as well. They give a slight abrasive swelling, which in turn cause the skin to glow and smooths out lines temporarily. But an hour later, you're back to square one. You'd be better off saving your money and just scrubbing with a face cloth and hot water.

Surgery was considered but after some investigation I decided it wasn't the way to go. Face-lifts on men don't fare as well as with women. For one thing, pulling the face will also pull the beard, leaving you to have to shave behind your ears. Too tight skin also looks...well...feminine. It just doesn't sit right on a dude. A 40-year-old man shouldn't have porcelain smooth skin anyway. You need a little ruggedness. A man can wind up looking completely different after getting a lift. One look at the botched surgeries of some celebrities will attest to that fact. Once handsome Olympian athlete Bruce Jenner looks like a menopausal woman. Burt Reynolds looks Asian. Wayne Newton can pass for a guy in a Wayne Newton mask. And poor Kenny Rogers looks as if he's in a constant state of shock. No thanks. And besides, as unmanly as it may sound, cutting scares the hell out of me.

Finally, I found what sounded like the perfect alternative. It's a non-surgical procedure called Thermage and it works by transmitting radio waves beneath the surface of the skin stimulating deep collagen formation. Simply put, the end result is a bonding of the dermis fibers, which in turn "lifts" the face back closer to its original appearance. I know. It sounds a little suspect. Too good to be true to be honest. But I decided to go ahead with it mainly for the fact that, at worst, I'll look exactly the same. There's no cutting, bruising or recuperation period. You can return to work the very next day.

Before going ahead, I remembered a saying my mother used to tell me: "When you buy cheap - you buy twice." So I didn't do any bargain shopping. I wanted this done right the first time so I went to one of the premier doctors in the field - Dr. Neil Sadick on Park Ave. He filled me in on the process and although it sounded logical and the before and after photos were impressive, in the end, there was only one way to find out how effective it would be. I made the appointment .

The entire procedure took about an hour and is what I'd refer to as "mildly uncomfortable." The nurse offered me some pain killers but I passed. The Thermage treatment feels like shots of deep heat. Most of the time it was fine, there were maybe two or three times where I let out a "yeouch", but overall, it wasn't bad at all. I understand there's a newer Thermage technology called the CPT System that is even less uncomfortable but again, you'd have to be a total wuss to think this hurts. I've had massages that hurt more.

Since Thermage works through collagen synthesis, it takes a while to show the effects. I wasn't about to talk myself into thinking I looked better though. I wanted to see some real results and kept my skepticism high. Was it worth it?

After just a couple of days I can honestly say there was a noticeable visible difference. My eyes looked less sunken - less "droopy." The creases in my cheeks were plumper. My chin seemed tighter as well. After a week, the improvement was even more pronounced. The process is expected to continue for several months, but as it stands, I'm very satisfied. I still look like myself, just more refreshed and, well, better! Call me vain, but I'm lovin' it.

To be completely objective, Thermage is not as dramatic as a face-lift. If you have jowls like Richard Nixon, don't expect to walk out with cheekbones like Brad Pitt. The results are subtle but substantial. The effects are permanent in that whatever it improves, resets the clock, so to speak, and you'll continue to age normally from that point on. Of course, you may want another treatment in a few years to "reboot" the results, which is what many top actors have begun opting for. Of course the big stars can afford it. For me, the one time will have to do. The cost runs between $2000 and $5000 -- about the price of surgery yet without the pain, risk or recovery time. It's simple and it works.

Thermage may be the only rational solution for the middle age man to look both "well worn" yet "well preserved." Results vary. Not everyone can expect the same effect. But I'm definitely glad I did it. I'd say it's knocked a good five years off of my face.

Maybe I don't have to change that byline headshot after all.

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