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THE SURGICAL SIX-PACK

Abs, love handles and man boobs are common cosmetic targets.

Houston Chronicle

Granted, men had some 750,000 cosmetic procedures to women's 8.6 million last year, but increasingly, the male gaze is turning to itself. The number of men electing to have cosmetic surgery is up more than 88 percent from 1997, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. - "The most common plastic surgery I do for men is abdominal etching," says Dr. Henry Mentz, a cosmetic surgeon in Houston who developed a liposuction technique that can sculpt an illusion of muscle.

"It's a twofold thing," Mentz says about abdominal etching. "The liposuction generally unveils the muscles that they have underneath, and you can shape the liposuction in order to create a more athletic appearance ... so it appears that they have more muscle than they have."

Adept cosmetic surgeons can make it appear that there is a six-pack on a man who had something more like a keg belly before. And that's not all they can sculpt.

"We also do that on the chest now, too," says Mentz. "A lot of guys in their 40s start to get kind of breasty."

That's right, breasty. The dreaded man boobs, also known as gynecomastia, can be reduced and reshaped.

"I'm seeing a lot of it because of obesity, unfortunately," says Dr. Chris Livingston, a Houston-area cosmetic surgeon who has been in practice for 10 years. "The two surgical procedures we see the most of are liposuction and gynecomastia."

Obesity, steroid use and genetics all are contributing factors to gynecomastia, an embarrassing physical characteristic some will go to great lengths to hide.

"I've seen some guys who wear duct tape on their breasts because they just don't want it to show," Mentz says. "As far as guys go, those are probably the most emotionally driven surgeries I do."

Look before you leap

Before you plan a blitzkrieg on your belly (or your man boobs), there are some points to consider:

-Seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Risks associated with liposuction include bowel perforation, sepsis and death, among other less-than-desirable side effects like asymmetry and skin loss.

"If you don't know what you're doing or have little experience or you're not board certified or qualified, then patients can have devastating results, if not death," Livingston says.

-Have realistic expectations.

If you don't have David Beckham's build before the surgery, chances are you won't after, either.

-Sometimes, the answer is no.

If you haven't been working out and maintaining a healthy, low-fat, low-calorie diet, no reasonable and responsible plastic surgeon will perform liposuction on you, because the results will be dismal.

"I always tell patients that cosmetic surgery - body contouring procedures - is a reward for a healthy lifestyle, which to me means that they diet and exercise," says Livingston.

"It's the ones that come in and have not dieted or exercised and don't tell you the truth and want a quick fix - those are the ones that don't have the results that they would hope for. You just have to weed those patients out."

Consider seeking the aid of a nutritionist or physical trainer before you step foot into a surgeon's office.

You may find that you don't need to go under the knife after all.

"The liposuction generally unveils the muscles that they have underneath, and you can shape the liposuction in order to create a more athletic appearance ... so it appears that they have more muscle than they have."

Dr. Henry Mentz,cosmetic surgeon

What men get fixed

The top five plastic surgeries for men are:

1.Lipoplasty (liposuction): 37,183

2. Rhinoplasty: 30,099

3. Blepharoplasty (cosmetic eyelid surgery): 20,675

4. Breast reduction: 18,256

5. Otoplasty (ear pinning): 10,849

Source: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 2010 data, surgery.org

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