Dominic never felt uncomfortable that he was assigned male at birth, but he long felt a dissatisfaction with his lips: namely, that they could be more feminine.
“Gender is no simple thing, and I think that even if one is comfortable with how their gender is read, little tweaks can make a difference in aligning their appearance with how they feel about themselves,” he says.
So, the 21-year-old Los Angeleno sought the help of a cosmetic surgeon to make his lips fuller and more symmetrical. The procedure, typically sought by women, made Dominic feel more himself.
“I really like the idea of a gender-neutral or androgynous look because I think it is more interesting and more eye-catching than a traditionally masculine one,” he said. “I think of it as taking the best of both existing aesthetics. I also have an appreciation for a softer, more ‘beautiful’ look rather than a traditional ‘rugged’ one, which I don’t think fits well with my personality.”
Dominic is not an anomaly. Cosmetic procedures are getting a facelift as beauty seekers are redefining what it means to look male or female and requesting more gender-neutral looks. Experts say more women are asking for sharper jawlines and noses, and more men are asking for puffier lips and smoother jawlines.
Current shifts in pop culture and among younger generations reflect the move away from the traditional binary view of gender. According to a 2017 Harris Poll, 12% of millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, as do 35% of Generation Z. What’s more, “38% of Gen Z-ers ‘strongly agree’ that gender no longer defines a person as much as it used to, and 27% of millennials felt the same way,” says Christina Zervanos, the head of PR at The Phluid Project a brand built on the concept of genderless dressing.
Los Angeles-based cosmetic surgeon Dr. Alexander Rivkin has experienced the heightened demand for gender-neutral procedures first-hand. In his 15 years of practicing cosmetic procedures, Rivkin has seen a notable uptick over the last couple of years in both men and women seeking more androgynous features. Specifically, the number of women requesting straighter noses has tripled, and Rivkin’s office has seen a 1,000% increase in women requesting straighter jawlines, which are typically billed as more masculine features. They’ve also seen a 50% increase in men asking for chin and lip augmentation to create softer features.
“Prior to a couple of years ago, it was uncommon to get women coming in specifically for a straighter jawline,” Rivkin says. “Men have been requesting chin augmentation for a long time, but with this generation of 20 and 30-year-olds, it is much less taboo.
“This is a prime example of the movement to the middle, aesthetically.”
To meet the increased demand, Rivkin has developed a facial androgyny procedure using fillers and underdosed Botox. He reshapes patients’ facial features from the eyebrows to the nose to the jawline to deliver a more gender-neutral look.
“I don’t think there needs to be clear guidelines for beauty,” says Sarah, 34, a patient of Rivkin’s who had cosmetic work to create sharper angles in her jaw, a procedure that historically would be considered masculine. While she says the procedure was detached from her gender identity or how she presents her gender to the world, she said she likes to play with her feminine and masculine sides.
“I know a stronger defined jawline is considered masculine, and a softer, more narrow jawline is considered feminine traditionally,” she said. “I think in general people are less concerned about what’s considered traditionally male or feminine when it comes to beauty, or fashion.”
Whatever their motivation, more people are signing up for cosmetic procedures than ever before. An American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery study showed an increase of 325% in male patients.
Another recent study published in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons affirms that a more androgynous look is on the rise—although they also argue that it is not new, but actually one of the oldest aesthetic fads throughout history, dating back to Ancient Egypt some 400 years B.C. when androgynous gods were revered. The study observed that we’ve seen a return to this desired look over the past 50 years.
“I’m seeing more gender-neutral procedures because trends are changing. I think it is seen as a sign of strength and confidence, which goes hand in hand with the rise of the #metoo movement,” Rivkin said. “I am also seeing more leading men roles being cast with guys who have less hypermasculine features. These men have full lips and jawlines that are less prominent. I think that my patients are starting to react to these role models and see fuller lips on a man as something that women find attractive.”
While we have a long way to go before our society accepts all forms of gender identity and expression, maybe this trend toward more androgynous aesthetics shows we’re taking steps in the right direction.