It's been a rough presidency for Bill Clinton. Just look at his face. Every setback, each new scandal and humiliation has taken a huge toll on the boyish mug that first got him elected.
Health-care reform: furrowed brow.
Travel-office scandal: wrinkles.
Whitewater: blotchy complexion.
War in Kosovo: sagging chin.
Paula Jones: blooming nose.
Monica Lewinsky: suitcases under the eyes.
Impeachment: total loss of face (in more ways than one).
When Bill and Hillary offered the nation New Year's greetings on Jan. 1, Clinton looked positively wrecked. Sure, he probably stayed up 24 hours monitoring the potential Y2K disaster, and yeah, we know he suffers from allergies that affect his eyes and nose. But c'mon, that puss has been through the wringer -- a punching bag for all the stress, aggravation and mortification Clinton has suffered as the leader of the free world and as the only U.S. president impeached in the 20th century.
To say he has taken it on the chin would be an understatement: He's taken it all over. And it shows. Like other presidents before him -- Johnson and Carter are prime examples -- Clinton's face has changed markedly from his first days in office. Especially around the eyes: puffy, sagging and drooping. Heck, Zippergate alone was enough to turn him into an apple granny.
Clinton's age and fading good looks make him a prime candidate for the wealth of cosmetic solutions available to today's preening peacocks. Beauty companies are targeting men with all manner of anti-aging and anti-wrinkle potions that traditionally only women purchased. Day spas are finding that men are their fastest-growing clientele. Medicines to stimulate hair growth and sexual function are returning some men to their Austin Powers days. Across the board, American men, eager to hold back the signs of aging (and, indeed, turn back the clock), are getting fit, taking better care of their skin, treating themselves to facials and visiting Dr. Young for the zap of a laser, liposuction or a little nip and tuck.
''Clinton is the perfect example of someone who needs the lower eyes done,'' said Troi Martin, a professional image consultant from Modesto, Calif. ''If he could just do his eyes, he'd look 10 years younger. It just goes to show you how much stress a president is under, especially one who gets into trouble.''
Martin, who offers advice about cosmetic surgical procedures on her Web site (www.plasticsurgeryadvise.com), said American men are much more open today to experimenting with surgical and nonsurgical skin enhancements (alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids that can reverse sun-damaged skin and general physiological aging).
When she did one-on-one consultation in the offices of plastic surgeons five years ago, Martin said her clientele was only about 15 percent to 20 percent men. Since starting her online image consulting two years ago, men now constitute 50 percent of her clients.
''Men are vain, but they don't want you to know they are,'' she said, explaining that her clients are more likely to solicit plastic surgery information online rather than in a clinical setting.
Since baby boomers crossed the 50-year mark (as Clinton has), cosmetic surgery for 51- to 64-year-olds has risen 47 percent, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In 1996, 164,662 boomers had cosmetic surgery; in 1998, that number increased to 242,427, the society said. (None of those figures breaks out men vs. women.) The most popular procedures for men include liposuction (up 3 percent in 1998 over 1997); cosmetic eyelid surgery (up 11 percent in the same period); and face lifts (up 1 percent).
The men's beauty brigade isn't all about lasers and knives, however. For the majority of men, it's much easier to reach into the medicine cabinet for unguents and lotions specifically geared for the male face. Men's skin care is huge business, with lines such as Aramis, Clinique, Sisley, Avon, Philosophy and Nickel all vying for the XY-chromosome trade.
''In the last two to three years, it has really started to click,'' said Matt Teri, executive director for global product development for Aramis and Tommy Hilfiger. ''Men's grooming and skin care is very important.''
Teri said that Clinton's skin dilemma is no doubt compounded by stress. ''Stress is very bad for the skin,'' he said. ''Stress is not only mental but environmental. It's emotional stress. It's physical exertion. It's lack of sleep. It's pollution. It can bombard you from many different angles. Those dark circles and puffy skin? Not all of that has to do with age. It's the environment and the way your body reacts to it.''
Whatever it is in Clinton's case, he needs to do something about it, Martin said. ''He could do skin resurfacing. That would tighten up his face,'' said Martin, who is a member of the Association of Image Consultants of America as well as the Association of Plastic Surgery Assistants. ''He can't get cosmetic surgery until he gets out of office, though. He's under too much scrutiny.''
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