Don’t Look Like Vladimir Putin: When Powerful Men’s Obsession with Injectables and Fillers Goes Wrong

Powerful men are increasingly seeking out cosmetic procedures like military-grade Botox and fillers, but not everyone has to get Vlad’s “windswept look.” Here’s how.

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Vladimir Putin is an unlikely trendsetter. While the elevator heels scream wannabe Tom Cruise circa 1990 and his ties look like they’re from the Donald Trump Collection, let’s give the man his propskis. Since at least 2010, when he attended trade negotiations in Kiev with what appeared to be bruises on his cheekbones and under-eye area, it seems the Russian president has been an early booster of men’s injectables.

As a result, his permanently puffy face—the anaphylaxis of evil?—has attracted as much scrutiny as Margaret Thatcher’s handbags once did. Judging from Putin’s media ubiquity this year (the attention-grabbing appearance at the G20, the Showtime interviews by Oliver Stone, his recurring role in the soap opera that is the Trump presidency, not to mention his early August fishing trip in Siberia), the intrigue is unlikely to abate anytime soon. Nor will the digs about the changing face of Russian politics, at least not as long as Putin’s cheekbones resemble rising blinis.

But what’s a famously competitive dictator to do? His totalitarian forebears set a high bar for self-preservation. Mobutu Sese Seko, the shape-shifting late former president of the Congo (which he renamed Zaire), had his last facelift at 94. And Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Lybia was notoriously enamored of late night plastic surgery, which he endured without anesthetic for fear of being assassinated while he was under. In the immortal words of Silvio Berlusconi, the authoritarian-adjacent Italian pol whose obsession with plastic surgery allegedly extended below the belt, “[Plastic surgery] shows respect to those who expect you to represent them on an international and national stage.”

Duty aside, now that Putin is divorced and toying with the idea of staying in his job for life, the 64-year-old is simply keeping up with on-trend potentates of all stripes.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin listens during his talks with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in Kiev on October 27, 2010. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

“More and more men in positions of power are coming in for procedures,” said Patricia Wexler, New York pre-eminent plastic surgeon to the stars, who estimates that over 30 percent of her cashed-up clientele is now men. “They are working later in life and are afraid of being aged out.”

For the record: Dr. Wexler, who has not treated Putin, suspects that, in addition to the liberal amounts of military-grade Botox and fillers in his face, his “windswept look” might be the result of an eye lift and a fat draft to remove bags from under his formerly sunken eyes.

Wexler is not alone in noticing the embrace of injectables among masters of the universe and their aspirants. Said Diane Walder, a Miami-based surgeon who tends to the frown lines, sagging necks and spare tires of chief executives, NFL players and Latin American politicians, among others: “It’s definitely not just gays and celebrities any more. With the emergence of a new breed of tech CEOs about 15 years ago, the fear among men is that if they haven’t made it by 28 they’re obsolete. In that competitive climate, no one wants to look tired or stressed.”

The gateway procedure for most men remains Botox, a muscle-relaxing neurotoxin that was originally developed to treat eye problems but is now injected directly into muscle to help with worrisome expression lines like “puppet mouth” and “the 11’s” that form between the eyebrows.

“They see that a little goes a long way,” explained Jennifer Leebow, director of national education for Botox Labb, a national company with locations in Miami Beach and Los Angeles. “Once they have Botox and realize how confident it makes them feel, and they find out that if I inject a little bit of hyaluronic acid under their eyes it will get rid of those bags that have been bugging them, it’s not a big leap to get them to try something new.”

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s memorial ceremony on July 01, 2017 (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency

Among the newfangled, non-ablative treatments that are currently in favor with men seeking a competitive edge are injectable gel fillers such as Juvéderm, Restylane and Bellafill, which are used on wrinkles and folds, as well as to plump cheeks and lips, and to build up sagging jawlines. Ultherapy, a tightening procedure, also known as “the lunchtime lift” uses ultrasound to work on the neck, under the chin and or eyebrow areas over the course of two to three months. And, fractional lasers such as Icon and Fraxel DUAL are precise resurfacing technologies that treat specific areas of the skin while sparing others, and are especially effective on age spots, acne scares and fine wrinkles.

“The biggest concern for all men, regardless of age or skin condition, is downtime,” Walder said. “They can’t cover up any bruising or redness with makeup, and most men don’t have the time to recover away from the office so they will opt for Ultherapy, INFINI”—a controlled-wound-healing procedure that works on fine lines and sagging skin by delivering radio frequency energy to the skin through gold-plated needles— “and similar easy-peasy treatments with little to no recovery time.”

For those men who aren’t prisoners of time, and want to raise their profile (literally), Kybella is quickly gaining cult-like veneration among men with moderate to severe double chins—including, perhaps, Putin, whose submental area looks suspiciously tauter than it did before. (For the uninitiated, Kybella is a relatively pain-free procedure which involves fat-burning deoxycholic acid being injected below the chin.) Unless you’re Mitch McConnell, most men only need two or three treatments, but acute swelling is a common side effect and there is the very real chance that for up to two weeks you might be walking around looking like, well, Mitch McConnell.

The key to men getting discreet work done is to crib from what women with a high beauty IQ have known for years. “Whatever you do, don’t get anything done just before a big event in your life,” Walder cautioned. “That’s the mistake John Kerry made when he got Botox and filler right before he hit the campaign trail when he ran for president. The point is for people to tell you that you never change, not for them to look at you and say, ‘What did you do?’”

Her Manhattan counterpart concurs. “You don’t see the good work,” Wexler noted, “you only see the bad work. You can’t or should not look like you did 20 or even 10 years ago. Women know that it’s about maintenance and not about going from sunken to full—from 0-60, or 60-to zero, as the case may be. Otherwise you can look like Putin.”

Vlad, you’ve been warned.

10 Celebrities Who’ve Quit Botox and Fillers Throughout the Years

Cameron Diaz is no stranger to aging and beauty, having penned two books on the subjects of health, wellness, and living your best life. However, when promoting her first title, The Body Book, in 2014, Diaz told Entertainment Tonight that she had tried Botox and it had changed her face—not for the better. “I’ve tried [Botox] before, where it was like a little tiny touch of something. It changed my face in such a weird way that I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to be like that,’” Diaz said. “I’d rather see my face aging than a face that doesn’t belong to me at all.”

However, Diaz doesn’t judge anyone who wants to go under the needle. “They’re to help people feel a little better about themselves,” she told the Huffington Post in May 2016. “If they do feel better about themselves, then those procedures have worked. I have no problem with that. And [in] a lot of instances, it does make you look like you’ve taken a nap … or that you might be a little younger than you looked maybe the day before.”

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In an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians that aired in 2010, Kim Kardashian tried Botox. “I had some bruising around my eyes after the procedure, which is totally natural, but because I hadn’t looked into the side effects, I freaked out. Botox just wasn’t necessary for me at [that] age,” the reality mogul reportedly said.

Just a few years later, when pregnant with her second child, Saint West, went on the defensive after filming a makeup tutorial, when many of her fans believed she’d had some work done on her face. “No I don’t do fillers or botox when pregnant like some tabloids are reporting, you would have to be really sick to endanger your child like that,” she reportedly wrote on her site, KimKardashianWest.com. So at least that issue’s open and shut.

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Nicole Kidman is arguably one of the most famous Botox users, but after many years of injections, she too bid adieu to the Botox. In her quest for staying youthful and healthy. She admitted to German magazine TV Movie in 2011 that she’s “also tried Botox.” But she “didn’t like how my face looked afterwards, which led to her quit going under the needle. “Now I don’t use it anymore—I can move my forehead again,” she joked.


Naomi Watts likes to keep the matter of injections close to her chest. (Face?) “Personally, I feel for me it’s tough to do Botox — but it’s also tough not to! Sometimes, I think I need the help. Whatever anyone else chooses is fine with me, no judgment,” she told New Beauty Magazine in 2016. “Of course, I want to look the best I can, but I am playing characters that should match my age and the women and the material that I am interested in are usually going through something. I have to be able to live in my face and tell the story of the character I’ve taken on. But…I’ll never say never.”

Desiree Navarro/WireImage

The seemingly ageless model and actress has a balanced outlook when it comes to Botox and fillers, preferring the latter over the former, according to People. And when talking with New Beauty Magazine, Brinkley believes that “if you want to look refreshed, [Botox] has to be [administered] with a light hand.”

Because what’s most important when it comes to beauty, Brinkley says, is looking like yourself. “Don’t change your face; maybe just change a wrinkle or two that’s bothering you,” she said. “You still should look like you.”

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The Revenge Body host may be fitter than ever these days, but that never stopped her from being interested in dabbling with some fillers and Botox in the past. However, after Khloe Kardashian tried ’em, she reportedly knew they weren’t for her: “[Facial fillers] did not work for me. I looked crazy, and I still think the effects are in there — I went to have it all dissolved like three times,” she said, according to MTV UK.

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The OG Baywatch babe may be a portrait of plastic surgery in excess, she’s admitted that Botox and fillers may not have been her best decision. In 2015, Pamela Anderson opened up about her decision. “I am the last person to try Botox but I did,” she told People. “I felt like my eyes sunk into my head so far that I didn’t look look like me anymore! I’m not into all that stuff.”

Yet she does admit that trying to look youthful is not necessarily a bad thing. “I think a little bit of maintenance is good. There are things we can do to perk ourselves up. Some people go to far. I’m not obsessed,” she said.

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The singer-cum-fashion designer may be known for her blonde hair and those famous Daisy Duke shorts, but Jessica Simpson has admitted to falling under the spell of injectables. After having Restalyne injections for fuller lips for a few years, she recanted from the cosmetic procedure. “[The injections] went away in, like, four months,” she told Glamour back in 2006. “My lips are back to what they were. Thank God! It looked fake to me. I didn’t like that.”

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Kelly Ripa may be the perkiest morning show host around, but even Ripa’s been enchanted by the proverbial fountain of youth. After being told by her a.m. colleagues her face was looking angry, Ripa reportedly joked that she knew it was time for Botox. But in 2016, the pint-sized star confided to Megyn Kelly (on-air…). “I got bad Botox about … what was it, a year ago? And it was bad. It did something to my good side, so then I had two bad sides,” she joked, according to People. “I’m starting to look myself again, but there was about a six-month period where people were like: ‘What’s wrong with Kelly? She doesn’t smile anymore.’ And I was like: ‘I am smiling!’” Needless to say, that’s when Ripa decided to put the needle down.

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Actress Dana Delany had arguably the scariest experience with injections, Botox, and fillers—a story that could probably swear off even the most ardent of filler fans. “[My dermatologist] injected my forehead, hit a nerve and created a huge hematoma,” Delaney told Prevention in 2010, as reported by the New York Daily News. “The nerve has been dead ever since. It affected the muscle in my right eye, so my eye has started to droop a little bit. I notice it more than anybody else, but I was symmetrical before and now I am not.”

Enough to make you think twice, right?

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Nantucket Film Festival)

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