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Face Time: Eternal Youth Has Become a Growth Industry in Silicon Valley 

Tuesday, Aug 12 2014
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For some, it means hiring consultants or personal trainers or cosmetic surgeons to create the illusion that age doesn't exist — or that a person with means can buy his way out. In an increasingly cutthroat job market, a vanity industry that was traditionally patronized by women has grown more man-centric, and more robust.

Seth Matarasso, the undisputed botox king of San Francisco, has a unique talent for fighting time.

"Honey, I've been getting botox for 20 years," says the 56-year-old, a svelte, remarkably unlined cosmetic dermatology surgeon. "I'm old and I'm vain."

Matarasso works in a seventh floor office on Post Street with a candy dish on the reception desk and a life-size Ryan Gosling pillow in the exam room. He hits the gym at 6 a.m. every morning, drinks a protein shake, and then fasts until dinner, sustaining himself on chewing gum and decaffeinated tea. He eschews smoking, alcohol, and carbohydrates. He sees between 30 and 40 patients a day.

Botox — or "brotox," as it's often dubbed in an era when more men are seeking alterations — is quietly surging within the tech set. And Matarasso's business is surging along with it. Thirty-five-year-olds with disposable income are flocking in for common procedures: light lasers ($300-$500 a pop, but you need many of them), botox injections (which start at $400-$500), and fillers (which start at $700). Some clients arrive looking for a quick fix, thinking the on-demand ethos of new technology can be applied to facial transformations. (In fact, botox requires constant maintenance, Matarasso says.) Others hope the surgeon's syringe might serve as a great equalizer.

"Not a day goes by that someone doesn't come in and say, 'Listen, I know I'm 45 years old, but I'm competing with kids who are fresh out of college — or who didn't even finish college. Sure, I look good, but it's a different landscape.'" The number of men seeking cosmetic enhancement has also increased significantly in the past seven years, he says, though they still view it as a taboo practice. "Usually they come in through the back door and say something like, 'I want a mole looked at — oh, and by the way..." Matarasso grins impishly. "Is it exponential? No," he adds. "But there's been a shift, and I think that's part and parcel of the tech boom."

And it's not just the competitive job market that's driving people into his office. Tech has changed the way we date; it's changed the way we make friends; it's compelled each of us to interact with the world via an online avatar. Matarasso says he constantly gets clients who come in wanting new lips for a dating profile. He often has to turn them away.

"I don't have a magic syringe," the dermatologist says matter-of-factly. "I'm not going to take 10 years off your life." He has similar admonishments for the ones who want cosmetic enhancements just to spruce up their LinkedIn selfies.

"I'll say, 'Great, we'll get your selfie all buffed and polished, but I don't know how to break this to you. When you go on that date, when you go on that interview, now what happens?'"

Even if he turns a patient down, Matarasso says there's always another more mercenary practitioner who's willing to take up the job.

There's ample reason for a brotox broom, now that older men have to combat widespread stereotypes that they're too cautious, or just too slow.

"You'll see an increasing amount of neck-tightening, bags being removed from around the eyes, and hair replacement," "masculinist" author Warren Farrell says. In the past, he explains, men's earnings often corresponded with their height (every inch meant a $1,000 a year increase in earning potential); now, there's an added pressure to exude vitality.

That's become a conundrum for Joseph Rosenfeld, a San Jose-based "personal brand" strategist who sees himself as the tech-savvy answer to personal stylists of yore. He's built an upstart business teaching the Valley's men and women (though he started out coaching men exclusively) how to purge their insecurities, dress for success, and "unlock their personal brand attributes."

"I don't really refer to myself as an 'image consultant,'" Rosenfeld says, sipping a basil gimlet during his Friday morning brunch at The Rotunda restaurant, an upscale joint on the fourth floor of the Neiman Marcus department store in Union Square. "That's really only one facet of my work."

Rosenfeld has been in the personal branding racket, in one form or another, for about 26 years. He started as a retail sales associate in his hometown of Chicago and moved to Silicon Valley nine years ago with designs on serving the high-tech crowd: top executives at Apple; chief technology officers; engineers and managers moving "from the skateboard to the boardroom"; people seeking new careers in middle age (most of his clients are in their 40s and 50s); female lawyers and office workers whose pantsuits and peaked lapels contrasted with the short skirts of their younger co-workers.

The trick is to get them to look more "agile," which often requires a new fitness regime, skinnier jeans, and chunkier glasses. He often encourages male clients to get regular facials or spa treatments at the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park. He'll recommend new hair products or encourage them to let their hair grow out, in a more modish or flattering style. Or, to put it another way, a younger style.

"I'm letting my own hair grow," says the strategist, whose shock of red-brown curls gives the 45-year-old a boyish air. "I did a side-by-side pic on my Facebook — one side is my Bar Mitzvah picture, and the other is a picture of me this year, captured by my great photographer."

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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