The men in the mirror

Looking for a new summer look? Everyone is. But how far would you go? An illustrated man and
 a Botox fan explain how addictive it is to change the way you look.

Image for The men in the mirror
Photo by Arvid Samland

An illustrated man and a Botox fan explain how addictive it is to change the way you look.

“Botox is kind of an addiction,” says make-up artist and stylist Nicolas Henneberg, 23. He gets the procedure every three months. “Once you feel you can start moving your forehead again, you know you want to go back.” According to Henneberg, Botox doesn’t hurt at all. Your face simply feels a bit numb afterwards, like after you’ve been to the dentist.

Henneberg began his regimen at age 18, thanks to a circle of friends in the Berlin film and TV industry. “I started at a Botox party, 
at a friend’s flat in Charlottenburg,” he says. “And I liked it, so I kept doing it. I actually just went yesterday!” he adds with a laugh. He also gets soft tissue fillers injected about every six months, intended to make the face appear fuller and younger.

According to Henneberg, it’s becoming increasingly common for teenagers to start Botox early – as a preventative measure intended to stop wrinkles from ever forming. “Some people say that age makes a person look more interesting, but I don’t really think so.” Botox needs to be injected every three to six months to keep you looking fresh, and getting a fix isn’t cheap: one session typically costs a minimum of €300. Luckily for Henneberg, as a friend of one of Berlin’s top plastic surgeons, he gets his for half the usual price.

Image for The men in the mirror
Photo by Arvid Samland

Rigo Pitschmann, 30, is also obsessed with changing his skin. He estimates that he has spent about €21,000 on tattoos by 34 differ
ent artists, covering most of his body. “Every time I get a new tattoo, I’m like a newborn,” Pitschmann says, sitting in Schöneberg’s B52 Tattoo, drinking a Coca-Cola. “I come from the studio with a big grin on my face. It really is like Christmas morning for a child.”

Pitschmann, who works as a bodyguard as well as a tattoo artist, says his obsession started early: “It goes way back to my childhood, when I would tag all over my arm with a pen. Later, I’d get stick-on tattoos.” Pitschmann’s parents were strictly against real tats, so, at 15, he faked his mum’s signature in order to get his first piece, a now-faded red heart on his right arm. “From there on I was hooked.”

It’s hardly surprising for a tattoo artist to be tattooed head to toe, but for Pitschmann, it’s the experience that matters the most. “I quite simply find great pleasure in the noise of the needle 
and the machine and the pain of it touching my skin,” he says. “It’s like acupuncture for me. It’s just a very relaxing and pleasant experience.”

In the past 15 years, the longest he’s gone without a new piece was seven weeks – at the end of which “I felt really moody,” he says. “There was a time when I would come to this studio every week. There always had to be a chair saved for me, in case I spontaneously wanted something new. It really was the peak of my addiction.”

Henneberg and Pitschmann may look different, but they have the same defiant attitude about their physical appearance. Henneberg says he doesn’t understand why some people value the natural look so much: “They believe you have to be the way God made you, or whatever,” he says. “But I think that’s kind of stupid.”

For his part, Pitschmann says that he hates looking at photos of himself without tattoos. His infatuation has taken precedence over careers and relationships: “I applied for a job as a banker once, and of course they didn’t want me. As they shook my hand and saw my tattoos on it, they refused me instantly.”

This is why tattoos are off limits for his son, now aged six: “He already said he wants his own tattoo, but I said no way. It does close a lot of doors, job-wise.” He adds, “I have had girlfriends who’ve said to me enough was enough, giving me an ultimatum. I always chose the tattoos.”

“I think a lot about eternity,” says Pitschmann, who considers himself religious. “And when the day comes when it’s my turn to leave, I can say that I’ll bring my tattoos with me.” He’s planning his next one right now. Although the design is still a secret, he says it will cover one of the last empty spaces he has left on his body: his scalp. Henneberg’s also thinking about the future. “I would get a nose job,” he says. “I love plastic surgery.”

Additional reporting by Peer Jon Ørsted.

Originally published in issue #138, May 2015.