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Published March 15, 2021
Published March 15, 2021
Joey Lee via Unsplash

Despite predominantly homebound existences, plastic surgery is booming. 70% of surgeons have seen an uptick in bookings during the pandemic, with millennials and Gen Zers constituting the largest age group, surpassing Gen Xers and Boomers, with a much more unapologetic approach to cosmetic procedures than their elders. But why worry about one’s appearance when stuck at home anyway, one might ask? Two words: video calls. Some go so far as to describe the effect that increasing screen time has had on our self-appraisal as “Zoom dysmorphia,” a kind of selfie dysmorphia 2.0. Of those partaking in weekly video conference calls, nearly half of the surgery respondents were interested in non-surgical (39%) and surgical treatments (37%).

Undoubtedly, self-isolation has given many consumers the opportunity to increasingly nitpick their appearances, but for others it has been an inspirational moment to overhaul their lives (and appearances). More than 60% of UK residents made self-improvement plans during lockdown, and the “lockdown glow-up” has left many feeling the pressure to emerge from lockdown a better version of themselves, with thousands of posts bearing #lockdownglowup on Instagram.

Consultations have been made more convenient thanks to telemedicine, and at-home recuperation (not to mention convenient mask coverage) means many consumers have taken plastic surgery opportunities where (financially) possible that they may have been hesitant to try pre-pandemic. BeautyMatter spoke to Dr. Shirley Madhere and Dr. Steven Davis about the trends shaping their industry in the coming year.

Pandemic Perspectives

Anything that is visible outside of the COVID mask or on-screen, or in other words anything from the chest up, has seen a procedure increase. The Aesthetic Society, in its 2021 plastic surgery predictions, said that jawline contouring, thanks to those unflattering computer and smartphone camera angles, will gain popularity. According to a member survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, since the onset of the pandemic, rhinoplasty has increased 78%, eye lifts 65%, and neck lifts 58%. Otoplasty is expected to grow from a $906 million market in 2020 to $1125.7 million by 2026, perhaps in part due to ear shape being distorted by mask wearing and wearers thus becoming more aware of this facial feature.

“The real bump in interest has turned out to be everything to do with what you see on a Zoom call. Things like fillers around the face, Botox around the eyes and forehead, as well as doing any kind of lip or peri-oral type of laser resurfacing or injectables around the mouth is a big deal,” comments Dr. Davis. This time is also a golden opportunity for below-the-neck body procedures like tummy tucks, the healing results of which aren’t present on-screen.

Thermo Tightening

While non-invasive radio frequency procedures such as Thermalift, Thermage, Elixis, and Velashape (administered through heated pads), as well as laser lipolysis such as Sculpsure, which goes under the skin, have previously existed, the methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated and an alternative for skin-removal surgery.

“For a while we have had this but the problem is that either it was too painful or the amount of money for such a small result was not worth it. Now we are learning that we can actually protect the skin as we heat it because we can follow what the temperatures are under the skin, heating up the tissues to cause a thermal retraction,” Dr. Davis explains. The advantages over traditional liposuction and tummy tucks are no scarring, and minimal bruising and recovery time. With the body fat reduction marketwitnessing a 12.32% CAGR and due to reach $15.5 billion in value by 2025, the demand for these procedures is undoubtedly growing.

Holistic Approaches

As a holistic plastic surgeon, Dr. Shirley Madhere’s pre- and post-operative approach incorporates additional factors such as homeopathy and integrative nutrition, true to her motto of “person before procedure.” It’s an all-inclusive pathway to wellness that presents a modern take on plastic surgery. Whereas previously self-care and plastic surgery had been mutually exclusive, attitudes in both the patient and surgeon are becoming more open towards a merging of these worlds. “The whole person goes through the operation, not just physically and mentally but spiritually, psychologically, financially, all those dimensions of wellness. As the expert, what is it that I could do to help the patient fully holistically recover and feel better?” Dr. Madhere asks.

Especially in light of the pandemic, where hospital settings have become even more imbued with negative connotations, plastic surgery practices may begin to incorporate more wellness architecture components to make the experience feel less clinical wherever possible. “There is going to be more of a convergence between beauty, wellness, and health care. We are all focusing on immunity and staying well so there is going to be more focus on what we can do from a wellness perspective to stay healthy,” she adds. “There was a paradigm shift. This great pause has served a number of functions. For some, there have been opportunities, for others a time to literally reassess what’s important to them. The patients in the near future will be more informed—they will have lived with and seen themselves in ways that they hadn’t before. I think surgery will come back stronger because the patient will have more clarity about what they are looking for, especially for facial surgery.”

Dr. Davis also sees a fusion of self-care and plastic surgery taking on a new meaning in the year to come, with the added benefit of easier access. “Things that bothered patients for a long time they feel they can address more quickly or easily because the work, travel, and all the other stuff is made more convenient,” he adds. Furthermore, while individual aesthetic preferences differ, he sees many clients wanting to be more considerate of the world at large when it comes to their surgery results. “With everybody being so aware of the disaster that the pandemic has caused across the world, there is a much more natural look that they’re going for. They may want to help themselves and do self-care, but I don’t think they want to put it in everybody’s face that that is what they are doing,” he states.

Facelift Resurgence

Facelifts offer one simple advantage over their injectable counterparts: longer-lasting results that ultimately could be deemed more economically efficient as they don’t need to be repeated with the same frequency. As a result, procedures grew by 69%, including traditional facelifts and a more complex, modern alternative.

Coined the “high-tech facelift” by Dr. Davis, the alternative is “a conglomeration of all the latest technology in the industry: using fillers to establish volume, neuromodulators to stop wrinkles, lasers to cause skin-tightening and resurfacing, and threads, which are placed in the face to stimulate the body’s collagen production. If you hoist everything in the right direction as you are stimulating this collagen, it is pulling everything in the right direction that you want it to go,” he explains, adding that younger patients in their mid-20s to 30s are ideal candidates. The plastic surgery consumer is becoming younger thanks to more accessible points such as fillers and Botox; however, these clients are now looking to pre-juvenate further through procedures like the high-tech facelift, which offers multiple benefits with less downtime.

The Future of Injectables

It was reported that the COVID mRNA vaccine caused facial swelling in recipients with previous dermal filler (3 out of 15,184, to be precise), and the demand for filler decreased by 9% over the past year. However, don’t rule fillers out just yet. While injectables may not offer the dramatic results of a facelift, they are a more economically viable option.

“Some people have lost work and are not in the market to spend that kind of expendable income on aesthetics. Therefore they are more likely to do tweakments or minor treatments like injectables, fillers, even elevated skincare like chemical peels,” Dr. Madhere comments, adding that PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections, which amplify the body’s own natural growth hormones with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, are especially popular for today’s ingredients-conscious consumer.

“I am always excited about new injectables, not just in term of adding volume but the fat-dissolving injectables. Body injectables are available in Europe but not here in the US yet,” she adds. Kybella is currently the only fat-reduction injectable available on the American market, but such innovations could be harnessed to offer more affordable alternatives to liposuction and tummy tucks.

While lockdown may have had detrimental effects for several industries, the plastic surgery market has emerged stronger than before. In the near future, once lockdown regulations begin to lift, the number of invasive procedures are likely to go down, as clients will be eager to see friends and family rather than recuperating from surgery at home. Those that do go under the knife post-pandemic are likely to take the time-efficient approach of combining multiple procedures, if financially possible. If not, they will seek out less-invasive methods that deliver more subtle and shorter-acting results, but are more affordable up front. The pandemic may have had consumers confronted with themselves in unexpectedly introspective ways, but it may also inspire a Golden Age of cosmetic surgery that will elevate the industry to new heights.


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