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If It’s Not Broken, You Can Still Fix It: Key Takeaways from the ASPS Cosmetic Surgery Report 2022

Published September 8, 2022
Published September 8, 2022
karelys Ruiz via Unsplash

When the pandemic began, the world was naive to the effects the COVID-19 outbreak would have on the way we live. Of course, there were evident impacts, such as deaths and long-term illnesses. Still, outcomes, such as the way people feel about their physical appearance as a result of being forced to stay inside their homes for months on end, were not something initially considered. However, according to the ASPS Trend Report: Cosmetic Surgery 2022, Americans heavily invest in cosmetic surgery. Since opening their doors to customers again, plastic surgery offices have rapidly increased consultations, with 30% of surgeons reporting their business has at least doubled since the pandemic. One of the top five reasons for the procedures is the time people spend analyzing their faces on video calls, noticing things they would like to improve.

The top five reasons motivating patients to get plastic surgery are:

  • To feel refreshed/look younger after aging from pandemic stress.
  • Noticing body changes that they want to improve now that there is more in-person interaction.
  • Putting off surgery during the pandemic and currently being ready.
  • Improving self-esteem/confidence.
  • Noticing things they want to improve about their face during video calls.

According to surgeons, the top cosmetic procedures patients are seeking in 2022 are:

  • Liposuction
  • Face Lift
  • Breast Augmentation
  • Tummy Tuck
  • Breast Lift

"With COVID, we prepared for the worst. But when we were able to reopen our office, we were pleasantly surprised with the incredible surge of demand for our cosmetic services, both surgical and noninvasive," Bob Basu, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon and Board Vice President of Finance of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, tells BeautyMatter. "Now that the worst is hopefully behind us and people are traveling again and getting back to normal life, I initially thought that we would see some of that demand drop off, and that's not been the case. We're actually still seeing very high demand."

"I think there's something that's happened in terms of the cultural values on aesthetics and wellness in this country that we haven't seen before."
By Bob Basu, Board Vice President of Finance, American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Despite under-45s being the primary age group behind the cosmetic surgery increase, the report confirms that there is an increase in procedure interest from all age groups and genders. Women between the ages of 31 and 45 are the most likely to request procedures such as breast augmentations, liposuction, and tummy tucks. Basu believes these findings are because "millennials are very sophisticated in terms of getting the information they want." He goes on, "these procedures are no longer taboo" for millennials. Individuals sharing their cosmetic surgery experience through social media is making the process feel more reliable and accessible to their followers. It has also led to a look-now-buy-later approach, encouraging those seeking cosmetic surgeries for themselves.

 "I think there's something that's happened in terms of the cultural values on aesthetics and wellness in this country that we haven't seen before. And I think people recognize that it's OK to do something for themselves," Basu says. He sees social media as a key driver of accessibility in cosmetic surgery, adding: "Patients are more aware of what some of their options may be, and with financing options, some of these more costly procedures can become accessible for patients. In addition, we are witnessing robust innovation in the aesthetics industry by developing new products, services, technologies, and devices available to help with cosmetic procedures and noninvasive treatments."

With most businesses shifting to a hybrid working strategy, Dr. Basu feels that patients were given a "unique opportunity to opt for surgical procedure where it would be least disruptive to their lives… allowing them to heal without taking too much time off from work, as well as having the comfort of healing in their own homes." However, findings also confirmed that 40% of plastic surgeons are now seeing longer wait times between consultations and surgery, suggesting that despite the broken taboo, people are still taking their time to consider changes that are, in some cases, permanent before going under the knife or needle.

Regardless of the growing rise in interest for surgeries, Basu warns of the impact of the financial state on the cosmetic procedures industry: "Historical data suggests an economic downturn impacts the aesthetic consumer psychology. Depending on the local-regional economic dynamics, this will have varying degrees of impact on aesthetic demand. Despite the negative economic headlines, our practice is still experiencing robust demand, but we remain guarded."

There is also a sense of anticipation that patients will begin to forgo more expensive procedures and opt for smaller alternatives. Basu predicts that the "mommy makeover" (a combined breast and abdominal contouring surgery) will soon be disregarded, with patients undergoing their single highest-prioritized surgery instead, in a bid for their dose of cosmetic surgeries despite inflation. "There also may be a higher reliance on financing options, and we may see patients opt for less expensive noninvasive treatment options like Botox injections or filler treatments and hold off on facial surgery," he concludes.

Overall, the readily available information on social media has demystified, and popularized, plastic surgery for Americans of all ages and genders. Broken down taboos around cosmetic procedures, whether surgical or not, as well as accessibility and financing options, means these are no longer "just restricted for the Hollywood elite or the uber-rich," Dr. Basu says. Despite the potential dip in popularity due to America's worsening financial situation, it seems aestheticians will remain in healthy business for the foreseeable future.


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