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The Pandemic Created a Perfect Storm for the Plastic Surgery Industry Amid the 'Zoom Boom' Phenomenon. Doctors Are Expecting Another Boom This Holiday Season. For an industry that was originally rocked by closures and shut downs, the interest in cosmetic procedures appears to be at an all-time high.

By Emily Rella

Aekkarak Thongjiew / EyeEm | Getty Images

Since the onset of the pandemic, hundreds of industries and millions of businesses have suffered from lack of revenue, business, growth and blatant normalcy as we used to know it.

Spending time locked up in our homes with a seemingly never-ending number of Zoom happy hours and video calls with loved ones glued to our phones and social media have made the last year and beyond one of the most self-critical time when it comes to our appearance.

But to those familiar with the over observant and self-criticism that come with staring at your face on a screen all day, this doesn't come as a surprise at all.

Plastic surgeons and researchers have dubbed this phenomenon with non-invasive and surgical cosmetic procedures in a post-pandemic landscape as the "Zoom Boom", directly correlating the increase of interest in such procedures with the massive increase of screen time that the pandemic caused.

"A lot of my new patients and established patients found themselves finding new problems while talking on Zoom," says board-certified Dr. Dmitriy Schwarzburg of Skinly Aesthetics in New York City. "That was a super common thread and theme among them. They're all coming in and saying "Hey, this is what I noticed that I didn't notice before, but all this time spent on camera, now I'm extremely cognizant about it and want to do something about it.'"

From a psychological perspective, the 'Zoom Boom' isn't necesarily only a bad, anxiety-inducing phenomenon.

"There's actually also some positive psychology benefits to seeing a bright polished image of yourself on screen," says Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist. "As an entrepreneur myself as well as a psychologist, I actually start to think of our Zoom presentation as almost the post-pandemic equivalent of what corporations often used to call 'being presentable.'"

Yet for many plastic surgeons, the pandemic has counterintuitively been one of the best things for business.

"The silver lining to the pandemic is the positive effect it has had on people seeking cosmetic surgery procedures and treatments. Patients are spending much more time looking in the mirror and at themselves on Zoom video calls," agrees Dr. David Shafer, MD, FACS. "The 'Zoom Boom' is 100% attributed to patients sitting at home all day and staring at their faces on video conferences. It has been a blessing to the cosmetic surgery industry, as an unprecedented amount of people are looking for plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments. For an industry that was completely shut down during the initial months of the pandemic, the 'Zoom Boom' has been a godsend."

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Zoom itself generated a whopping $2.6 billion in revenue during the year 2020, a nearly 317% increase year over year, with participants increasing just shy of 3000% year over year.

Yet the numbers comparing plastic surgeries performed in 2020 to that of 2019 will show a decrease in all procedures across the board.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that plastic surgeons stopped performing elective surgeries for an average of 8.1 weeks in 2020 due to pandemic related restrictions (about 15% of the year) accounting for a decline in total procedures over the course of the year.

Factor those closures out and your likely to actually see the opposite — a stark increase in non-invasive and cosmetic proceeders.

Dr. Schwarzburg says that the most common areas he's been asked to perform on amid the pandemic boom have been "under-eyes, frown lines and neck bands" -- And he's not alone.

Of over the $15.6 million spent on cosmetic procedures in 2020, the top three procedures performed were nose reshaping, eyelid surgery and facelifts.

For some, these procedures provided a way to regain a sense of self-control and a way to fight back against the toll that the pandemic had on one's perceived self-image; in a sense, a way to feel more back to 'normal.'

"The pandemic stalled my cosmetic procedures because medspas weren't open and I was given a pay cut at work. Eventually, when my pay was reinstated, I doubled down on side jobs, and service centers opened up, I threw myself back into procedures, doing more than I had before," says Lauren G.*, a New York City woman in her 20s. "The lockdowns and temporary halt to everyday life were a reminder that it's not as frivolous as it seems to live in the moment and pursue the things you want to do when you have the chance. Further, when so much of my career and social life stalled amid the pandemic, I felt desperate to regain control of something, and my appearance was by far the easiest thing to micromanage. The feelings of productivity and confidence that accompanied my pandemic-era enhancements helped propel me out of that lockdown funk in other aspects of my life."

When it comes to typically popular minimally-invasive procedures such as lip filler, Dr. Schwarzburg explains that they have remained popular throughout the pandemic, especially with the introduction of the Russian lip technique that is meant to be even less invasive than standard fillers of the past.

"The most important factor is that it's injected superficially, and it's essentially turns the lip from the front bottom to top — instead of from posterior to anterior, it goes from inferior to superior," he explains. "There's less bruising with it because there are fewer vessels superficially in your lip … it's not as significant as when you go deeper, when you're more prone to hit those bigger vessels. They're almost absent in the territory."

This desire to achieve a "natural" look is something that's become hyper-fixated upon amid among younger demographics who have turned to social media and filters as a means of aesthetic inspiration, especially during times of isolation and lockdown.

"I genuinely believe that from a psychological perspective we are just scratching the surface on the depths of the damaging repercussions the pandemic has had on all of us. Related to self-image, wow, we are really seeing some interesting trends happening that directly correlate to social media," explain Tiffany Goodwin, RDN, LD and Sarah Arsenau, RDN, LD at Connections Wellness Group. "Think about what people, teenagers specifically, were filling their time with during the pandemic. Social media platforms such as TikTok skyrocketed, topping out at 100 million users. Many of our patients report that there was this immense pressure to have a "COVID glow-up', meaning you have no excuse now not to diet and exercise daily. Their vision became hyper focused on achieving the unachievable bodies that flood our social media platforms and returning to "regular life' with potentially different bodies. Mix this with a collective, population-wide trauma, the loss of achievement related to sports and other extra-curriculars, social isolation, and environmental stress such as losing loved ones and financial security… well, it is no wonder the state of our mental health is suffocating."

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And as the winter months enter their peak during a time when many are beginning to re-quarantine and self-isolate once again, procedures are again increasing in popularity as potential pateients are spending more time scrolling and comparing and less time out and about with loved ones.

"Social comparison has a positive function, but it can also become neurotic," explains Dr. Carmichael. "All the pandemic stress, including pandemic weight gain (closed gyms) has definitely facilitated some insecurities that can make us go a bit haywire."

When it comes to pandemic-related weight gain or body image insecurities, a major procedure the industry can expect to see an uptick in is QWO injections, relatively new and cutting-edge cellutlite injections that leave a patient with little to no downtime in between sessions.

"What makes this treatment so innovative compared to various other cellulite treatments is that it targets the one aspect of cellulite that actually causes the dimpling, which is the fibrous septae that lies beneath the skin, pulling the skin downward, creating the classic dimpling that is seen in cellulite patients," Dr. Schwarzburg explains. "Most other treatments that attempt to reduce and eliminate cellulite target the fat that bulges outward, rather than the very thing that causes the dimpling in the first place."

Schwarzburg expects to see an influx QWO patients this season and anticipates it becoming an extremely popular choice for those wishing to change their appearance without any hyper-invasive surgery.

"I can imagine an increase in QWO patients this season, especially as the word on the treatments continues to spread," he says. "When it comes to holiday gift giving, I would say that treatments such as Botox, Lip Fillers, and medical grade facials such as Fraxel are more popular, though I can imagine QWO becoming one on that holiday wish list."

Of course typical procedures such as Botox and fillers will also see a steady increase over the next month or so.

"We are already seeing an influx of patients looking to have last-minute treatments before the holidays. This is a special year as it's the first time people are seeing friends and family for several years because of the pandemic and travel restrictions," Dr. Shafer says. "Gifting procedures is popular this time of year. I just had a patient buy a gift certificate for his mom to have a facelift and several patients buy gift certificates as last-minute presents for their partner ... the whole plastic surgery industry is extremely busy now as people are venturing more out of their homes, heading to the office, and planning vacations."

*Name has been changed.

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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