Before the coronavirus pandemic, if someone had told me that spending hours on Zoom and Skype every day would spark cosmetic surgery trends, I probably would've thought they were referencing a plot point from Black Mirror. But here we are, half way through 2020, and it feels like anything is possible, including the fact that certain injectable and aesthetic treatments are now trending as a result of how we look in an itty-bitty square whilst working from our living rooms.
However bizarre it may seem, it's what's happening. Multiple aesthetic and cosmetic surgeons we've spoken to over the last three weeks - since they could head back to work, that is - have told us they're surprised to hear people bringing up Zoom during their consultations. "I was doing consultation after consultation and people were saying, 'I'm looking at myself all day on Zoom,'" said Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, an aesthetic doctor and medical director of Adonia Medical Clinic. It makes sense when you take into account the extra time work from homers have spent staring at themselves over Zoom, analysing each flaw. So, it's unsurprising that coming out of the lockdown, when businesses like the beauty and aesthetic industry are reopening, clinic regulars are booking straight in for their beloved treatments, and new patients are joining the queue to get glowing skin in real life to match the filtered digital lens they've been inspecting over the past four months.
It's not just Zoom-related injectables that have boomed though. Bookings for virtual skin consultations have skyrocketed, doctors have seen a spike in interest surrounding science-led skincare products, and stress-related treatments have seen an (unsurprising) increase, which many people forget are central in the injectables industry.
Zoom and work-from-home culture has no doubt had a significant impact on the injectables and aesthetics industry. With the help of five top doctors in the field, we delve into what the most sought-after treatments are in the cosmetic surgery world post-lockdown, and exactly why these categories are seeing such an increase. We also look into how this will likely affect treatments moving beyond the immediate future after coming out of full lockdown.
People Can't Wait to Get Back Into the Clinic
It seems that regardless of what treatments are being booked, there are a lot of them filling the clinic diaries. "On social media, people were messaging the clinic saying, 'when are you going to open? When are you going to open?'", Dr Ejikeme revealed. "People want to have a facial. People desperately wanted to get that glow back, and the facial is one of the quickest ways to get that." She explained that, "if you don't follow your skincare practices, after three, four months, your skin will start to show the signs of whatever the issue was you initially had."
People aren't just booking treatments for themselves, either. Dr Roshan Ravindran (who goes by Dr Rosh), medical director of Cheshire-based aesthetics clinic Klnik, has noticed a big increase in bookings for other people. "I have seen a huge rise in people also booking their loved ones in for treatments, to ensure they're also getting pampered post-lockdown."
There are those people who have enjoyed the short break from getting beauty treatments, but in general, it's clear that as lockdown begins to ease, people are eager to get back to the treatments that make them feel good. When I asked Dr Sophie Shotter, cosmetic doctor and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic in Kent, if people were paring back their treatments after this break, she replied that "no one has wanted to go back natural." Instead, they want to maintain their natural-looking treatments and even ramp up new injectables and facials post-lockdown. Though the counterargument to this, as Dr Shotter highlighted, is that those wishing not to continue with treatments, simply aren't visiting the clinic at all.
"Zoom Face" Injectables Are Now a Reality
The year 2020 will forever be associated with the new words and phrases introduced into our lexicon like "social distancing", "maskne", and the most extraordinary of them all, "Zoom face". Most of us have encountered seismic shifts in our lives during this extended lockdown period, one of which has been the transition from office life to work-from-home life, a reality that resulted in the creation of makeshift desks, a spike in office chair sales, and many people spending hours upon hours on virtual conference calls. It's the latter of these changes that has directly affected what people are now asking for when they go to see an aesthetic and cosmetic surgeons, a phenomenon many professionals are dubbing "Zoom face", referring to the fact that patient after patient is coming in talking about how their face looks on Zoom and what they want to fix about it.
"In normal times during meetings, you focus on others, whereas during lockdown and the virtual reality we've had to adapt to, we've been forced to focus on ourselves a lot more on screen," said Dr Rosh.
"I've had more people come in than expected saying, 'So I've been sitting at home on Zoom and I've noticed X,'" Dr Shotter told POPSUGAR. Three other doctors we spoke to agreed. "I do think [Zoom-related face treatments] are due to meetings with the 'mirror in the room'", says Dr Rosh. "In normal times during meetings, you focus on others, whereas during lockdown and the virtual reality we've had to adapt to, we've been forced to focus on ourselves a lot more on screen," he said.
Logically, it makes sense that we're overcritical of our appearances after staring at ourselves in a tiny and often distorted box for hours on end. So, what treatments are people actually getting to address these issues? "Botox and fillers are the biggest things I do," says Dr Shotter. "It might be someone suddenly noticing forehead lines or crow's feet lines. It might be someone noticing more sagging because they're leaning forward to look at a laptop, or marionette lines that they never realised they really had." Board-certified cosmetic surgeon and founder of 111 Skin and 111 Harley St., Dr Yannis Alexandrides also reported that "by far the most popular nonsurgical treatments right now are Botox and filler".
But "Zoom face" isn't just causing an increase in injectables. Clinics offering skin consultations have also seen a spike during and post lockdown with people interested in how to improve their skin. Dr Ejikeme thinks the two are linked. She noted that prepandemic, many people would go to work and attend meetings (including the occasional videoconference) with makeup on, whereas during lockdown, many people took the time to forgo makeup altogether. This resulted in people noticing the subtle things about their appearance; not just fine lines and wrinkles but "skin texture, dull skin, pigmentation, and redness. My patients want clear skin and don't always want to wear makeup," she said.
Dr Alexandrides agrees, "a lot of people actually don't want to wear makeup these days because they don't think that it's necessary to always wear makeup at home, so they want to have good skin," he explained. Dr Lauren Hamilton, cosmetic doctor and founder of Victor and Garth, echoes this: "I do think we're heading into a stripped back, less-is-more vibe with the common goal of healthy skin. Lockdown has shown us that beauty starts with your skin and great skin care is accessible, you don't even need to leave your home. You can have a virtual skin consultation and have the items delivered to your door."
Virtual Skin Consultations May Be Here to Stay
Many of the doctors we spoke to who perform nonsurgical treatments also spend a lot of their time doing skin consultations, and it's clear that bookings in virtual consultations have seen a huge spike during the pandemic when in-clinic consultations were not an option - and they're here to stay. Like Dr Hamilton said, they're extremely accessible, free up both patient and doctor's time, and are often cheaper than in-personal consultations. The emergence of online platforms dedicated to this, such as Get Harley, and clinics choosing to continue these temporary virtual appointment measures long-term, will change the way people seek professional skin help well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Alexandrides's clinic has extended this to his cosmetic surgery appointments. "If Skype consultations are well organised, then actually they can be very helpful and they can save a lot of time and money, for the patient especially", he said, explaining that it reduces travel time and expenses. "In plastic surgery, 97-99 percent of people are happy with their results, so it's about the confirmation in a follow-up appointment", noting that virtual consultations can be highly effective.
There's Been a Spike In Science-Based Skin Care
COVID-19 has had an unprecedented (my deepest apologies for using that word, but it really is true) impact on the world, many of us nonscientists and medical professionals have had to lean on science more than ever before. Dr Ejikeme interestingly noted that since lockdown - and after seeing a "huge, huge boom in skin consultations" - the questions people are asking during those appointments are much more science specific. "Before lockdown, a lot of people would ask questions about organic, paraben-free, and vegan skin care, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, I've not heard one person ask that sort of question. Everybody wants scientific-based skin care," she explained. "They want to know what the percentage of vitamin C in a product is and what niacinamide is; they want to know about key ingredients." Dr Ejikeme says that "because of COVID, the science has been guiding us," which extends to skin care, too. "The content of conversations have been scientifically led."
"Before lockdown a lot of people would ask questions about organic, paraben-free, and vegan skin care, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, I've not heard one person ask that sort of question," explained Dr Ejikeme.
Dr Hamilton echoes this to some extent: "Patients are now interested in the role they can play in their quest for healthier skin. Those switching to medical-grade skin care will notice better results with their injectable treatments, too."
Stress-Related Cosmetic Treatments Are Skyrocketing
It's not just aesthetic treatments people are booking in fast. Stress-related treatments are on the rise, too. Many of the doctors we spoke to noted a spike in various treatments that are directly related to stress. Dr Ejikeme's clinic has had an increase in inquiries for women's hair loss consultations, which isn't surprising considering hair loss and stress are directly linked. Dr Hamilton's clinic has noticed a spike in migraine and teeth-grinding treatments (which can be treated using injectables), which she said, "could be attributed to a mixture of things such as the stress of lockdown, health concerns, and job uncertainty."
"People are going all out for cosmetics treatments in the sense that they are wanting to take care of themselves after what has been quite a stressful lockdown period," said Dr Rosh.
In some cases, just going in for traditional aesthetic treatments (yes, even if that involved being poked with needles) are stress relieving. "People are going all out for cosmetic treatments in the sense that they are wanting to take care of themselves after what has been quite a stressful lockdown period. For some people, lockdown had quite a profound psychological impact on them", explained Dr Rosh. "I definitely think this will be a trend that grows as this becomes the new normal and will be for some time. I think there will be a rise in demand in people wanting facial rejuvenation procedures, including facials, skin pigmentation procedures, Botox, and filler," he added.
Lip Filler Isn't Going Anywhere
There has been a debate on whether lip fillers are on the rise or fall with the introduction of mandatory mask wearing. However, after speaking with the experts, the correlation between lip filler popularity and the wearing of face coverings is not so clear cut. While some doctors, like Dr Shotter, noted that patients were prioritising eyes over lips because at work they're going to be wearing more masks, she did say that it certainly isn't all of her patients. Dr Alexandrides, on the other hand, hasn't noticed this at his clinic. "A very good number of people are still requesting lip fillers - I don't think that wearing a mask is a deterrent for my patients." As we approach more normalcy, it will be interesting to see whether the pandemic and wearing of masks will impact the lip filler boom in the near future.
The Cosmetic Surgery and Injectables Sector Adapts to the New Normal
Finally, as the argument has been all along with regards to the reopening of the beauty industry (after being left behind in the government's Plan to Rebuild), injectables and aesthetics are big business. Dr Shotter said that while she's not seen people go crazy with bookings, they're definitely not shying away from treatments due to budgets. Whether it's lack of holidays, going out, or just a general want to spend money on themselves, people are booking just as many treatments post lockdown, which as Dr Shotter mentioned, "is what the economy needs to stay afloat."
Despite many people regarding aesthetics and cosmetic surgery as higher-class treatments, these clinics are often smaller businesses that have seen huge financial losses at this time. They've played their part in helping the NHS, too. Dr Shotter returned to the NHS as an ICU doctor, Dr Alexandrides's clinic offered supplies to NHS hospitals, and Dr Rosh's clinic provided coronavirus testing, and at one time, Klnik had completed 1-in-5 of the COVID-19 testing done on healthcare staff in the country. Thankfully, loyalty has never been stronger within the industry. The pandemic has no doubt had a huge impact on the beauty - and more specifically injectable and cosmetic surgery - industry. People's priorities have shifted, mindsets have altered, and requests have changed. As many businesses in the beauty industry have, the injectables and cosmetic surgery sector has adapted to meet client's requirements and changing requests.