Demand for plastic surgery procedures like breast augmentation, face lifts and tummy tucks have surged coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, with experts citing an increase in disposable income and more people suffering self-esteem issues as the cause.
Researchers at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) found that 76 percent of the nation’s plastic surgeons are seeing increased demand for their services now when compared to pre-pandemic levels. Nearly a fourth report their business doubling.
Procedures like liposuctions, facelifts, breast augmentation, tummy tucks and breast lifts were named the most common.
There are multiple reasons for this increase. More than 75 percent of patients are willing to spend more on cosmetic surgery now than before, doctors report, even despite growing economic uncertainty in the U.S.
This is because many saved money from not going on vacations and partaking in other activities for a year as a result of the pandemic led to many having more disposable income than before. Work from home culture also allowed many more time to stay at home and recover from procedures. Some experts have also warned that people staring at themselves on video calls all day developed self-esteem issues as a result – explaining the jump in face lifts.
The ASPS survey found that liposuctions were the most popular procedure, followed by facelifts, breast augmentations, tummy tucks and breast lifts
More than 75% of physicians who responded to the survey reported an increase in demand for cosmetic procedures now than before the pandemic
The surge in demand caught some plastic surgeons by surprise. Many expected their practices would go out of business as a result of the pandemic – but it ended up as a windfall for them.
‘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,’ Dr Bob Basu, a plastic surgeon based in Houston, Texas, who serves as vice president of finance for ASPS said.
‘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.’
The ASPS surveyed members from around the nation fort he study. More than 300 representatives took part.
Dr Bob Basu (pictured), a plastic surgeon based in Houston, Texas, said that many physicians were surprised to see business boom after the pandemic
Each was asked whether they say business increase or decrease as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly half, 47 percent, responded that they were seeing ‘slightly’ more business now than before Covid erupted in early 2020.
Just under one-fourth, 23, percent, said that the amount of work they have received has doubled from pre-pandemic levels.
Less than 20 percent reported a decrease in business of any kind now when compared to before the virus’s arrival.
Basu explained that the pandemic – and the shutdowns and social distancing that came along with it changed the calculus on getting cosmetic surgery for some people.
‘COVID changed everything. No one was traveling, vacations got canceled. So I think a lot of families and patients had a lot more disposable income,’ he explained.
‘And so, they found that this is the right time for them to do a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure.’
The data follows. As many as 42 percent of patients told their surgeons that they used their travel budget for cosmetics, with one-third reporting that they had managed to save up money during Covid.
Surgeons also reported that they feel 17 percent of patients are willing to spend ‘a lot’ more on cosmetic procedures than they were before the pandemic. Just under 60 percent were willing to spend ‘somewhat’ more.
Only five percent of surgeons noted a decrease in willingness to spend by patients.
The survey found that 76% of physicians reported their patients were willing to spend more money now than before the pandemic. Only 5% of physicians reported less willingness to spend
Many who received procedures also reported wanting to feel younger or quell other self-esteem issues.
The top five reasons reported by surgeons were wanting to feel refreshed, people noticing body changes during Covid that they wanted improved, surgeries put off from before Covid, self-esteem improvement and noticing insecurities during video calls.
The latter has been an interesting phenomena noted by experts over the past two years.
Described as ‘Zoom dysmorphia’, many people have taken to staring at themselves in real time while on video calls – and as a result developed morbid focus onto perceived flaws in how they look.
The study found that women aged 31 to 45 were the group that most frequented plastic surgery clinics. They often received breast augmentations, liposuction procedures and tummy tucks.
Basu says that this group, most of which are millennials, are at an age young enough to be able to quickly and reliably find information about these procedures and even connect with other patients to learn more from first hand sources.
Megan Gilbert (pictured), 35, said that she got cosmetic surgery after being referred to Basu by a friend
‘Millennials are very sophisticated in terms of getting the information they want. They share their experiences with other people through social media platforms or other methods,’ he said.
‘And so, these procedures are no longer taboo — They’re actually relatable and accessible.
‘Because of this open sharing, patients also come in well-versed about the procedures of interest. And so it really allows us to have a really productive discussion about their options.’
One of those women was 35-year-old Megan Gilbert. She lost 25 pounds during Covid, using the free time she had to put a greater focus on her personal health – and noticed some insecurities when looking in the mirror.
‘After breastfeeding two kids and losing weight, my breasts no longer looked how I wanted them to,’ she said.
‘And I thought, ‘Why be unhappy with this one part of my body after working so hard to make all of these other improvements in my life?’
She was referred to Basu, who performed a breast augmentation and breast lift on her.
‘I couldn’t be happier with the results. Having that confidence back and feeling better about myself resonates in every part of my life, including with my family,’ Gilbert said.
‘I want my kids to be happy and secure in their life and in who they are, and if they don’t see that in me, it’s hard for them to see it in themselves.’