If Covid-19 could not reduce cosmetic surgery cases – instead, causing a rise in domestic plastic surgery in India – the boom will continue.
By Dr Rajat Gupta,
While cosmetic surgery initially witnessed a dip due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as “lockdown face” entered the lexicon, the industry faced a spike in cases, now called the “Zoom boom”. It is no secret, two years later, that the global Covid-19 outbreak brought the world economy to a standstill. Elective procedures like cosmetic surgeries were also affected by this, facing an initial decline. However, soon enough, as “lockdown face” became a reality for people to deal with, more patients began opting for cosmetic surgery.
Several surgeons have called this the “Zoom boom”, attributing the 200% spike to the rise of online video-based communications worldwide. Between January 2021-21, Zoom’s revenue skyrocketed to $2.65B from what now seems like a meagre $623M. In the fourth quarter alone, it saw a 369% revenue increase, proving that security concerns and online dissatisfaction were not curbing its popularity. Several businesses understood the value of Zoom as a remote work resource, encouraging its use post-Covid, too. This increased usage also brought people face-to-face with something they did not think too much about – themselves. Specifically, the phenomenon surgeons call “lockdown face”. Lockdown face refers to the way people saw themselves in Zoom meetings. Unlike in real life, where you cannot see yourself when you speak to the other person, having your video on in a Zoom meeting exposes any asymmetries and imperfections to yourself. When people were forced to face themselves and see what they looked like, they began noticing extra wrinkles, eye bags and sagging skin much more.
Surge in patients looking specifically for facial cosmetic surgeries
These observations are also supported by reputed organisations like the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS), that reported nose reshaping (rhinoplasty), eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) and facelift as the three most common procedures in 2020. This is in stark contrast to 2019, where breast augmentation, liposuction and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) were the most common procedures in the USA. Even in India, liposuction was the most common surgical procedure in 2019, followed by rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty. Therefore, despite the dip in medical tourism, i.e. foreign patients coming to India for their cosmetic procedures, his clinic continued to be booked months in advance. A waiting list that was previously 3-4 weeks has now doubled to 6-8 weeks due to the Zoom boom. The most common procedure patients desired was removing eye bags, which saw a 300% spike in demand.
Alongside people seeing themselves and their imperfections more clearly, he attributes this to two other reasons.
Peaceful Recovery Space
Although many facial cosmetic procedures are minimally invasive or non-invasive (e.g. Botox injections or fillers), patients still have a fair amount of swelling and bruising. These outpatient procedures allow patients to return to work a few days after surgery, albeit with visible surgical aftermath. This process can be very embarrassing, hindering many patients who may otherwise want cosmetic surgery. The new work-from-home ethos gives cosmetic surgery patients the safe space they need to recover peacefully. They can take all the necessary precautions from the comfort of home. Their results settled down and, by the time they returned to work, most of the swelling and bruising were gone, leaving little evidence of surgical intervention beyond an enhanced appearance.
Self-Improvement Over Materialism
The second reason is more philosophical. Many people realised that material wealth brought them no joy – what use is a new car if you cannot drive it? Instead, they turned to self-improvement, shifting to healthier lifestyle habits like eating nutritious food and exercising. Cosmetic surgery became a part of this mental and physical transformation, helping them achieve their desired looks. This especially applies to stubborn subcutaneous fat that liposuction targets. While facial cosmetic surgeries have witnessed a boom during Covid, liposuction was the most popular procedure for a reason. It continued its popularity during Covid, helping patients get the contours they desired while recovering peacefully at home afterwards. Therefore, when a diet and exercise regimen failed to give them the desired results, cosmetic surgery stepped in, giving them their ideal body while working to keep it.
Will the boom continue post-Covid?
Cosmetic surgery was already a vibrant industry before Covid-19. Especially in India, medical tourism was one of the main selling points alongside a lower cost that brought several international patients. If the lack of travel amid a pandemic has not stunted industry growth, there is no reason to assume the boom will reduce. Despite these being medical procedures and people being apprehensive of clinical spaces, these elective procedures continued. While Covid-19 may have made the average person more aware of hygiene and healthcare measures, it also helped them realise how to invest in their happiness. As Dr Jill Owen from the British Psychological Association notes, the cosmetic surgery boom during Covid is part of an ongoing trend of being able to see yourself speak in real-time and worrying about your appearance. She notes that while this self-perception used to be reserved for celebrities (reflected in how they undergo the highest number of cosmetic procedures), the everyday patient can also see themselves with Zoom calling and social media.
Therefore, it is safe to say that if Covid-19 could not reduce cosmetic surgery cases – instead, causing a rise in domestic plastic surgery in India – the boom will continue. The way cosmetic procedures can aesthetically enhance appearances and help ease patients’ minds alone makes it a substantial part of the foreseeable future.
(The author is Founder of RG Aesthetics, a cosmetic surgery clinic in Delhi. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)