Surge in Cosmetic Procedures as Patients Return to the Aesthetic Practice

While for many medical practitioners the COVID-19 pandemic has led to practice closures and decreased patient visits, certain specialities are currently outperforming the market. Due to elective surgeries being postponed in the beginning months of the virus outbreak, aesthetic medicine professionals are now experiencing a significant spike in demand in light of lifted or lessened restrictions. As patients eagerly return to clinics, motivated by isolation-related appearance concerns, their procedures of choice are much different and much more invasive. 

New Trends in Demand for Cosmetic Procedures

Before the pandemic began, industry trends revealed a shift away from invasive cosmetic procedures toward more minimal procedures – Botox injections, fillers, other skin tighteners all rose in popularity while the amount of eyelid surgeries and face-lifts declined by 36 and 8%, respectively. Now cosmetic surgeons report a growing demand for more invasive cosmetic procedures across the country, as reported by an article published in The New York Times.

There has been a noticeable surge in face-lift procedures potentially fueled by the amount of time patients are spending on video communication platforms and at home scrutinizing their appearance. Although, experts caution that the rising demand could be pent-up due to quarantine measures and may not be indicative of a lasting trend.

The new trend is surprising experts as cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance and procedures can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars with full body makeovers costing patients up to $25,000. However, patients report wanting to spend their money on physical appearance improvement instead of travel and other types of consumer discretionary spending.

Patient Motivations

As more patients now follow a work-from-home model and spend the day looking at their own face, they are increasingly looking for solutions to the cosmetic imperfections they notice. The increased screen time alongside increased time looking at your reflection have sparked growing aesthetic concerns leaving many individuals overly preoccupied with their appearance. This extend to the digital world as well with rising usage of social media and video communication platforms, such as the market leader Zoom which offers users the option to “touch up” their appearance with the click of a button.

“I have never done so many face-lifts in a summer as I’ve done this year,” Diane Alexander, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Atlanta who conducted over 250 procedures from May 18 to July 31, told The New York Times.

“Pretty much every face-lift patient that comes in says: ‘I’ve been doing these Zoom calls and I don’t know what happened but I look terrible,’” Alexander said, adding that: “This is the weirdest world I live in. The world is shut down, we’re all worried about global crisis, the economy is completely crashing, and people come in and still want to feel good about themselves.”

Another consumer motivation, as the article reports, is loneliness caused by isolation and social distancing practices which has led to decreased self-esteem and in many cases, weight gain due to a lack of physical activity.

Furthermore, current social distancing norms and facial covering regulations offer the ideal opportunity for inconspicuous recovery; patients who had long considered cosmetic surgery are using this period to hide post-procedural symptoms and recover in their homes.

Along with limited recreational activities, increased time spent at home, and changes in disposable income caused by shifting consumer behaviors, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred lifestyle factors that benefit the aesthetic medicine market significantly. Nonetheless, experts caution that the observed trends may not be indicative of a lasting influx of demand and merely reflect a delay in patient procedures caused by the postponing of elective surgeries and subsequent reopening of clinical practices.