Encino, CA plastic surgeon George Sanders, MD had never done a virtual consultation until March of this year.
But, once COVID hit, it quickly became commonplace at his practice.
“At first, there were maybe one or two per week, but then there were many—often several each day,” he recalls. “Not only did patients virtually consult, but they scheduled their surgery in anticipation of the end of the surgery shutdown.”
And the calendar concurs: Since his office reopened for elective procedures in mid-May, the surgery schedule has been filled. “Part of this is due to the backlog of patients who were already scheduled for surgery but had to postpone it. Other patients were planning to have surgery anyway, and now seems like the perfect opportunity.”
However, Dr. Sanders says, there’s a third patient group that never considered surgery and are now drawn to it.
“When I ask these patients seeking plastic surgery why they are doing it, there are a number of reasons that are given. Home improvement has become a big thing during the pandemic. People are spending more time at home and see the need for home improvement. The same reasoning spills over into plastic surgery—patients have more time to spend looking at themselves and are seeing all sorts of needs that can be met by plastic surgery.”
It also comes as no surprise that many patients are not working, or they are able to work from home and recover there while still doing their job. “This gives those who were thinking about surgery before the pandemic, as well as those who began to think of having surgery during the pandemic, a wonderful opportunity because the element of time is often what is missing from the equation when it comes to recovering from surgery,” Dr. Sanders says.
Over on the opposite coast, New York plastic surgeon Jeffrey S. Yager, MD saw a similar “calendar fill” once his office got the go to reopen in June.
“At first, when we restarted, we were making up for the three months of cases we had to delay,” he says. “But now, we are extremely busy with new patients who see this as an opportunity to have cosmetic surgery due to virtual work situations. By working remotely, a patient can have most plastic surgery procedures done on a Friday and be back at work via Zoom, telephone or computer Monday.”
Dover OH, facial plastic surgeon David Hartman, MD has seen it, too. “Many patients are now working remotely from their homes to a far greater extent than ever—this affords many individuals more control of their work schedules and allows them to be less concerned about more lengthy recovery times,” he says, pinpointing one patient group in particular.
“We’ve seen this recovery-time-concern decline most notably in men. Working from home has markedly opened the door for men to step forward and schedule cases knowing they can recover, under the radar, from home, while continuing to work. Men seeking cosmetic surgery in our practice has tripled in the last five months compared to the same period last year.”
Likewise, Dr. Hartman coins now as the “right time for the right procedures” because of one very COVID-related covering: “The use of face masks is lowering patient concerns regarding bruising and swelling after facial surgery. For these reasons, as the pandemic wears on, we are seeing a significant reduction in client concerns regarding swelling and bruising after facial rejuvenation procedures such as facelifts, browlifts, eyelid lifts, facial fat transfers, and laser resurfacing. Not surprisingly, the desire to improve the appearance of the upper face—eyelids, brows and forehead—has become more of a priority now that the face above what the facemask cover is all that we see so much of the day.”
All the doctors interviewed cited Zoom and videoconferencing for fueling an increased interest in cosmetic procedures above the neck, and New York facial plastic surgeon Konstantin Vasyukevich, MD says, for his practice, the work-from-home helps to mitigate one of the major obstacles—taking sufficient time off work to allow for a full recovery—for patients who’ve ever considered getting that gold-standard aesthetic surgery of a facelift.
“A facelift is the most frequently requested cosmetic procedure in my practice—it is the most effective facial rejuvenation procedure, allowing patients to ‘reset the clock’ and rejuvenate one’s appearance by 10, or even 15, years. It also requires the longest recovery time, one to two weeks prior to returning to work, which makes it a more difficult procedure to schedule for a busy professional.”
“While being at home, one can typically return to doing some work three to four days after a facelift and can comfortably face their colleagues on Zoom calls five to seven days after their surgery,” he explains, adding that, like many other practices, his office is extremely busy taking care of an influx of patients requesting cosmetic surgery. “Our schedule has filled up well into the winter months and we are struggling to accommodate all of these new patient requests.”
One such “new” patient Dr. Vasyukevich has seen: Younger patients requesting mini-facelifts. “At this point, I am not sure if it can be attributed to COVID-related changes in lifestyle or if it’s indicative of a growing, more general trend of younger patients being more mindful of their appearance.”
While the stay-at-home involves exactly what it says it does, it also fuels, for many, a source of savings. More specifically, Dr. Yager says one trend he has been seeing of late is patients who have saved their vacation time, and therefore, get paid to work while recovering. “Couple that with the savings of not traveling and going out as much, and it is the perfect opportunity to finally have that procedure. I have seen many more patients seeking out combined surgeries, and those with longer recoveries. More breast reductions, abdominoplasties with liposuction, and breast implants with breast lifts. They are seizing the opportunity of time away from the office, combined with less social spending.”
Dr. Hartman has also noticed a growing number of patients are taking this opportunity to invest their disposable income in their “personal appearance and physical presentation.”
“Many clients are choosing to enhance their professional performance as well as their social self-confidence with strategic aesthetic procedures now that the option of seeking renewal and relaxation from travel has been curtailed due to the pandemic. Those who are accustomed to investing disposable income in the pleasure and ‘horizons-expanding’ benefits of visiting other cultures in overseas travel are now using that investment to tune-up aspects of their appearance that have been bothering them.”
“Having additional disposable income certainly helps to avoid straining one’s finances when paying for the procedure,” Dr. Vasyukevich adds. “Another reason why so many people are choosing to receive cosmetic procedures right now is the lack of other opportunities for personal enjoyment through things like travel, vacations, shopping, etc.”
And, while Dr. Sanders notes that the financial ability to have surgery has always been a driving factor, he says it has markedly shifted during the pandemic. “Folks are no longer dining out, going to the gym, shopping at the mall, or traveling. They have more disposable income now than they had before. I continue to be surprised by how willing people are to spend money on plastic surgery. The economy is not in the best shape, the economic future is uncertain and people’s jobs may also be a bit shaky—obviously, looking good remains a priority!”
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