Remember those pre-COVID-19 days? When most of us spent only minutes a day looking in the mirror, once in the morning — putting on makeup or shaving — then again during our evening routines?
For the past year, legions of us have been staring at our faces on computer monitors — sometimes for hours each day — through Zoom and other online meeting apps as we work from home during the pandemic.
We don't always like what we see.
And this has led to a spike in visits to dermatologists and plastic surgeons across the country as people seek cosmetic treatments that will make us, as Gloria Swanson famously said in “Sunset Boulevard,” ready for our closeup.
Some have called the surge in cosmetic enhancements and plastic surgeries the “Zoom boom.”
Sure, staring at our faces on Zoom has had an effect, but other factors also are contributing to the skyrocketing demand for UCI Health dermatology and plastic surgery services.
“I think it’s a combination of Zoom and people having the disposable income, the opportunity and the time to make enhancements before things completely reopen,” says UCI Health plastic surgeon Dr. Gregory R.D. Evans, chair of the UCI School of Medicine's Department of Plastic Surgery.
The recent influx in patients is driven by several factors, he says, including:
- Recovery after a procedure doesn’t lead to any discernible social downtime because we’re still mostly at home
- Masks conceal treatments on the lower face, such as injectable lip fillers and tightening facial skin around the jaws
- People haven’t been spending on travel, clothing or dining, so it may be an opportune time to treat themselves to cosmetic improvements they've been considering
- The pandemic has reminded people to value each day — and to take action in ways that might make them feel better about themselves.
Evans and Dr. Kristen M. Kelly, a board-certified UCI Health dermatologist and chair of the Department of Dermatology, have both seen an uptick in inquiries about the following procedures:
- Liposuction — A surgical procedure that uses a suction technique to remove fat from specific areas such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms or neck. With not a lot to do but watch Netflix and eat, many of us have packed on a few pounds — reports suggest anywhere from 15 to 40 pounds — during the pandemic. That can show in the face and neck, and liposuction can help bring back the natural shape of your face.
- Cosmetic surgery — Plastic surgeons can eliminate jowls, tighten jaws and necklines, soften deep wrinkles, elevate eyebrows and lower eyelids. The choices are many, depending on what a patient wants to achieve and what the surgeon thinks is appropriate.
- Non-ablative laser rejuvenation — This procedure heats the underlying skin tissue without harming the surface to promote the growth of new collagen. This can improve the appearance of wrinkles, brown spots and minor scars, as well as skin tone.
- Ablative laser resurfacing — In this procedure, a laser makes tiny holes in the skin to remove aged or damaged skin and stimulates new collagen. As the skin heals, it appears smoother and tighter. The effects are more dramatic than with non-ablative lasers.
- Injectables: Botulinum toxin injections can soften the appearance of crow’s feet, those wrinkles at the corners of your eyes or the creases on your forehead. A variety of fillers also can be injected to plump up areas where volume has been lost through aging or where muscle movements over decades have produced furrows, like those above the lips or descending from the nose to the corners of the mouth.
“There are many options, depending on how aggressive a person wants to be,” says Kelly.
Consult a pro
Most people want to restore a natural look or rejuvenate their appearance in subtle ways, Kelly says. But they may not know the best methods available to achieve their individual goals.
“A trained dermatologist or plastic surgeon can help guide a patient to the most appropriate treatment, taking into account the results desired and the downtime needed,” says Kelly.
Most cosmetic treatments are performed in outpatient settings. Recovery time varies depending on the procedure and the individual patient’s health.
Costs can vary widely from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the procedure. Cheaper is not always better.
Training, experience matter
Evans cautions that cosmetic surgery — including laser procedures— is still surgery.
That underscores the importance of seeking out qualified cosmetic specialists who are certified by the American Board of Dermatology or the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
“All of our physicians are highly trained in these specialties,” Evans says of UCI Health plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
“If you’re looking to age gracefully or turn back the clock 10 years as you reenter the post-COVID-19 job market, we can offer you a professional consultation and provide leading-edge technologies in a safe environment.”