Why Some Plastic Surgeons Say the ‘Control Factor’ Is Fueling a Rise in Aesthetic Treatments During COVID

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When it comes to the current state of affairs, New York facial plastic surgeon Konstantin Vasyukevich, MD does not mince words: “We’re looking at a winter that could be terrible. But, when it comes to plastic surgery, that’s translating into a rise in demand—and that goes for pretty much every procedure, in every region across the country.”

At his practice, in particular, Dr. Vasyukevich says he has to work weekends and at night to keep up with the appointments, and he attests the packed surgery schedule is not about vanity. 

“First, our lifestyles are very different at the moment and, for some people, the timing is just right. Second, a lot of people think things are very much out of their control with the pandemic, and you can’t deny that our internal sense of well-being and our external appearance are very tightly related.”

To that end, he says, people are taking control of their appearances in order to feel better about themselves and, in turn, feel better about the current situation. “There’s definitely the ‘control factor’ at play here.”

Pasadena, CA plastic surgeon Lily Lee, MD says, at her practice, she sees the pandemic having almost ‘forced’ patients to sort out their personal priorities. 

“All the clients we are seeing lately are experienced, sophisticated and have a mature sense about what they want in their cosmetic appearance. Where my practice is, we cannot see as many clients at the pace that we used to due to keeping a safe distance and having to sanitize in-between clients, and yet, we are doing better than ever before.”

While Dr. Lee says she doesn’t necessarily categorize it as patients wanting to have control, she does say it’s safe to say they’ve rearranged their priorities—and they’re putting the personal ones at the top of the pile.

“The clients we are seeing these days have made coming in a priority in their lives. They know what they want, and they have trust in their practitioner. We haven’t seen any clients lately who are not sure if they really want to be in our office and the no-show rates have really dropped to almost none. There’s a large group of people who have made aesthetic medicine a priority in their lives.” 

Likewise, Reno, NV plastic surgeon Tiffany D. McCormack, MD theorizes that there’s a few lifestyle shifts—including ones that lean toward the self—that are fueling the surge. 

“My theory is that people have the downtime and ability to often work from home right now,” she says. “They’re not spending money on travel, so a lot of my patients are choosing to spend money on themselves instead. In addition, they are not using vacation time for travel and will use the time for recovery. Last, if working from home, on a computer, they are able to get back to work in just a couple of days, rather than two weeks.”

Encino, CA plastic surgeon George Sanders, MD also points to the shift in income as a big driving factor for the surge. 

“First of all, people always want to have plastic surgery. It is more affordable now since folks have more discretionary income because they cannot travel, dine out or attend performances such as concerts or sporting events.”

Not so surprisingly, he adds, is that we’re also spending more time looking at our faces via Zoom. “And, when most people use Zoom, they don’t look their best because of improper lighting or poor angle of the camera. I think that there is also the advantage of increased time to recover from surgery since many people are being furloughed from their jobs. People can also hide their facial recovery behind the mask that they must wear when out of the house.”

On a deeper level, Dr. Sanders speculates, may be the feeling of loss of control. “People are pushed this way and that by government mandates, an economy that is taking away their jobs, and a virus that is unseen, but can cause serious illness and even death. Some people may respond by asserting their control as they alter their bodies through plastic surgery.”

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