There has been a sharp increase in those looking to get cosmetic surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic, and plastic surgeons are beginning to be overwhelmed.
Dr. Karol Gutowski, who treats patients in the Glenview and Oak Brook area, remarks that he has seen a surprisingly high number of people coming into his practice. Though there is an increase in procedures across the board, the three that are the most commonly requested are tummy tucks, liposuction, and breast enhancements.
This increase spans across communities and has many plastic surgeons wondering what about the pandemic has specifically caused the increase, and how they can handle the sudden influx of people looking to get cosmetic procedures.
What Doctors Have Been Seeing
The number of procedures has increased, but the percentage fluctuates from practice to practice. Lucio Pavone, a plastic surgeon from Edwards Elmhurst Health in Elmhurst and Naperville, has stated he has seen a 20 percent increase in requested procedures between June 2020 and February 2021.
Dr. George Kouris, a plastic surgeon from Hinsdale, has seen slightly different numbers compared to Pavone. Spanning from September 2020 to February 2021, Dr. Kouris saw a 25 percent increase in business. However, unlike Pavone, Dr. Kouris’s overall total is not much higher than previous years because his practice had to shut down in response to COVID-19.
Dr. Gutowski has also seen an increase in business which has caused him to change the way he plans his schedule. Previously, his practice would schedule patients two months out. Now, the influx of patients has caused Dr. Gutowski’s business to schedule up to four months in advance, and sometimes even further.
Possible Reasons for Increased Business
There are three main reasons people have been turning towards plastic surgery in droves during the pandemic, with the first being lockdowns. By being forced to quarantine, patients can recover from surgery without missing work, school, or social events. For example, tummy tucks require drains at the incision site that need to be managed for a week or longer.
Dr. Kouris himself even got plastic surgery at the beginning of the pandemic. Knowing his practice would be temporarily closed because of COVID-19, he asked a colleague at his practice to do cosmetic surgery on his upper eyelids. He had been planning to get this procedure done for ten years and found that the pandemic gave him a perfect opportunity to get the surgery done.
Like lockdowns, masks have been instrumental in helping plastic surgery patients hide any bruising from facial surgery. Eyelid surgery can leave patients with a slightly swollen or puffy face for seven to ten days, and wearing a mask can help those who feel self-conscious about their look post-surgery to recover without scrutiny.
A second reason for the increase in plastic surgery comes from discretionary spending. In addition to incoming stimulus checks from the government, many people who had cancelled any planned vacations in 2020 now have money to spare on cosmetic surgery that they may not have considered before.
The last reason for this influx of customers could come down to the new digital environment. Many, if not most, businesses rely on video platforms such as Zoom or WebEx to communicate with coworkers. By essentially staring into a mirror every time they have a business meeting, people may begin questioning their looks and become unhappy with their appearance.
A large part of this phenomenon comes down to the camera angle, position, and lighting. Because Zoom shows users’ faces from a different perspective than usual, many may wonder why their bathroom mirror shows something entirely different for their computer’s camera.
Plastic surgeons suggest changing camera position and lighting before going through with plastic surgery. Dr. Lee Daniel, who founded and runs his own practice, Lee B. Daniel Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, uses this example to explain: “Any time anyone tries to take a pretty picture of the sky, it never looks as pretty on film as it does in person. It’s the same with faces: just because you don’t like your appearance on Zoom doesn’t necessarily mean you need plastic surgery.”