Demand for cosmetic procedures has skyrocketed over the pandemic, thanks to a rise in videoconferencing and the increasing availability of reversible, quick-fix procedures, says reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon Dr Patrick Trevidic
Like it or not, most of us have been cast into the spotlight over the past year and a half. As unwitting screen stars facing our colleagues and clients over videoconferencing software while working from home, each of us has also had ample time to reconsider our looks — and what we like and don’t like about them. This new perspective on ourselves has sparked what some are referring to as a Zoom Boom in cosmetic treatments in the UAE and elsewhere.
From quick-fix solutions such as fillers and botox treatments to full-on surgical enhancements, UAE surgeons say inquiries have skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic.
“The demand for cosmetic enhancements has increased by more than 20 per cent worldwide, according to data coming in from the scientific community,” says Dr Patrick Trevidic, Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon. The Paris-based surgeon was in Dubai recently to consult with local clients on behalf of Teoxane, a Swiss brand of injectable dermal fillers.
“With the pandemic situation the number of people coming to see us has increased because of the Zoom effect and the selfie effect. During the lockdown, people had to communicate for their jobs over videoconference apps such as Zoom. These apps can distort your face, depending on where and how you hold the camera. Even before the pandemic, selfie camera filters changed the shape and size of the face. All of this brings new patients to our office,” he adds.
The selfie effect — compounded by social media trends such as the #IWokeUpLikeThis hashtag — has previously been identified as sparking increased interest in cosmetic surgery, particularly nose jobs, according to a study in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal.
Mobile videoconferencing usage continues to grow despite vaccine rollouts and workers’ physical return to the office. Over just three mobile apps — Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet — the number of combined monthly active users is now 21 times pre-pandemic levels reported in the first half of 2019, according to app store data compiled by market researcher Sensor Tower. Usage over the first six months of this year remained two and a half times above the level achieved when the pandemic struck in the first half of 2020. The growth is a result of existing users spending more time on digital videoconferencing apps as well as continuing downloads by new users.
Requests for cosmetic procedures have kept pace. Over lockdown in the UK, for example, British plastic surgeons saw a 70 per cent rise in consultation requests, according to the country’s association of aesthetic plastic surgeons. A similar study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that 64 per cent of US cosmetic surgeons had seen an increase in telemedicine consultations since before the Covid-19 outbreak. Separately, some 86 per cent of cosmetic dermatologists said in a US survey that patients cited videoconferencing as a reason to seek cosmetic consultations, with nearly as many patients admitting to being significantly less happy with their appearance after using videoconferencing tools.
At the beginning of the pandemic we thought the market would go down, but it has actually started to grow more than before.”
Lockdowns and movement restrictions also enabled people to embark on procedures they may have been reluctant to undergo before the pandemic, because of the lengthy recovery times required.
“Some patients, for example, didn't want to procedures on their lips because they were afraid of comments from their relatives and friends. But now they say it’s easy because of the mask. If they’re comfortable with the bruising during the healing, they will keep the mask on,” Dr Trevidic says.
“At the beginning of the pandemic we thought the market would go down, but it has actually started to grow more than before,” he adds.
The increase in demand coincides with wider availability of quick-fix in-office treatments such as injectable fillers, laser hair resurfacing, and neuromodulators like Botox. These treatments typically offer faster and easier results than invasive surgeries, while many have low recovery times. Depending on the type of treatment, you could appear younger on a Zoom call the same afternoon.
With all the focus on our face, it’s no wonder that facial treatments have emerged as the most popular over the pandemic. The mid-cheek lift, the most popular treatment before the pandemic, has remained the most-in-demand over the 18 months. The procedure, which aims to restore volume and establish a youthful contour in the cheeks, addresses one of the earliest signs of ageing: sagging cheeks. It may also tackle prominent laugh lines and droopy mouths.
Lip enhancements are also sought-after, Dr Trevidic says. “In Middle East, women are very lucky to have full lips, but it's a big demand among Caucasian women here.”
Fillers have also soared in popularity over the pandemic. These products fill in folds and wrinkles and help replenish lost volume. They can be used to smooth out areas such as nasolabial folds or laugh lines; marionette lines, wrinkles that run vertically between the mouth and the chin; tear troughs, the deep creases between the lower eyelids and the upper cheeks; and the mandibular line along the jaw. Fillers also find takers looking to enhance the appearance of their genitalia, he says.
Safe and reversible
Dr Trevidic emphasises the safety of these newer procedures. “Products are also becoming safer, and people are less afraid to use them,” he says. “That was not the case 20 years ago with permanent fillers.”
Some filler treatments, such as hyaluronic acid can also be reversed, he says, which adds to their appeal. “The hyaluronic acid that we inject is reversible and it also has an antidote. In terms of safety, it’s the at the top of the list. Such treatments are also less painful, because we add analgesics to the filler. With less pain, there is much less stress for patients — unlike previously, where we had big needles and there was bruising and swelling.”
Similarly, botox has been around for 35 years, he says, so surgeons are well aware of reactions, consequences and risk factors. So this is the big difference. “We know toxins for 35 years now, it's very safe and it lasts six months,” he says.
Anyone considering a cosmetic procedure should consider how the coronavirus might affect their plans. “It’s impossible to do any injections 15 days before and after vaccinations because the vaccine promotes an inflammatory process that could lead to adverse reactions within that window period,” he says.
But although cosmetic procedures are more popular than ever, Dr Trevidic has a word of caution for those thinking about augmentations and improvements. “As a doctor, I can’t accept every demand from a patient. I prefer to lose the patient than to do something I don't believe in or something that I think is too risky,” he avers.
Consumers, for their part, should consider procedures carefully. It’s important to start with something small, and to preferably pick a reversible procedure at the outset. “It's very important to go slowly with the treatment plan,” he says.
Hyaluronic acid fillers raise the bar for cosmetic treatments
Dermal fillers offer a quick and relatively safe way to instantly increase your face value. But these quick-fix treatments are different from neurotoxins such as botox, says a French reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon.
“Neurotoxins are medications where you reduce or stop the activity of the muscle by blocking communication with the muscle. Botox can help minimise lines on the upper face, such as those between the brows, horizontal lines on the forehead, and crows’ feet around the eyes,” says Dr Patrick Trevidic, a Paris-based plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon. “Fillers, on the other hand, are comparable to clay. When a fold is filled with clay, it disappears entirely,” he adds.
Although both are injectables, dermal fillers are now preferred by many patients because the effect usually lasts longer.
Dr Trevidic recommends hyaluronic acid (HA) gel fillers to reduce facial lines and wrinkles. The naturally occurring molecule helps the skin retain moisture, which in turn can make your face look plump and hydrated. “HA has a 25-year history and we know that it’s very safe and lasts for one year in cases such as the tear troughs,” he says. While there are a number of different kinds of fillers, he prefers to use those where hyaluronic acid is the main ingredient, because of its wide range of applications, its availability in different thicknesses, and because it can be dissolved with an antidote. This means that incorrect, uneven or excessive fillers can easily be corrected.
For those who are afraid to alter their natural appearance because they believe their facial expressions could be adversely affected, the surgeon recommends the use of resilient hyaluronic acid (RHA), an ingredient exclusively found in the products of Swiss aesthetic brand Teoxane. “RHA is designed to be resilient and adapt to the movement of the facial muscles, protecting the product from degradation, and providing undetectable natural results in line with both the dynamic movement and static rest of the face. When we put it in the face, it moves like your smile, without any bumps or too much volume. It is a safe product without any adverse events,” he says.
Teoxane Laboratories was established in Geneva in 2003. It has recently launched its range of cosmeceutical products and dermal fillers in the UAE.
Dr Trevidic uses the Teoxane RHA to augment the mid-cheek area and for a lip enhancement technique he calls the French Kiss. For the orbital or eye area, he uses a specific low-hygroscopic Teoxane product called Redensity 2. In contrast with mainstream HA fillers, which absorb water and can make the eyes look puffy, Redensity 2 remains soft and feels and looks natural.
Overall, dermal fillers help slow the ageing process considerably, and help avoid the impact of a sudden and drastic change. That’s provided people start early, he says. “We are not looking for big changes, but we work towards reducing the aging process. This is why cosmetic injections are very important because they can slow and even reverse the ageing process to some extent. For example, we now start earlier than in the past (patients between 25 and 30 years old) because we know that if the lines are stable and fixed at the beginning it is easier than later on, when things are more difficult to change.”