What’s trending in the world of aesthetic treatments and procedures since the pandemic, according to four aesthetic medicine practitioners.

Although the pandemic’s far-reaching effects on the economy have caused many of us to tighten our belts, aesthetic practitioners globally have reported an increase in demand for cosmetic  procedures since 2020.  This has been attributed to more people considering aesthetic procedures as part of their self-care routine through the pandemic.

According to a survey of 1,000 women by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 11% of women, who have never undergone cosmetic procedures, were more interested in cosmetic surgery after the pandemic than before, and that the figure was even higher at 24% among women who had already undergone aesthetic procedures. The same survey revealed 35% of women who have had cosmetic surgery or minimally invasive treatments planned to spend more on cosmetic treatments in 2021 than in 2020.

We spoke to aesthetic medicine practitioners from Malaysia and Singapore to learn more.

The Zoom Boom has driven demand for facial-contouring and laser treatments

The ‘Zoom Boom’ during the pandemic in 2020 to 2021 has propelled the popularity for facial aesthetic treatments.

A study showed increased time on video calls and virtual meeting platforms is associated with a higher willingness to undergo cosmetic procedures. As well as paying more attention to how our faces compare with friends or colleagues on screen, video conferencing has caused us to notice flaws such as facial asymmetry, and signs of ageing such as wrinkles and folds.

Dr Anna Hoo, Anna Hoo Clinic (Photo by Anna Hoo Clinic)

“People are spending more time on video calls and looking at their own faces on these calls. This has made them become more aware of their looks, and more willing to consider treatments which improve their physical appearance without using social media filters,” Dr Anna Hoo of the Anna Hoo Clinic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia says of the impact of video conferencing.

“Many patients are now seeking facial contouring and orbital rejuvenating treatments that use a combination of botulinum toxin A injections and hyaluronic acid fillers to rejuvenate the eyes and temples, and to help project the cheeks and nose for a youthful yet confident appearance. Patients are also requesting for treatments which improve the quality of the skin, including those which reduce pigmentation and deliver hydration to the skin.”

Beyond the Zoom Boom, frequent digital device use through the pandemic has also boosted the popularity of treatments that counter photo-ageing effects from prolonged exposure to blue light.

Dr Phoon Yishan, Radium Medical Aesthetics (Photo by Radium Medical Aesthetics)

Dr Phoon Yishan of Radium Medical Aesthetics in Singapore explains, “While work from home (WFH) arrangements and quarantine orders have protected patients from ultraviolet (UV) rays to an extent, at my practice, there has been an uptick of demand for laser treatments due to hyperpigmentation caused by prolonged exposure to blue light from electronic devices. Oxidative stress from exposure to blue light can also lead to inflammation and collagen degeneration.”

WFH and quarantine orders increase desire to improve skin quality

Although social-distancing restrictions have been gradually eased in Malaysia and Singapore, many office workers still continue to work from home. The illusion of greater flexibility and difficulty in disconnecting from work has led more people to spend more time working remotely than when working in their offices.

The longer work hours have caused the skin to look dull and tired, according to consultant dermatologist, Dr Nazirin Ariffin from the Nazirin Skin Clinic, which is why she has been delivering more treatments that improve the quality and youthfulness of skin in her practice.

Dr Nazirin Ariffin, Nazirin Skin Clinic (Photo by Nazirin Skin Clinic)

“There has been an increased demand for treatments that bring life back to the skin, including botulinum toxin A injections, skin booster mesotherapy and platelet-rich plasma and microneedling,” says Dr Nazirin.

Aesthetic doctors have also noticed higher demand for more aggressive procedures that result in longer downtime as patients are unable to maintain their regular touch-ups for non-invasive treatments due to social-distancing and quarantine measures, especially when there are limitations to the number of patients a clinic can see on a day to day basis. On the plus side, these measures have enabled patients to recuperate at home post-treatment.

“Before the pandemic, patients used to avoid treatments with long downtime as they didn’t want others to know they have had aesthetic treatments and judge them for it. However, working from home means they can recover without anyone knowing, which encourages and enables them to take up more invasive treatments such as full-face skin boosters and stronger lasers, which can deliver better outcomes than less invasive treatments,” Dr Phoon says.

Dr Matthew Yeo, consultant plastic surgeon at Picasso Plastic Surgery in Singapore reveals, “Compared to before the pandemic, patients are now undergoing more invasive surgical procedures such as breast augmentations and tummy tucks which require longer recovery periods because they can recover at home.”

Mask-wearing increases risks of  ‘maskne’ and draws attention to eyes

Mask-wearing has become a symbol of the pandemic and is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, this has created problems such as ‘maskne’ or mask-induced acne.

Dr Phoon says, “Many patients – even those who didn’t have acne – now require acne treatments because they have developed mask-ne, thanks to the trapped humidity from breathing when mask-wearing, which can encourage acne-causing bacteria to proliferate.”

Dr Matthew Yeo, Picasso Plastic Surgery (Photo by Dr Matthew Yeo)

“In my practice, treatments which correct and enhance the upper face, including eyebrows and eyelids have been increasing in demand, because wearing a mask draws attention to these areas,” continues Dr Yeo.

Aesthetic treatments expected to remain popular

Despite impact on personal incomes and livelihoods since the pandemic, all the four aesthetic doctors agree that aesthetic treatments will continue to remain popular as long as people want to look good.

So, while treatment priorities and needs may have changed in the past two years, the need to maintain appearances has remained as more patients include medical cosmetic procedures as part of their feel-good routine.

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