Covid’s Impact on the Cosmetic Surgery Industry: Procedures During the Pandemic Were Down Overall, with One Unexpected Exception: Brazilian Butt Lift.
After nearly 14 consecutive months of stay-at-home orders were instituted from health and state officials in a quest to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has released its latest statistics on plastic surgery procedures. Spoiler alert: butt implants got a major lift and skincare really is skin-deep. Here, the most likely reason behind the body-boosting craze that’s taking the cosmetic surgery industry by storm, what to watch for come mid-2021, and more.
While the overall trend in going under the knife – or needle – has drastically declined between 2019 and 2020 across the board, there were some popular cosmetic procedures that saw a spike. Recent stats and data collected by the ASPS suggest drastic declines in both minimally invasive (Botox®/Dysport® and facial fillers) as well as invasive cosmetic procedures as a result of the ongoing economic lockdowns imposed by state and federal officials. Unsurprisingly, requests for skin-smoothing Botox (4.4 million procedures) and volume-inducing fillers (3.4 million procedures) remained in the top five minimally invasive procedures performed in 2020, along with laser skin resurfacing (997,245), chemical peels (931,473), and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments seeing 827,409 procedures. Quick stats compiled from Bloomberg Business Week depict as follows:
- Fillers – Down 11%
- Botox – Down 13%
- Breast Augmentation – Down 33%
The likely rush for in-office “pick-me-up” procedures is believed to be influenced by virtual vanity (all-day Zoom calls) along with the newfound opportunity to recover discreetly at home. Performing work duties via on-camera conference calling has made even the most secure of us a bit more self-conscious, as our time-ravaged visages glared back at us, an unwelcome reminder that maybe a bit of Botox® or a filler fix is in order STAT. Reversing tech-neck, while defining the chin and sharpening the jawline, also topped a patient’s list of high-priority procedures during the pandemic.
Make No Butts About It… It’s Brazilain Butt Lift
While requests for hair transplants fell flat at a disappointing 60% decline from 24,000 procedures to fewer than 10,000 between 2019 and 2020, butt implants (Brazilian Butt Lift) are on the rise (specifically amongst millennials) with a whopping 22% increase from 970 to 1,179 procedures between 2019 and 2020. New York City facial and hair plastic surgeon, Dr. Gary Linkov, attributes much of the decrease in cosmetic procedures is due to the decline in “turnkey operations,” where plastic surgeons purchase a machine/device that comes with a technician on-demand. With the enduring lockdown orders, trendy, non-invasive procedures, such as body boosting Emsculpt® or CoolSculpting® that are performed using these machines and their respective technicians, simply couldn’t be fulfilled.
But, why such a sharp disparity between posterior augmentation and hair restoration requests? Dermatologist Ava Shamban hypothesizes the fear of the dreaded “secretary spread” from long hours of sitting or remaining sedentary, coupled with social media envy, gave rise to the demand for help in the derriere department. Not to mention health clubs and fitness centers remained shuttered for nearly 8 months in most states before slowly reopening.
Months of ordering unhealthy takeout, while sitting on the sofa binge-watching hours upon hours of Netflix® inspired the body-conscious to give their bottom lines a much-needed boost. Plus, with the ability to go under the radar and recover at home with the added financial padding, patients are foregoing the pre-pandemic “ala carte” cosmetic procedures and opting to go all-in with more invasive, permanent procedures, like butt implants (Brazilian Butt Lift), liposuction, “mommy makeovers,” breast augmentation revision, and tummy tucks.
All one had to do was peak Dr. Cat’s IG page over the past year for a daily dose of tummy tuck videos that feature remarkable, before-and-after results of real women’s newly whittled middles. As the aforementioned stats suggested, Dr. Cat also experienced an increase in breast augmentation revision requests. In the early days of Covid, traveling was off-limits and vacation plans postponed, so patients used the downtime to get the cosmetic work they’ve been dreaming of before daring to bare down in a bikini again.
Skincare Before Surgery? The Case for Skincare and Self-Care Amid Covid
The beauty biz, specifically the skincare sector, enjoyed an overwhelming uptick with a doubling in sales between 2019 and 2020. With beauty buffs seeking solace from their favorite Instagram influencers’ YouTube tutorials and product reviews during the imposed isolation measures, e-commerce product purchases continue to skyrocket. However, makeup sales, especially foundation and lipstick purchases, are down more than 70%! The unending mask mandates continue to influence the trajectory of beauty buyers with wellness, skincare, and the self-care trend that sprung from “life during the lockdown.” Skincare and self-care devices and products continue to soar with record-breaking sales that more than doubled between 2019 and 2020. Body and haircare products were also up by 234% in 2020.
With the ongoing shuttering of spas and salons, beauty enthusiasts were DIY’ing during the lockdowns. Dr. Cat’s luxury, science-backed skincare line, MD Glam, enjoyed its own set of sale surges with several “temporarily out-of-stock” moments. The bestselling brand also launched its Loyalty Rewards Program with Dr. Cat producing on-air promos and conducting Instagram Story-styled FAQs from followers about the brand, product “how-to’s,” and skincare in general. Make no mistake, makeup has taken a much-needed time out. Good skin is in.
Though all procedures were down during the pandemic, some procedures got hit harder than others. For instance, chemical peels, breast enhancement, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, liposuction, Botox®/Dysport®, and soft-tissue facial fillers didn’t suffer as much as facelifts, laser skin-resurfacing, eyelid surgery, non-invasive fat reduction (Emsculpt®/EmShape®/CoolSculpting®), laser tattoo removal, spider vein/varicose vein removal, and rhinoplasty. The shift in the type of procedure seems to directly correlate with the shift in makeup to skincare sales.
Minimally invasive, in-office procedures focusing on skincare, apart from breast augmentation, didn’t experience a nosedive. Conversely, cosmetic procedures focusing on body-bettering slowed significantly. Much of it can be attributed to the lockdown orders that disproportionately affected the aesthetics and salon/medi-spa industries, respectively, as elective procedures, all but halted during the early months of the pandemic. Another assumption is people were confined to their homes, not going out and meeting up for coffee or cocktails and relying on digital platforms like Zoom and Facetime for face-to-face interactions. Hence, the surge in skincare and self-care trends with the prioritization of taking care of the skin and mitigating “maskne.”
The Bottom Line and What’s In-Store for the Aesthetics Industry
Obsessive viewing of TikTok videos displaying seemingly flawless physiques influenced body-focused procedures, such as butt implant and butt lift surgeries. Zoom calls resulted in a demand for the ultimate, photo-friendly fix – fillers and Botox® – while wellness, body care, and skincare sales increased due to the latest #selfcare trend. Interestingly, breast augmentation and breast revision surgeries held steady during the stay-at-home orders, as breast implants have a shelf-life. Many women saw the lockdown as the perfect opportunity to sneak in a must-do maintenance procedure before having to return to a physical work setting.
Despite a global pandemic that crippled the world’s economy for months, people were still able to find the resources and time to get their vanity fix, albeit conservatively. Expect the recent Brazilian Butt Lift boom to further explode in the coming year, as experts predict the peculiar desire for posterior enhancement to continue to top the most coveted cosmetic procedures. Lipstick sales will surely make a long-awaited comeback and we expect beauty brands will launch some innovative lip products as mask mandates begin to lift, but people will stay invested in caring for their skin on a molecular level – literally – with a more corrective approach as opposed to a concealing one.
As more and more of the population gets vaccinated, people are going to want to resume their upended vacation plans and not be stuck on their surgeon’s table. So, expect to see a dramatic dip in more invasive procedures come summertime. However, we predict skincare products and skin-related procedures are here to stay. Faces, bodies, and spirits were shaken by the pandemic.
People are going to be inclined to undergo more regularly scheduled, maintenance must-do’s that seek to retain the results of their ardent skincare routines. Super neurotoxic neuromodulators (that’s a fancy term for injectables) are expecting to launch later this year and promise longer results and fewer visits. If the Covid crisis has taught the aesthetics-obsessed anything, it is the art of minimalism and what really matters. And, what really matters is taking care of your skin, taking time out for your soul, and living life to the fullest. Oh, and putting your surgeon on speed dial.
Figures and percentages presented in this piece are estimates based on a yearly survey of ASPS members and other doctors.