For the first time in nearly 40 years of plastic surgery, Dr. Enrique Silberblatt’s schedule was booked.
“I wouldn’t classify Roanoke, or the surrounding area, as a mecca for cosmetic surgery in the same way that you might think of Miami, Los Angeles, New York, or even Charlotte,” he said. “But suddenly, for the first time in my career, I had files reserved three months in advance. And I mean filled.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Silberblatt said he had enough patients to make a decent living, but his weeks were never full like other surgeons in his field. Everything changed once the holidays were canceled, hours opened, and people spent more time on Zoom.
An article in the journal Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine said the increased use of virtual platforms like Zoom has led to more people seeking out cosmetic procedures.
Authors Shauna Rice, Dr. Emmy Graber and Dr. Arianne Kourosh, who practice in the New England area, have noticed an increase in patients who say their appearance on Zoom is the reason they seek a treatment, and dubbed the trend “Zoom Dysmorphia”.
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On Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, people have the ability to notice and rate their appearance like never before.
“What one sees on camera is an unprecedented, real-time version of oneself in motion, a self-representation that very few people are used to seeing on a daily basis,” the article states. “In real-life conversations, we don’t see our faces talking and displaying emotions, and we certainly don’t have the ability to distinguish ourselves the way we do via video.”
Studies have shown that people are generally uncomfortable watching themselves on video. Unlike selfies, which offer flattering light and poses, Zoom videos force people to look at themselves in dim lighting and from unattractive angles.
Additionally, photos and videos taken at a closer distance tend to distort the way people perceive themselves and their facial features. Webcams record at shorter focal lengths, which can make the face appear to have wider eyes, a wider nose, a higher forehead and a rounded chin, according to the article.
These challenges have led to higher levels of body dysmorphia and seem to attract patients to cosmetic surgery practices.
Silberblatt, who directs Virginia Cosmetic Surgery, said the past two years have been the busiest of his career and other plastic surgeons he knows across the country have said the same thing.
He said his patients cited their gaze on Zoom as one of the reasons they seek out procedures.
“They mentioned looking at each other on Zoom and having their little picture next to everyone else,” he said. “They were self-aware about it.”
Particularly in 2020, Silberblatt said his patients told him they finally had time to complete an operation they had always wanted to do. Activities and social functions were canceled and with the help of masks people could heal in private. Money saved from canceled vacations was also sometimes redirected to cosmetic procedures.
Silberblatt said the most common procedures he performs are mini-lifts, breast augmentation and lipo-abdominoplasty, which is a combination of a tummy tuck and liposuction.
He said the number of lipo tummy tuck surgeries seemed to come from people who were sedentary at the start of the pandemic. Patients gained weight and wanted to reshape their bodies. Or they gained weight, lost it, and then had excess skin.
Silberblatt plans to retire this year and is no longer accepting new patients. He said that likely caused some of the increase, as his longtime patients wanted him to perform procedures before he retired. But this does not explain the increase in the number of patients before its announcement.
Closures or rescheduled appointments have occurred due to the pandemic, but also do not account for the increase or the busier schedule, he said.