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Zoom, masks lead to increase in demand for plastic surgery during pandemic

Botox and fillers were among the top five topics of conversation regarding non-surgical procedures on telemedicine calls during the early days of the pandemic.

Jennifer Grippo had botox and a laser technique under her eyes.
Jennifer Grippo had botox and a laser technique under her eyes.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

When Jennifer Grippo looked in the mirror, tired eyes stared back. It was most noticeable while wearing her mask, so she decided a perk-up was in order.

“I needed a more well-rested look,” said Grippo, 43, who lives in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. “Now that the eyes are the only thing you can see, I looked extra tired.”

Grippo had a laser treatment to promote skin rejuvenation and a filler injection to plump up the skin around her eyes to reduce her hollow look.

“They put a little numbing cream under my eyes, I sat for 20 minutes, and then they used one syringe of filler to fill up the hollowing I had underneath my eyes,” she said of the procedures at Jefferson Health that took about a half-hour each. She had minimal redness after her laser treatment and no aftereffects from the filler.

A survey taken among members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in early June found an increased interest in plastic surgery this year. Botox and fillers were among the top five topics of conversation regarding nonsurgical procedures on telemedicine calls during the early days of the pandemic.

“There are a few reasons that this might be happening,” said Lynn Jeffers, a California-based dermatologist and past president of the plastic surgery organization. “One of them is the Zoom boom, with all of us on Zoom looking at ourselves. Second, people are taking advantage of working from home and can recover more easily at home and without people knowing that they had a procedure. The third is that people weren’t able to spend their money on travel or entertainment so they have decided to use it for their procedures.”

Grippo, a medical assistant in the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center, said her office is bustling now with like-minded people having similar procedures. While she was comfortable talking about it, one thing COVID-19 hasn’t changed is the unwillingness of many to discuss having “work” done.

Nonetheless, people are paying more attention to their eyes for two reasons: stress and mask wearing, said Nazanin Saedi, director at the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center, who started noticing an uptick in requests for cosmetic eye procedures in early fall.

“That’s when people realized masks weren’t going away anytime soon,” she said. “Everyone is so stressed, whether it’s concern about the pandemic, financials, or everything else that’s at unrest now. People are stressed and tired and it shows in their eyes more. My patients are saying that ‘all people see are my eyes and I look old or tired.’”

The most popular ways to perk up the eyes are Botox injections to target the muscles that cause fine lines and crow’s feet, and fillers to replace volume loss under the eyes that present a hollowed look.

“The person might be well-rested but that hollowing makes you appear more tired or old and fillers are great for that,” Saedi said.

» READ MORE: How to prevent ‘maskne’ and other face mask skin issues, according to dermatologists

She urged people to see a professional with experience in treating that area. “There is a risk of blindness if you have the filler injected into the blood vessels that supply the eye,” she said.

Laser treatments are also helpful for discoloration around the eye, and resurfacing lasers help with wrinkles and texture around the eyes. Energy-based devices with radio-frequency aid skin tightening to make the patient look younger and more rejuvenated.

Costs for the procedures vary based on how extensive the work is. On average, fillers can range from about $800 to $1,200, lasers between $800 and $1,500, and energy-based devices run between $500 to $1,500, Saedi said. Botox costs vary considerably, depending on the injector and how many units are used. None is covered by insurance.

Recovery times are procedure and patient dependent, she said, but might include bruising, swelling or redness for several days. Some people are choosing to address these concerns now to take advantage of limited social schedules and working from home. Folks on video calls can cover bruising with makeup.

Zoom is a big factor in an uptick in cosmetic surgery in general. “No matter how well you place your camera, Zoom makes it seem like your face is sagging,” said Saedi, who is seeing interest in eye treatments among all ages, with more younger patients requesting Botox and fillers than ever before.

The eyes also happen to be a facial feature that naturally shows signs of aging first. “The muscles around the eyes are so dynamic, so they show lines and wrinkles early on,” Saedi said. “The skin around our eyes is so thin that it’s more susceptible to showing wrinkles.”

Beyond cosmetic procedures, spas offer services concentrated on the eyes and products to reduce puffiness and wrinkles. Soon after Rescue Spa’s June reopening from the pandemic-related shutdown, the Rittenhouse-area spa added a targeted eye treatment, similar to a facial but concentrating only on the area above the mask.

Brooke Sacks, who often treated herself to facials pre-pandemic, was eager to get the service. “Especially after being in quarantine for so many months, that was a great treatment to have to de-puff the eyes, lift and highlight the only feature that’s really seen out of the house,” said Sacks, 39, who wore a mask during the treatment. The half-hour procedure cost $50. “My eyes looked smoother, less puffy, with a renewed, brightened look.”

She also appreciated the feeling of touch, which she said is “something we’re missing as a society now. Having someone touch your face was heavenly.”

Sacks notices people’s eyes more than ever now as everyone is wearing a mask. “We have intense eye contact now,” she said.

Rescue Spa has enjoyed an uptick in its many eye-related offerings, including eyelash extensions and curling, eyebrow sculpting, tinting, and threading, electric current treatments, and sales of eye creams and makeup. Less expensive than cosmetic surgery procedures, eyebrow tinting starts at $25, while eyelash extensions start at $150. Both typically last two to three weeks.

“We are seeing people tinting their eyebrows and keeping them more natural and thicker,” said owner Danuta Mieloch. She also noted a renewed interest in eyelash curling and extensions or using lash conditioners to help grow out natural lashes and brows.

Mieloch predicted that the eyes will remain a key facial focus long after mask-wearing as facial recognition technology will “keep us speaking with our eyes,” she said.

For now, with so much uncertainty in the world, Saedi has found her clients making a commitment to self-care. “This is something they can control, whereas everything around them is chaos,” she said.