With a ‘Zoom boom’ still going, cautions rise on cosmetic surgery

instruments-300x166While the coronavirus pandemic has forced patients, doctors, and hospitals to curtail crucial tests, procedures and treatments in worrisome fashion, a trend with one kind of medical practice apparently continues apace: The so-called “Zoom boom” in plastic and cosmetic surgeries is still going strong.

Patients, though, soon will get a tough reality TV warning about the damages that can occur in the costly pursuit of beauty.

For the many who have struggled with illness, as well as professional, personal, and economic hardship during the pandemic, it may be distressing to be reminded of the upswing in elective procedures, ostensibly to improve the aesthetics of patients’ faces and other body parts. But the Los Angeles Times interviewed Drs. Jason Litner and Peyman Solieman to learn why they say their Beverly Hills surgical practices with cosmetic procedures have been busier than ever — or as much as the pandemic allows, as Litner reported:

“A lot of people have a lot more time on their hands. Many have been working from home. And so, they feel like they don’t have to be as concerned about taking time away from work,” Litner tells The Times. “There’s a lot more opportunity to recover at home away from people and be a little more discreet about it.”

He and other specialists said that patients became aware of perceived problems with their looks as they spent extended periods “on camera” — participating in online sessions relying on communication technologies like Zoom. Later, as more people covered their faces, even while Zooming, the once-reluctant and now-masked realized they could have plastic surgeries more discreetly.

Those fortunate enough to keep up well-paying jobs by working online also may have grown flusher with discretionary cash, as they were not traveling or eating out or spending as freely as they might have before the pandemic, Dr. Lee Daniel observed in a post on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ site. He wondered in his article a year ago if the Zoom boom would sustain and noted it had changed the kinds of work that specialists undertook:

“The year 2020 changed everything, including plastic surgery trends. For years, breast augmentation had reigned supreme, with liposuctionrhinoplastyeyelid surgery and facelifts rounding out the top five. These procedures remained popular in 2020; after all, there is a reason why people are so interested in them, and the pandemic made getting and recovering from these procedures easier for many. However, interest in facial procedures grew significantly, thanks to Zoom and other video chatting platforms. Patients began requesting everything from chin liposuction to facelifts with greater frequency than ever before. There was also an increased interest in med spa procedures, such as botox and fillers, prompting many practices to increase their focus on their nonsurgical offerings, or even innovate their delivery methods to accommodate drive-thru procedures.”

As a counterweight to practitioners’ gusto and the enthusiasm of some patients for cosmetic procedures, Lifetime — a cable network with a heavy schedule of reality shows and programming targeted at women — is scheduled to premiere a broadcast series promoted as, “My Killer Body with K. Michelle.”

She is an R&B singer who has made little secret for her fans of her extensive history of undergoing plastic surgeries on her face and body, notably including injections to augment the prominence of her posterior. She also has been frank in saying that she thought this work had begun to damage her health — and she experienced pain, expense, and major inconvenience in her career to repair work that she so eagerly sought.

In her reality show, she discusses with multiple patients — women and men — the debilitating downsides of plastic surgery, with harrowing case reports, as indicated in a trailer for the show, which debuts this month. Based on available previews, this show may be tough viewing but a key counterpoint to any frothy depictions of what can occur with plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures.

In my practice, I see the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, including when they undergo what can be some of the costliest, most invasive, and risky procedures of all — surgeries.

Sure, society and the media may put unacceptable pressure on us all, but women especially, to be hyper aware about looks and to take drastic steps to “improve” or “maintain” them. Most of us, candidly, are never going to star on the big screen and we look just fine, thank you. A $16.5 billion industry, though, exploits our insecurities and can campaign in insufferable fashion about routine human differences, describing them as imperfections needing all manner of “correction,” including with costly, invasive, and, yes, dangerous procedures.

All body treatments, especially the surgical kind, carry risks. And, while most patients fare fine with cosmetic therapies, some do not, especially if surgeries and anesthesia are involved or if treatments occur in unfamiliar or downright sketchy sites. This area of care is fraught with persistent blowups over its quality and safety, with news reports of infections, injury, disfigurement, and even brain damage and death.

That offers an important reminder: It’s critical for patients to research as much as possible the people who will treat them. They need to look hard at care-giving facilities. Before undergoing any procedure, they can benefit by knowing what it entails. Ignoring common-sense precautions can be harmful, even deadly.

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