Fears about “Lockdown Face” during videoconferences have driven a “Zoom boom” in requests for cosmetic surgery and body “tweakments” since the pandemic struck the UK, according to fresh research and providers.
The lockdown in March put most treatment on hold but there has been a surge in consultation requests as people sought to improve their appearance after looking at themselves on screens, said LaingBuisson, the healthcare data specialist that advises the Office for National Statistics.
“The use of video calling via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and Microsoft Teams has apparently triggered significant interest and demand for those wishing to ‘polish’ their appearance,” said Liz Heath, author of the LaingBuisson report. “While this could be related to personal vanity, it is for some people also an important feature of their career and professional development.”
Ms Heath did not provide nationwide statistics but said most surgeries had reported a “significant” increase in demand, with some surgeries seeing a fivefold rise in requests for surgery compared with last year.
Breast enlargement remains the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure, followed by tummy tucks and liposuction, although hair implants are growing in popularity, the report said.
Save Face, a UK government-approved register of 800 accredited cosmetic practitioners, said: “Lockdown Face has become a thing.” Ashton Collins, its director, added: “We were inundated with queries saying, ‘I’ve noticed that my frown line is terrible, that my lips need doing, or my nose is crooked’.”
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, an industry body, warned the public in October to be wary of unscrupulous providers seeking to cash in on the Zoom boom during lockdown. It reported a “massive upswing” in demand by all its 350 members.
The Zoom boom will come as a relief to cosmetic surgery providers, which had seen the market stall over the previous five years as a result of slowing economic growth, the Poly Implant Prothèse breast implant scandal — in which silicon gel ruptured, affecting 300,000 women around the world — and competition from cheaper providers overseas, including in Turkey, Poland and Belgium.
Average prices in the UK had increased significantly over the five years, with the cost of breast enhancement rising by 9.25 per cent between 2014 and 2018, from £4,905 to £5,405, according to the survey of 126 providers by LaingBuisson
The biggest growth has been in the £3bn market for “tweakments” — smaller non-clinical procedures — which may have depressed demand for cosmetic surgery. This market was estimated by LaingBuisson to be worth £286m in 2018.
Botox continues to be the most popular tweakment, accounting for about half of all procedures last year — a 17.4 per cent increase over the previous 12 months.
Dermal fillers are also increasingly popular, with sales increasing by 27.9 per cent since 2014. Botox, followed by male breast reduction, were the most popular procedures for men, who account for less than 10 per cent of overall take-up of cosmetic procedures, LaingBuisson said.
Much of the cosmetic surgery and tweakments are delivered by smaller clinical practices, with an increase in doctor-led clinics, which are regulated by the Care Quality Commission. This market has also attracted the most investment, including from private equity investors such as Aurelius, BlueGem and R Capital.
Spire Healthcare, the biggest private hospital provider, has said it is performing almost no cosmetic operations after being contracted by the NHS to provide support during the pandemic.