Masks are not the only thing surging in sales during the coronavirus: cosmetic treatments have soared in popularity, with Sydney clinics struggling to keep up with demand. But Australians have never been afraid to splurge on their physical beauty. Over 1.6 million Australians search for cosmetic surgery related topics every month. But the surge in popularity extends beyond the digital realm. Australians collectively spend over $1 billion on cosmetic procedures, surpassing the United States by 40% per capita. Beauticate looks at how plastic surgery trends have shifted within Australia before & after the pandemic and unearth what patients must be aware of, to avoid the ‘botched’ aesthetic.  

The pandemic has caused a boom in plastic surgery

Plastic surgery procedures have globally soared in demand during the pandemic. Increased time spent at home has made cosmetic procedure after-effects easier to hide. People can also conceal their faces and withdraw from events (without arousing suspicion) under the cloak of social distancing and quarantining.

According to the Australian Financial Review, Australian plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments have increased by over 50%  during COVID-19. Dr Chris Moss said that inquiries for facelifts have risen by 300% at his clinic, while rhinoplasty has surged by 200%.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has reported that its doctors were receiving up to 70% more requests for consultations, while the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed a 64% increase in inquiries.

The surge has been partially attributed to increased video communication, forcing people to look at their faces more frequently.

“There’s something inherently unflattering about a 30-degree, angled-upward, forward-facing camera on a laptop,” Dr. Lara Devgan, a New York plastic and reconstructive surgeon, said.

“I had one patient, who was previously just happy with Botox and fillers, proceed with a face and neck lift as a result of being on endless streams of Zoom calls. She saw jowls and neck folds she’d never appreciated before quarantine.”

The most popular treatments overall

Research conducted by Whatclinic found that breast implants were the most sort after cosmetic procedure in Australia, followed by liposuction, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), abdominoplasty, and rhinoplasty (nose job). Gynecomastia (removing male breast tissue) recorded significant growth in popularity, breaking into the top 10 most performed surgeries.

While this list only presents a general picture of Australian plastic surgery trends, it is an accurate reflection of The Sharp Clinic‘s most highly requested surgeries. “In my practice, our four most popular surgical procedures are breast augmentation, abdominoplasty, breast reduction, and blepharoplasty,” Dr David Sharp, a specialist plastic surgeon, said.

Minimally invasive surgeries have also generated interest, such as lip lifts, mini face lifts, and fat grafting — particularly as they can be performed under local anesthesia.

The popularity of specific surgical procedures is dependent on the demographic. Nose, chin, and ear surgery dominate younger demographics, whilst eyelid, facelift, fat transfer to the hand and neck/chest lift surgeries are frequently requested by older patients. Sydney Plastic Surgeon, Dr Ross Farhadieh notes that the neck and chest are popular treatment areas, due to significant sun exposure and the subsequent damage. Micro-needling and PRP are his first line of defence; however, these treatments only work if pigmentation, loose skin, and sagging are minimal. “The neck is best rejuvenated with surgery. Threads and injections are not long-lasting, natural, or ideal in my opinion,” Dr Farhadieh said.

One of the most dangerous surgeries

Brazilian butt lifts have been in high demand amongst Australian plastic surgery clinics. This procedure involves a two-step approach: extracting fat from undesired areas, then re-positioning it to create a more curvaceous behind. Whilst this procedure has surged in popularity, it also has the highest mortality rate: 1 in 3000 people die. Fatalities generally occur when the fat is mistakenly injected in larger veins that can result in major blockages across the body.

Warning: Australian plastic surgery is regulated, but not cosmetic surgery…

The title ‘cosmetic surgeon’ is not protected or regulated, meaning any doctor can misleadingly call themselves a cosmetic surgeon without further specialist training. While doctors across all disciplines can perform cosmetic surgery, not everyone is nationally recognised by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency as a Specialist Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeon.

Only doctors who have successfully trained through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) have met the federally mandated requirements to become a surgeon. If your doctor does not have FRACS (Plastics) after their name, they are not accredited by the Australian government as a legitimate surgeon.* Use the Royal Australasian College of Surgeon’s website’s surgeon finder to double check your doctor’s qualifications.

*This section outlines the gold-standard qualifications for surgical procedures. To ensure your doctor has attained the highest level of training for non-surgical treatments, look for Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia fellows, if they are not specialist plastic surgeons.

Rise in non-surgical procedures

Australians spend over $350 million annually on non-surgical procedures such as Botox and fillers – meaning 1/3 of the Australian plastic and cosmetic surgery industry is propelled by ‘lunchtime’ treatments. Patients are increasingly opting for non-surgical procedures to complement invasive surgeries or delay the need for going under the knife. Medical grade lasers, micro-needling, and PRP therapy have emerged as popular treatment options, Dr Sharp said.

Dr. Farhadieh echoes these sentiments and says while invasive surgeries are often necessary to produce significant improvements, there is a shift towards fillers, Botox, and thread lifting as a baseline defence against ageing. Known for its ability to minimise wrinkles, Botox is being used by cosmetic injectors for non-traditional areas such as upper lip lifts, jaw muscle reduction, brow lifts, and arm pit sweat reduction.

Story by Kristina Zhou. All images by Steven Meisel.

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