Jocelyn is a 25-year actress in New York. A self-described “petite woman” who’s happy with her body overall, she’d always noticed a few areas that neither diet nor exercise could fix. Then the pandemic struck, and New York went into lockdown. “I got a little chunky from eating so much, sitting on the couch, and watching Netflix,” says Jocelyn, who asked us not to use her real name for professional reasons. Like much of the city, she spent almost three months with life on hold, and afterward found herself not only heavier but flush with cash as the restrictions eased. “I wasn’t able to spend as much money as I would have normally, on eating out or shopping excessively,” she says.
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As a result of her unhealthy weight and healthier bank balance, Jocelyn splurged on cosmetic surgery as soon as she was able; in her case, it was an AirSculpt treatment, a body-contouring alternative to liposuction. “I got it done on a Wednesday, filmed a commercial that same Friday, and right after, went on a date, because I looked freaking amazing and I darn sure wasn’t going to be the only person to see it,” she says.
As lockdowns took hold over much of America earlier this year, non-essential services were among the first to shutter—among them, cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists. By mid-March, in such hubs as New York and Los Angeles, procedures from Botox to butt lifts were on hiatus. Three months later, though, those clinics were slowly receiving authorization to reopen, as well as a deluge of enquiries from pent-up patients keen to go under the scalpel as soon as possible.
A Summer Bump
Dr. Aaron Rollins runs a network of clinics for Jocelyn’s procedure across the U.S. The first to reopen were sites in Atlanta and Texas at the end of April, with the final location, in New York, operating again from June 8. Rollins says overall demand at his practices was 20% higher in July vs. the same month last year. Rollins has even hired extra administrative staffers to help handle the volume of applications for consultations. “We’re booked for months, and it didn’t peak right when the quarantine stopped; it keeps building up,” he marvels, “July was the busiest month in the history of the company, and that’s the last nine years.”
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Dr. Tracy Pfeifer, a surgeon who splits her time between Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y., has seen a particular uptick in breast reductions, especially among younger women. She estimates that her bookings for the operation are 25% higher than they were a year ago.
Such a surge in surgery might seem startling, given the country’s overall economic health as the pandemic continues, with the sharpest contraction in gross domestic product in modern history and a joblessness rate that hovers above 10%. For many high-end surgeons, though, the rest of 2020 looks set to be a blockbuster period for nips and tucks.
Surgeons say several factors have come together to drive the surge. Jocelyn wasn’t alone in gaining what’s been dubbed the “quarantine 15” during lockdown, with gyms closed and Americans eating to comfort themselves. “Everybody is fat, and no one wants to be,” Rollins shrugs, “and it’s the perfect time not to be fat.”
The Zoom of Doom
He also tells the story of a newlywed who lives in the U.S. whose bride was stuck in the U.K. when borders locked down. The couple has relied on video calls every night. “The guy told me, ‘Oh my God, I thought I had a little bit of a double chin, but it’s all I think about.’ So he came to us,” Rollins explains. “The double-chin business has skyrocketed, because any chins you have look 10 times worse on an iPhone.”
Dr. Lara Devgan is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon on New York’s Upper East Side. She has seen a similar uptick in bookings, much of her boom Zoom-related. “There’s something inherently unflattering about a 30-degree, angled-upward, forward-facing camera on a laptop,” Devgan explains. “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.”
Devgan has increased her surgical dates by a third and is now booking procedures for the holiday season. Patient, she says, are focused on quality rather than price and are keen to avoid surgical complications and risk admission to a hospital, where they might be exposed to Covid-19.