Cost of Living

Cosmetic procedures: the literally eyebrow-raising trend hiding behind face masks

Why have cosmetic procedures — like facelifts, cheek implants or lip injections — become more popular in the age of the coronavirus? The fact that we are socially expected to HIDE ourselves and our faces right now has a lot to do with it.

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, so are more faces, cheeks and jowls

Facial surgeon Dr. Kristina Zakhary says her consultation requests went up 300 per cent as pandemic restrictions lifted. (Falice Chin/CBC)

As many parts of Canada continue to emerge from restrictions and closures due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, one class of service providers says they've noticed a spike in demand.

Plastic surgeons and those who provide cosmetic procedures.

That's right, despite a massive drop in economic activity and substantial restrictions on activities, the folks who make their living injecting your forehead with Botox or your lips with filler say — anecdotally — demand is going up.

"Can you believe that there was a 300 per cent increase in consultation requests?" said Calgary, Alta. facial surgeon Dr. Kristina Zakhary.

Zakhary told CBC Radio's The Cost of Living she's putting in an extra two hours a day on procedures such as nose jobs, face lifts, lip injections and yes, Botox.

People are seeing themselves in a way they never have seen themselves before... with the grey hairs and the wrinkles and the deflated faces and the jowling.- Dr. Kristina Zakhary, facial surgeon in Calgary, Alta.

The facial surgeon said she's booking 35 per cent more surgeries than prior to the coronavirus-driven shutdown. 

"I was pleasantly surprised to see long waiting lists," said Zakhary.

Noticing some droopage on that Zoom call?

Part of what Zakhary pins the surge on is that as video conferencing has grown in popularity, new customers are lining up after they notice things they might not like about themselves during their daily work Google Meet or Zoom call.

"People are seeing themselves in a way they never have seen themselves before … with the grey hairs and the wrinkles and the deflated faces and the jowling," speculated Zakhary.

"They're not used to seeing themselves this way."

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The numbers behind the anecdotal trend are unclear at this point. The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons does not keep track of private cosmetic clinics or how many procedures they complete, and the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery doesn't expect to have data on procedures in 2020 until the end of next year.

However, a survey from the American Society of Plastic Surgerons suggested public interest in cosmetic or reconstructive procedure is going up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forty-nine per cent of consumers the American Society surveyed during the pandemic who hadn't had any work done said they would be open to it.

Customers taking advantage of masks

It's not just bad webcam angles that could be driving the market. The necessities of physical distancing and of wearing masks in public means that a typical barrier to plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures is gone.

You don't need to hide your face for up to two weeks to allow the initial side effects to subside.

"The first time I got it done, I made sure to do it when I had a three-day weekend ahead," explained Sonia Silano of Burlington, Ont.

"I honestly couldn't go out anywhere. I couldn't even go to No Frills … nowhere. It was so bad."

This time around, 28-year-old Silano knew that she'd either be physically distancing at home, or wearing a mask in public. So she told the provider performing her cosmetic procedures to do more than usual.

Sonia Silano shows off her newest lips and chin after COVID-19 restrictions were eased in her part of Ontario. (Submitted by Sonia Silano)

"I told her just go full on. She was like, 'Are you sure?' … it's going to be really swollen," said Silano.

She isn't alone in considering the new normal of facial coverings when opting for the needle.

"Wearing a mask really helps hide the swelling, the bruising," said Raishma Manjra, who lives in Brampton, Ont.

"You have to go to the grocery store or whatever, I don't want anyone to look at my face … I could wear a mask now so [people] don't really know what's going on until it all settles in."

Pandemic put a wrinkle in plans 

Manjra got her lips filled shortly after restrictions started to lift in her part of the country, and while it wasn't her first time she said the pandemic was a factor in her decision to head back to the clinic.

"I'm like, I have nothing to do right now. All my work is cancelled so I'm just sitting around," said Manjra, who works as a stagehand at events such as concerts.

She also pointed out that, essentially, being stuck at home had her wanting to make more changes.

Raishma Manjra took advantage of COVID-19 masks being ubiquitous to hide the bruising from lip injections until she was ready for people to see the results. (Submitted by Raishma Manjra)

"I even cut my hair. There is this restlessness that I had to do something," said Manjra. 

That doesn't surprise surgeons such as Zakhary.

"The [post-procedure] downtime, which used to be an impediment to booking a surgery, is now a motivating factor," said Zakhary, who pointed out that people now have the ability to be "in seclusion" while their face heals.

"Before they could never find the time to take that recovery time off."

Demand was pent up

Silano was looking forward to getting her face refreshed once COVID-19 restrictions started to lift.

Silano, who works in the funeral services industry, had previously gotten her chin and lips done along with Botox.

"For the rest of the year, it slowly faded away. This summer, I was like okay, all my Botox is gone … same with the fillers," she explained.

"I still looked like me … but I do look nicer [with the procedures], and you can't put your finger quite on why. I just wanted to have that back again."

Her provider of choice in the Greater Toronto Area had started taking advance bookings before restrictions eased. They weren't completing the procedures but were booking in advance, and it paid off.

"She made money when she wasn't working by selling the packages," explained Silano, who got first dibs on an appointment once her region allowed the procedures.

"It bothers me to not look like myself. The real me is the me with the injections and my makeup on. That's the real Sonia, that's how you are going to meet me," said Silano.

Produced by Falice Chin. Written by Anis Heydari.
Click "listen" at the top of the page to hear this segment, or 
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