Demand for plastic surgery skyrocketing as Americans upgrade their post-pandemic looks

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Breast implants and butt lifts may be a recession-proof business, according to a new survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The first-of-its-kind nationwide poll reveals three in four cosmetic surgeons are seeing booming business as people move past the coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, the survey reports that three-quarters of cosmetic-focused plastic surgery practices are seeing more demand for surgery now than before the pandemic started. Nearly 30 percent say their business has actually doubled after COVID.

“With COVID, we prepared for the worst. But when we were able to reopen our office, we were pleasantly surprised with the incredible surge of demand for our cosmetic services, both surgical and noninvasive,” says Dr. Bob Basu, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Houston and board vice president of finance of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in a media release.

“Now that the worst is hopefully behind us and people are traveling again and getting back to normal life, I initially thought that we would see some of that demand drop off, and that’s not been the case. We’re actually still seeing very high demand.”

What’s fueling the demand for plastic surgery?

Basu says a number of factors are motivating Americans to upgrade their looks in 2022 and beyond. For many, COVID shutdowns allowed them to work from home — giving them a chance to heal after surgery at the same time. Working remotely also allowed many others to save up more money, instead of dining out or spending on the daily commute.

“COVID changed everything. No one was traveling, vacations got canceled. So I think a lot of families and patients had a lot more disposable income. And so, they found that this is the right time for them to do a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure,” Basu adds.

plastic surgery
Bob Basu, MD, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, performs surgery at his practice in Houston, Texas. A new survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons finds there’s been a major increase in demand for cosmetic procedures since the pandemic. (CREDIT: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

Millennial women are leading the surge

The poll also found that women between 31 and 45 have been the most likely patients to seek breast implants, liposuction, and tummy tucks during the pandemic. Unlike older generations, who may have been hesitant to ask others about these procedures, young women are finding out everything they need through more high-tech means, like social media.

“Millennials are very sophisticated in terms of getting the information they want. They share their experiences with other people through social media platforms or other methods. And so, these procedures are no longer taboo — They’re actually relatable and accessible,” Basu explains. “Because of this open sharing, patients also come in well-versed about the procedures of interest. And so it really allows us to have a really productive discussion about their options.”

Megan Gilbert is one of those millennials who did her research before going under the knife. The 35-year-old says she had some insecurities about her post-pandemic looks after losing 25 pounds.

“After breastfeeding two kids and losing weight, my breasts no longer looked how I wanted them to,” Gilbert says. “And I thought, ‘Why be unhappy with this one part of my body after working so hard to make all of these other improvements in my life?’”

“I couldn’t be happier with the results. Having that confidence back and feeling better about myself resonates in every part of my life, including with my family,” adds Gilbert, who underwent both a breast augmentation as well as a breast lift at Dr. Basu’s practice.

Everyone is opting for cosmetic surgery

While younger women are leading the cosmetic charge, the survey finds practices nationwide are seeing more patients in every age group and gender. The researchers believe part of the motivation is because people are literally seeing themselves on camera more than ever before.

“We’re seeing ourselves on a computer screen a lot more regularly and are much more aware of our appearance. And for a lot of people, that makes them recognize that they may want to look a little younger or to appear less tired, which has led to an increase in facial and neck procedures as well,” Basu says. “I think there’s something that’s happened in terms of the cultural values on aesthetics and wellness in this country that we haven’t seen before. And I think people are recognizing that it’s OK to do something for themselves.”

Overall, the poll found over 40 percent of plastic surgeons are reporting longer wait times between consultation and surgery in comparison to pre-pandemic days. With that in mind, experts are urging people who are considering plastic surgery to plan ahead as much as possible.

The first step is to seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon. Basu adds that if they are a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, it means the surgeon also employs the highest safety and ethical guidelines.

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