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Facial Plastics: Is the ‘Zoom Boom’ Here to Stay?

COVID brought with it many unexpected disruptions across health care, not least of which was patients’ increased interest in cosmetic procedures. After the initial uncertainty of the pandemic settled, many physicians were surprised to see increased volume in these elective procedures, particularly those of the face and neck, said Dr. Anthony Brissett, Division Chief of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Houston Methodist.
“Once there was more clarity around the virus, we saw a dramatic increase,” he said. “It was multifactorial. Not only did video conferencing and social media increase awareness of appearance, but patients also were now able to find the time. And masks actually served to camouflage recovery.”
The experience of Brissett and his team, which includes veteran facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Fred Bressler, reflects the national trends. In a survey completed by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 70% of surgeons reported an increase in appointments and treatments, with 9 in 10 reporting an increase of more than 10%. The procedures increasing most notably included rhinoplasty, facelifts, eye lifts and neck lifts/treatments.

Digital Reality Brings Pros and Cons for Physicians

Throughout the pandemic, increases in video conferencing — with “Zoom” the brand name often used to represent virtual meetings — forced patients to look at themselves on screen for hours, many seeing the way their faces moved while speaking and making expressions for the first time. Even before the pandemic, however, many patients observed themselves in “selfies” and online photos, which prompted them to consider a change.
“The motivation factors have changed. Patients are saying they want to look better in selfies, and they’re using filters to see what those changes might look like,” said Brissett, who is also a Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology at the Houston Methodist Academic Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College. “The increased awareness and ability to preview desired outcomes are helping patients to move from contemplation to action.”
Conversely, however, what patients see in photos and videos may not always be accurate. The camera distance, angle and lighting can all impact how the face is portrayed on screen.
“A phone or computer camera can create abnormalities in the face. Sometimes our job is to help patients understand that what they’re seeing in the photos isn’t what we’re seeing in real-time,” Brissett said. “And photos of others used as inspiration may be altered or filtered, too.”

Looking to the Future

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the increased interest in facial procedures over the past year also included office-based procedures, such as Botox and fillers, prompting many practices to increase focus on nonsurgical offerings.
Brissett agrees. “While it’s difficult to predict the future, people have come to value more flexibility in their time and more freedom to work remotely — these changes aren’t likely to return to the way they were before,” he said. “So we expect to continue to see more opportunities for connecting with peers and patients remotely as well as continued desire for procedures that offer less downtime and risk and are more accessible, such as office-based procedures.”

Working Alongside Referring Physicians

As national leaders in the field with decades of subspecialty experience, Brissett and his team consider themselves a resource for physicians both in the Houston community and well beyond.
“We evaluate many complex cases, especially when there are functional considerations,” Brissett said. “We welcome the opportunity to provide second opinions and consult with physicians on cases. We recognize each patient’s uniqueness, and value personalized relationships in a concierge-style practice.”
To arrange private consultations or speak about specific concerns for a patient case, call 713-441-FACE (3223).